Description of my Christmas tree: White lights, built into the tree. Part of a strand wasn’t working. Had to go through and replace every single light down the row to find the right one that was loose or had burned out. Scratched face and arms. A lot of work! But when it is finished and the hard work is done and everything is untangled, that tree looks amazing!
I got to thinking about how a strand of Christmas tree lights is like the body of Christ. Every single one of those bulbs is important. They might be small. They might shine with different colors and brightness. Some might twinkle and others might not. But if you take one light out – the strand stops working.
Each one of us is an important member of the body of Christ. We may be simple, ordinary people, but we are necessary. We shine with different colors and brightness. Some of us twinkle and others do not. But if you take just one of us out – our strand stops working.
As we continue deeper into the twelfth chapter of Romans today, Paul tells us what happens when we not only hand over our ordinary lives to God, but also let God’s will transform our hearts. We find our place in the Body of Christ. We find that we are individuals in community. We find that God not only has a purpose for us – but that God has already given us everything we need to fulfill that purpose.
I keep all of our Christmas stuff in a large trunk that we store underneath the stairs at our house. And in the bottom of that trunk (which is why I didn’t get a chance to drag it out and bring it this morning) is a small box. And in that box are replacement light bulbs. They are just ordinary little bulbs – much like the ones here. Some of them are twinkle bulbs and cause the whole strand to blink on and off. Some of them are twinklers themselves. Some of them are clear and others have color to them. But you know what – inside that box, not plugged in or connected to anything, they are really good for nothing.
I got to thinking about those spare light bulbs when I read our gospel reading for this morning: Jesus spoke to Philip and Andrew and said:
Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life.
Unless a light bulb is connected to the strand of lights, it remains simply a spare bulb; But if it dies – it if is connected – it if gives up its role as a spare part, a simple individual bulb – then it gives forth light. And not just its own individual light… it becomes a part of a greater light that shines forth and brings joy to the world.
Who knew you could learn so much from light bulbs?!
In many ways, we are like those spare parts. We might have great color or potential for twinkling or steadfast shining… we might have the ability to bring joy and warmth into the world… but unless we recognize who we truly are – and whose we truly are… unless we let go of our individual lives and give ourselves over to God… we might not ever discover the beauty and the power of walking in the light.
As Jesus goes on in this gospel passage from John, we are reminded that discovering our gift and our role does not mean that everything will be easy. Jesus recognizes that his journey takes him straight to the cross. But he also knows that this is why he is here. This is why his light shines. He understands his purpose in the larger picture of God’s will and in gratitude he is able to say – Father, I do this to glorify your name.
Every one of us has the opportunity to glorify his name – to serve him, to follow him, to honor him. And we do that when we are aligned with God’s will and connected to the Body of Christ.
When we become connected to God’s will and the body of Christ we:
A. understand our individual role – an essential and yet same part of one Body
- each of us has different gifts… sharing of the results from our spiritual gifts inventory.
- The church needs you… your particular gift was given so that you would help this strand of lights to shine.
- But you also need need the church – we need to understand our part in the bigger story.. we need the gifts of others to encourage us, teach us, pray for us, serve us. We need to church to connect us with the power of god… even when we are broken and our individual lights don’t work. One of the amazing things that I discovered with these strands of Christmas lights is that even when a light is broken, it is still necessary. The power still flows through it, even if it will not light up. But take it out – then the whole strand suffers. In the Christian faith, we talk about how sometimes the community of faith carries our faith for us. When we baptize a little child, we are committing to hold the faith for them, to raise them up in the faith, until one day they are ready to claim that faith for themselves. In the same way, when we are burn out spiritually – the last thing we need is to leave the church. We need to surround ourselves with those who can love and care for us and continue to help the Holy Spirit flow through our life until we are ready for transformation and new life and faith.
B. understand our communal role
- in many ways our church is like one light bulb as a part of the worldwide body of Christ – so we ask a similar question – what is our church’s gift? What do we uniquely offer this community? How can we manifest God’s will and glorify his name?
- In our church, we have discerned that our unique offering is to help reflect the light of Christ in three ways: Care, Grow, Send
- In looking at the spiritual gifts of people in this church, the top gifts that God has blessed us with are healing and miracles… so how does that translate into our Prayer/Healing ministry: sharing the good news, bringing hope, walking with people… being a beacon and reflecting the light of God to this community
- Soon, our new prayer site will go live
C. Practice needs to be consistent with our gifts. We need to honor them. We need to care for them. We need to serve in ways that glorify God.
- John Westerhoff: As stewards of God, we are invited to join God’s action, God’s mission in the world. We are Christ’s body, God’s sacrament, so that God can be present in human life and history. It is for this purpose that God calls us into the church.”
- Our witness is our witness – we can serve all we want, but if we do not do so with gentle hearts, it comes across as cold. If we tell the good news but we do it shouting from the street corner, we seem to be better than others. If we tell the truth about God but neglect the truth of our own lives, then we come across as hypocrites.
- We are Christ’s body. Sometimes we are the only Christ that this world ever sees… in the gospel of John we are reminded that when we spent time in the light – when we spend time with Jesus – when we believe in him and follow him and serve him – then we ourselves become children of the light.
- As the familiar hymn goes: I want to walk as a child of the light. I want to follow Jesus. God set the starts to give light to the world. The star of my life is Jesus. In him there is no darkness at all. The night and the day are both alike. The lamb is the light of the city of God.
Shine in my heart, Lord Jesus. Shine in our hearts, Lord Jesus. Lead us deeper into this community. Connect us with one another so that we might share these amazing gifts that you have given us. Transform us into children of the light so that we might share your love and grace with this community and this world and truly glorify your name. Amen.