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seeking to boldly proclaim Jesus Christ
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1 Corinthians 12–Lightbulbs, Harmony, and Wolves

Today, we are changing lightbulbs in the sanctuary. So I would begin by asking: How many Baptists does it take to change a light bulb?

Nine:  seven to form a committee on the changing of the bulb, one to call an electrician, and one to make a casserole.

How many Episcopalians does it take to change a lightbulb?

Why…my grandmother gave that lightbulb!!!!

How many Pentecostals does it take to change a light bulb?

Ten. One to change the bulb and nine to pray against the spirit of darkness.

How many Catholics does it take to change a light bulb?

I hear they use candles.

How many Calvinists?

None. God has predestined when the light will be on. Calvinists do not change light bulbs. They simply read the instructions and pray the light bulb will be one that has been chosen to be changed.

How many Unitarian Universalists?

“We neither affirm nor reject the use of a lightbulb. If you have found a lightbulb helpful in your journey, that is good. If one would wish, they could submit an original poem or interpretive dance about their lightbulb, for the annual lightbulb celebration, where a variety of light bulb traditions will be explored, including long-life, incandescent, three-way, and tinted, all of which are valid paths to luminescence.”

And how many Presbyterians does it take to change a lightbulb?

Ten—one to change the bulb, and nine to sit around and talk about why the old one was better.

The lightbulb jokes exist because the church is a flawed and deeply divided institution. It’s no wonder we know so many people who claim to be spiritual, but not interested in
“organized religion.” Organized religion means religious community. And if your Thanksgiving was anything like mine, it was wonderful; and it was also a good reminder that community is as rewarding as it is challenging.

The key is to live in harmony with one another. Harmony is what happens when different notes on the scale compliment one another. Every note has a fundamental number of vibrations, and the harmonic noted how many multipliers of the fundamental creates a harmonic sound. Nature loves harmony; barn owls, for instance, were played the Blue Danube Waltz, and their brains filled in the missing notes! But it appears we are hard wired for harmony—brain images demonstrate that the brain is actually more activated when hearing harmonic and chords than dissonant ones. Are you living in harmony with others? Which brain image looks more like yours?

We are meant to get along, even though we are different; you can’t have harmony without difference.

This passage in 1 Corinthians celebrates our differnces, our diversity. Paul is writing to a church in Corinth that is deeply divided. Some people in the church have these amazing spiritual gifts. They can heal illness, they can cast out demons, they can speak in unknown tongues. And those with these miraculous gifts are wondering whether those without them are really filled with the Holy Spirit.

To this church, Paul writes of baptism.He reminds them that “we have all been baptized into one body by one Spirit, and we all share the same Spirit.” Verse 13

It seems that in the early church, when a person was baptized, the church leader would say,“You are no longer Jew or Greek, slave or free, male or female.  You have been clothed with Christ.” Galatians 3:28

At that moment, all divisions were erased.

At that moment, that believer became part of the one body of Jesus here on earth.

Now the amazing thing is that to create harmony, we need one note to take the lead, and the others simply harmonize with it. For example, a C chord wraps around the C note. I sing soprano when I sing with a choir, because singing the harmony is more difficult; it’s harder to find the notes. But without the alto, there is no harmony; you need both.

And it’s the same in the church.

Verse 22-23: 22 In fact, some parts of the body that seem weakest and least important are actually the most necessary. 23 And the parts we regard as less honorable are those we clothe with the greatest care.

We need one another. And those that seem the least value, we are called to lift up the highest. Is this the way we really live in the church? Do we lift up the altos? For example, Shirley Albright folds the bulletins every Sunday. Shirley, will you please stand? Thank you, Shirley, for being Christ’s hands in this church. And Norm Rossnagel comes in every Saturday night to turn up the heat. Norm, will you please stand? Thank you for being Christ’s feet in the church.Cindy Groh, will you please stand? Cindy quietly stays late every Sunday to count the money. Thank you, Cindy, for being part of the body of Christ. And Kristen Reinhardt watches over our building and keeps it clean and orderly. Thank you, Kristen, for being part of the body of Christ.

We don’t honor the altoes enough. We don’t lift up the feet or the ears or the tired hands of the church as much as we should. We call the elders to the front of the church; the liturgists and the pastor and even the band certainly get their moments to be recognized. But there are so many people who are never recognized and lifted up the way that God commands us in his Word. And perhaps that’s one of the reasons people are disillusioned with the church; we operate the way the world does, giving greater honor to the sopranos, failing to live in harmony.

Verse 25: 25 This makes for harmony among the members, so that all the members care for each other. 26 If one part suffers, all the parts suffer with it, and if one part is honored, all the parts are glad.

We need one another, even the people who challenge us, even the people who we tend to forget or dismiss, we need them all the more. I think of the wolves. Wolves are scary, difficult creatures; they are predators, and humans nearly drove them out of North America. But recently, environmentalists convinced the national parks to reintroduce wolves to Yellowstone. And something amazing happened. It changed the flow of the river.


We need the wolves. We need everyone. We need everyone to be here. If we are missing a note, we are missing our harmony. So I ask, who is missing? Who is missing from our sound? Do we need to bring in the wolves? I see young men are missing, children are missing, black and brown faces are missing, and we need them. We need the harmony.

So if you are a soprano, if you are a leader, if you are one of the pillars of the church, and sometimes it frustrates you when we call forward the children, or invite in the homeless, or people with mental challenges, or if you simply have trouble getting along with someone else in the church, remember that we are all needed. Remember that we are called to honor the altoes, the neglected ears and noses and feet of the church. Remember that we need the wolves. Remember that we need everyone, every single person here, and a great many people out there, to create the beautiful music God is composing here.

And do not forget that you too are part of that harmony.

I have a privilege every week in that I can look out and see all of you, staring back at me.

And when I look at all of you, it is a beautiful sight. Because I see on your faces your faith, and your hope, and your love. When I look at you, I see something more than ordinary people. I look at you and I see the face of Christ.

The Holy Spirit is living in you.

Remember that you are the holy body of Christ, and be thankful.

In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, Amen.


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