Ear to Hear

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Today, Scott wrapped up the “Radical” sermon series with a message about “togetherness.” He

read from this passage:

Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many. Now if the foot should say,

“Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop

being part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not

belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. If the whole

body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear,

where would the sense of smell be? But in fact God has placed the parts in the body,

every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would

the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body. / 1 Corinthians 12: 15-20.

He encouraged us to find that thing we are passionate about (having people over for dinner,

playing guitar, working with kids, etc) and bring that gift to church life, in order to find our place,

our purpose, and our fit. Now, and look at the next few verses:

21-27 / The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to

the feet, “I don’t need you!” On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be

weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honorable

we treat  with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with

special modesty, while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has put

the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no

division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one

part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every

part rejoices  with it. Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of

it.

Sometimes, people try desperately to fit in, to be authentic or even just present, but their efforts

are blocked by a lack of acceptance. Look, it’s easy to honor the “shiny” people in our midst

(and no, that’s NOT a crack about baldness) but it can be a lot harder to honor those who seem

weak, or even broken. It’s not that they are more weak or broken than anybody else, it’s just that

they are more honest about it.

When we we pastors of a little church plant in Fresno, a brain-injured man named Ted found

us, and made our church his home. Ted was loud. Ted was comfortable with interrupting the

sermon to add commentary. Ted hung out by the food table and chewed with his mouth open.

Ted would burp often and showered rarely. One time he ate too much and threw up all over the

floor.

There were a few people who left our church because of Ted.

Our response was, “Don’t let the door hit you on the way out.” Why? Because the

shiny people can go to church anywhere, but Ted, well Ted could only come here. He rode the

bus to church, and would have to walk the last six blocks in 100+ heat. No wonder he showed

up with B.O. Ted lived on $800 a month. No wonder he loved the treats on the food table. He

told me once he was working hard to pay off his debt so he could start tithing, “Eighty dollars,

right?” Ted was excited at the idea of living off $720 a month, if it meant giving to the Lord.

Then, one Monday, Ted was found dead in his apartment.

He had a heart attack. There was no family in Fresno to mourn him. Except us. With shattered

hearts, we devoted a Sunday morning to his memorial service. A few of his friends showed up,

including an older gay couple I’d been inviting to our church for years. Unbeknownst to us, they

had been watching us, watching to see if we really were a loving place.

With Ted gone, our church was never the same. The very best of us had gone ahead. And we

felt the lack of his presence desperately. My husband told me once, “If the only reason God had

ever had us plant this church was so that Ted could have a family, then it is enough.”

Love and honor, cherish and protect the weaker members, because at some point you will

realize they are the best of us all.

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