Let’s start with a little story I once heard:
Bee was a busy creature, but he was not happy.
He worked all day collecting nectar from the trees and flowers to take back to his hive where it would be made into extremely delicious honey. He enjoyed his work but he was still downhearted.
He saw the other creatures in the forest doing their own thing and having a good time, and that made him feel even sadder.
The monkeys swung through the trees like trapeze artists at a circus. The lions and tigers slunk through the long, swaying grass looking for food. The deer frolicked around without a care in the world (unless they smelled a lion or a tiger). The frogs jumped round the pond feeling important, and the bear – well the bear, she just strutted around the forest as if she owned it and do you know? She just helped HERSELF to honey from the bee hives without as much as a please or thank you!!!!
No-one took much notice of Bee, and when people saw him they often ran away screaming. Bee felt very lonely and unwanted. He tried to buzz more loudly, but although he droned on all day his voice couldn’t be heard above the roar of the lions, the chattering of the monkeys, the ribbit-ing of the frogs, the squeaking of the deer or the gruff growl of the great grizzly bear.
One day Bee just stopped working and curled up on a leaf all day. Bear, who was a kindly sort and very keen for Bee to carry on making honey, asked him if he was all right.
“NO I’M NOT!” shouted Bee in the most scary voice he could manage, “I am tired of being small and insignificant.”
So, Bear called all the animals together to cheer Bee up.
Monkey chattered, “I love the graceful way you fly around us.” Bee was still glum.
The lions and tigers roared, “We love your yellow and black stripes, you are very handsome.” Still Bee did not smile.
The deer jumped in excitement to make Bee feel more important. “You are so clever!” they said, “you can make perfect hexagons in your hive.” But Bee did not even seem to hear.
Now it was frog’s turn. “I love the way your wings flutter to take you high into the sky,” he croaked. Bee was still miserable.
Finally it was Bear’s turn and she growled a low, gruff growl near Bee’s ear and said, ”You are the most important creature on earth, because if bees stopped work all the animals and people would only survive for four years. We all depend on you to pollinate the flowers and plants. If you stop doing that there will be no food.”
At this Bee opened his eyes, flapped his wings and smiled, a smile of relief and satisfaction. At last he realized how important he was. He landed on Bear’s nose and buzzed, “don’t worry, I won’t stop making honey.”
And all the animals were happy.
We all have a role, however small.
We are all members of the Body of Christ.
Hands, feet, arms, legs, heart, muscles, fingers, toes, eyes, ears, liver, kidneys, guts, blood, nose-hairs… all have a function. All have a role to play in the body of Christ.
So many people will proudly say, “We are the hands and feet of the Lord. We do the Lord’s work.” And some people have no idea what part of the body they are or what it is that they are doing, but I want to be very clear that all the parts of the Body work in the Lord’s doing.
We can’t all be hands and feet. Goodness, could you imagine what that body would look like?! I am not even sure that hands and feet are the most important part of the body…
So what if you’re the nose hair? You’re there for a purpose.
Do you know what a nose hair does?
Its main function is to keep foreign or unwanted particles from entering the lungs through the nasal cavity. They strain out the nasty stuff we breathe in. It’s like an air filter in your house. Nose hairs trap dirt, viruses, bacteria and toxins until we blow them out, sneeze, or swallow. They work hard at their job so that we can breathe easier. So, it’s there for a purpose.
And even if you have no idea what good you’re doing, you still have a job: to be a nose hair in the Body of Christ.
Sometimes we feel like what we do doesn’t matter. We might look at what other people are doing and wish we were more like them.
Some people get more attention; some simply labour quietly in the background, but we all have something to contribute to the communities that we are a part of. There is no such thing as a lesser gift or small gesture.
I think that when we dwell on what we see in others, compared to ourselves, we are missing a powerful force that is directing our lives – the story we ought to be telling ourselves every day about ourselves and our worth.
One of my favourite theologians, CS Lewis, is often quoted saying: “We are what we believe we are.” This is a basic summary of an idea that Lewis shares in many of his books, but has a basis in ‘Mere Christianity,’ where he talks about two different kinds of pretending that humans are prone to: the pretending with intent to deceive, where we become what people believe about us, and the pretending with intent to become something better. The truth is not so much that we are what we believe we are so much as we become what we believe we are, and we also become what other people say we are.
You don’t become loveable by doing what people tell you to do to become loveable. You become loveable when someone tells you: “I love you.”
And God offers us something even more powerful than just belief in ourselves. God offers us a story about ourselves and about our worth. A story that plays over and over, but I often wonder if those stories only mean something to the people living in discomfort.
We all face a pressure to “keep it together” – a pressure from our culture and a pressure deep within. If we let go of the pressure; face our hurts, our fears, our imperfections, and see them for what they are, then we may discover that we are not who we want to be, can be, or should be.
The truth, like the little bee discovered, is that we never will be if who we want to be if that isn’t a version of who we already are. The freedom in that truth opens us to God.
God comes not only the perfect but the imperfect, not just for the healthy but the ill, not only for the righteous but the unrighteous, not just for the strong but the weak.
God comes for each and every one of us.
The Apostle Paul speaks about this with the use of body language.
If the whole body were an eye, what would do the hearing? If the whole body was about hearing, what would do the smelling? Imagine that you get a Mr. Potato Head that only came with feet? How about noses? It’s kind of hard to imagine a Potato Head character that’s supposed to look at least somewhat human if it only had one kind of body part for all parts.
“But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them….” Sometimes we really do feel like what we’re doing doesn’t matter, but we each have our part to give, and we have no way of knowing how deeply our part affects those around us. We are called and claimed as members of the body, and we are all a part in the Body of Christ. This is who we strive to be, to become, and who we are.
Paul says, “If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honoured, all rejoice together with it.” We are to celebrate the success, the joy of the people around us. We are also to suffer the pain and discomfort of those around us. Much like how a really bad headache puts me and my whole body off work for the day, we are all affected by the joy and sorrow of our shared membership.
So, it’s important that Jesus comes into our midst to establish that claim over us. It is important that we see Jesus as the Head – the one who directs us. Jesus arrives into our midst and announces the essence of his ministry. It is both what he will do in Israel, and what we are called to do as disciples of Christ.
This is a story that is supposed to be GOOD NEWS. It is meant to give us joy and make us want to celebrate.
But, remember what I said about those pressures inside of us that makes us want to present ourselves as perfect as possible?
We want desperately to become the story we keep telling ourselves. In many ways, the people in Nazareth are no different. They want to keep believing that story that they are telling themselves and the story that Rome is telling them; and here comes Jesus, who straight out announces that he’s throwing every story out and writing a new one. That will have a part for every child of God, that will have a part from every member. How do you think these people are going to react?
Well, we have to wait until next week to find that out.
In the meantime, I would ask you to spend a little time this week thinking about how you are going to react to Jesus writing a new story for you.
How would you like to be the best at whatever it is that God is calling you to be?
Because of Christ’s story, God is calling each and every one of us “beloved”. We are all a part of this new story, and not one of us is inessential – not even the nose-hairs. Thanks be to God!
Let us pray:
In you we have our being. Thank you for loving us so much to give us each something to share with others. Thank you for arranging us in complex ways that we sometimes can’t understand, but that enable us to work together for the benefit of the whole body. Empower us to be the best at whatever it is that you are calling us to be. Encourage us to share each others joys and sorrows as we pilgrimage together in each of our journeys.
Today’s image is borrowed and modified from a Daily News article. The image is credited to Mieke Dalle/Getty Images and can be found here.