************ Sermon on Romans 12:4-5 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on May 14, 2000
Title: Ice Cream Cones
On a hot summer day ice cream hits the spot, doesn't it? That's what people wanted on a hot, sticky day in the summer of 1904. People at the St. Louis World's Fair had walked for hours in the hot sun, and they were ready for something to cool them off. That's why they were lined up for what seemed like miles in front of the booth of Arnold Fornachou to get a taste of his frosty ice cream.
The problem was that Arnold's ice cream was so popular he quickly ran out of paper bowls. The moon-lighting teenager scrambled to keep his potential customers by washing and reusing the few ceramic bowls he had on hand. But no matter how hard he worked, many people grew tired of waiting and wandered off in search of another treat. That's when an unlikely partner emerged to save the day.
His name was Ernest Hamwi, a pastry chef who had grown up in Damascus, Syria. In the booth next to Arnold's he was selling a wafer-thin Persian confection called a "zalabia." That is, he was trying to sell them but no one was buying them.
When Ernest saw his neighbor's plight, he was struck with a great idea. Grabbing a warm "zalabia," he twisted it into a cone-type shape and rolled it in sugar. Then he ran over to Arnold's booth and offered it to him. Still scrambling to wash bowl and wait on customers, Arnold didn't understand what the older man had in mind. But when Ernest handed a scoop of ice cream atop one of the cone-shaped "zalabia" to a waiting customer, Arnold instantly got the message. A huge smile spread over his face, and in no time, the two men were working side by side – Ernest made "edible bowls," Arnold scooped ice cream. Together, Ernest and Arnold invented the ice cream cone and they were the hit of the fair.
Ernest and Arnold show us the spirit of what Paul says in our text. They display the value of partnership. We see that partnership solves problems – and everybody wins. You are stronger and can accomplish more when you work with a partner.
This evening I want to look with you at how members of the church all partner with one another – so that as a group we can accomplish far more than all of us can possibly do as separate individuals.
I Humans: One Body With Many Members
A The example, the living illustration, of a mutually beneficial partnership that the Apostle Paul holds before us this evening is our very own human body.
(Rom 12:4) Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function ...I want you to consider your body for a moment. How wondrous it is. It is composed of so many different parts: head, trunk, arms and hands, legs and feet. It has eyes, ears, nose, and mouth. It has a heart, lungs, liver, kidney, bladder, and intestines. It has muscles, tendons, bones, nerves, and blood vessels.
B Everyone of these parts has a different function. The ear's job is to hear. The job of the nose is to smell and breathe. The job of the lungs is to pass oxygen to the body and to expel carbon dioxide. The job of the kidneys is to process waste water. The job of the heart is to pump blood around the body. Each part has its own unique job to do.
C So many different body parts. So many different functions. Yet, they all work together to make the body alive and active. Consider this:
Did you realize that 70 separate muscles contribute to hand movements? But in order to allow dexterity and slimness for actions such as piano playing, the finger itself has no muscles; rather, tendons transfer the force from muscles higher in the arm. If any one of those muscles failed to work properly the hand would not be able to play the piano or type on a keyboard or write with a pen.What a beautiful picture of partnership.
D Not only do all the body parts work together, but every part is important. Every part contributes to the well-being of the whole body. A body without toes, for instance, finds it difficult to keep its balance. A body without a functioning liver quickly poisons itself and dies. A body without a functioning eye or hand or leg is disabled. Consider this.
Topic: FellowshipIn the same way, all the parts of the body cooperate so the body can function. Partnership – that's what we see when we look at the human body.
Title: Making a Pencil
"There isn't a single person in the world who can make a pencil," stated Newsweek columnist Milton Friedman as he opened his new TV series Free to Choose. "The wood may have come from a forest in Washington, the graphite from a mine in South America, and the eraser from a Malaysian rubber plantation. Thousands of people cooperate to make a pencil."
II The Church: One Body With Many Members
A Now, the partnership that we see in the human body is a living illustration of the church. We hear these words of the Apostle Paul in verse 5:
(Rom 12:5) ... in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.
In Christ the church is one body. Everyone who believes in Jesus Who died and arose becomes one with Jesus; and everyone who becomes one with Jesus also becomes one with everyone else who believes in Jesus. Don't forget what the Bible says about this: Jesus is the vine and we are the branches (Jn 15:5); Jesus is the head and we are the body (1Cor 12; Eph 5:23; Col 1:18). In Christ we are all one. In Christ we are in partnership with one another and the Lord.
I am sure you realize this runs counter to what is celebrated in our culture and society. Think of the many Rambo-type figures displayed in our movies and novels and even history textbooks. There is something in the American spirit that loves mavericks and renegades, rugged individualists who act on their own. We've been led to believe that the Wild West and the rugged frontier were conquered and civilized by such men. Nothing could be further from the truth. The truth of the matter is, the West was won by partnership. Did Lewis explore on his own, or was it Lewis and Clark and an unknown number of guides? Bill Gates did not make the Windows operating system on his own; he partnered with hundreds of others.
Within society and culture, and within the church too, God's design is that we work together, that we form partnerships. God's first partnership, of course, was marriage. God pronounced that "It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him" (Gen 2:18).
B As with the human body, the church is made up of many parts. In Trinity, for instance, we have people of every age group. We have male and female. We have members with Dutch ancestry; but we also have members with Hispanic and Polish and German and Irish ancestry. We have people with a type A personality but we also have people with a type B personality. We have those who are highly educated and those who went no further than grade school or high school.
C As with the human body, the different parts all have different functions. Paul identifies those different functions in verses 6-8: prophesying, serving, teaching, encouraging, contributing to the needs of others, leadership, showing mercy. Paul's list here is not exhaustive. The Bible has other lists which state other functions: wisdom, knowledge, faith, healing, miraculous powers, distinguishing between spirits, speaking in tongues, interpretation of tongues (1 Cor 12:8-10; cf 1 Peter 4:10-11). On top of this, we can identify other functions found in the church today: creative ability for poetry, drama, singing in the choir, directing, playing a musical instrument; administration, finance, shepherding, serving in the nursery, etc. As with the parts of the human body, each part of the church has its own unique job to do.
Each and every member of the church has a role to play. Each and every member of the church has a function to fulfill. There is no member with no role. There is no member with no function. In other words, there should never be a member who contributes nothing to the life of the church. And, there should never be a member who thinks he or she has nothing to contribute to the life of the church.
Do you know why we all have a role to play and a function to fulfill? Do you know why we all can make a contribution to the life of the church? NOT because we are such talented and intelligent and wise people! NOT because the Lord cannot do without us. But because of what Paul calls a "gift." All the roles and functions that I have mentioned – prophesying, serving, teaching, encouraging, contributing to the needs of others, leadership, etc. – are gifts of God to the church.
There are two things we can say about a gift. The first thing we can say is that a gift always comes from someone – it doesn't just come out of the air. We all have a role to play and a function to fulfill because the Lord is the giver. The Lord "gifts" us with His grace and Spirit so that we are His "gifted" children.
The second thing we can say is that a "gift" is always free, unearned, unmerited, undeserved; a true gift comes with no strings attached. The root of the Greek word for "gift" is the word for "grace" – and grace, of course, is always free, unearned, unmerited, undeserved. The gifts that God gives us are His gift to us when are born-again. Just like we get presents on our birthday, so we get gifts on our spiritual birthday.
D As with the human body, there are so many different parts and so many different functions in the church. Yet, they all work together to make the body of the church alive and active. We are all in partnership with one another. Consider this:
Did you realize that on a typical Sunday we have over 110 people doing various things? Let me mention the roles or functions we need every single Sunday: pastor or preacher, 2 organists and 2 pianists, custodian, 7 elders, 5 deacons, 2 sound booth persons, 10 nursery attendants, 6 ushers, 4 or 5 greeters, hospitality family, 2 coffee servers, 1 coffee maker, 28 church school teachers and helpers, 4 library attendants, a hymn sing leader, 2 or 3 song leaders for the church school, 2 pianists for church school singing, 2 parking lot guards, Westgate organizer, 3 after service greeters, solists or duets, flower arranger, 22 choir members.All of us need to partnership every Sunday so that we can worship God, fellowship with each other, and grow in grace and knowledge.
The Apostle Paul puts it this way. He says "each member belongs to all the others." I am not my own. I belong, first of all, to Jesus. I am not my own. I belong, secondly, to my fellow believers. The Heidelberg Catechism states it this way:
Q. 55 What do you understand by "the communion of saints"?We are all in partnership with each other.
A. ... that each member
should consider it a duty
to use these gifts
readily and cheerfully
for the service and enrichment
of the other members.
E As with the human body, not only do all the parts of the church work together, but every part is important. Every part contributes to the well-being of the whole body.
Consider what would happen if we showed up on Sunday and there were no musicians – no organists, no pianists; our worship would be greatly impoverished – especially if I had to lead the singing. Or, consider what would happen if we had no one watching our little ones; it would be hard for their parents to worship without distraction. Or, consider what would happen if there was no one to preach the Word; our worship would be without direction and content.
Every member of the church is important. No member is unimportant. No one is more important than any other. All are needed. Or else the work of the Lord in Trinity could not possibly be done.
Topic: FellowshipEveryone in partnership. Everyone working together. Everyone contributing to the good of the body. That is God's goal, God's vision, God's desire, for the church.
Title: Making Music Side By Side
CBS radio newsman Charles Osgood tells the story of a lady named Ruth who lived in a nursing home. She had been sent there after suffering a stroke that left her right side paralyzed. Like many stroke victims, she was having a difficult time adjusting to her current condition. Making matters worse was her disappointment at being unable to play the piano, one of her great passions in life.
But then one day the director of the center introduced her to a fellow resident named Margaret. She was also a stroke victim who had been an accomplished pianist. At first Ruth thought the director had brought her and Margaret together to sympathize with and console one another. But he had a better idea. You see, Margaret's stroke had affected her left side, just the opposite of Ruth's. So he sat them down side by side at a piano, put a piece of music in front of them, and encouraged them to play it together.
It wasn't easy. At first they struggled, but in time they got better. Before long they were making beautiful music together. As they continued playing together, a beautiful friendship developed between them. And remarkably, as partners they learned to play better together than they ever had on their own.
(Rom 12:4-5) Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, (5) so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.
Partners. Partners in Christ. Partners in Christ of and with one another.
Let me conclude with a quote from Mother Teresa:
You can do what I cannot do. I can do what you cannot do. Together, we can do great things.That's the result of partnership in Jesus.
You can e-mail our pastor at: Pastor, Trinity United Reformed Church
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