Experiencing Unity & Celebrating Diversity

June 26, 2018

“For in fact the body is not one member but many.”   (1Corinthians 12:14)

A great Scripture in the New Testament about the way a church is to function is chapter 12 of First Corinthians. After the Apostle Paul uses the words diversity and oneness several times, he brings these two opposite concepts together in his inspired metaphor that the Church is to function as a body.

He writes that it is not either/or but both/and; that diversity should be celebrated rather than resolved. As diverse members of the body of Christ come together in ministry there are let it happen people, make it happen people, don’t know what’s happening people, and don’t know anything is supposed to be happening people.

Let it happen people desperately need make it happen people. And the other two kinds of people obviously need the first two kinds of people. The truth is we all need each other to function as a team, a body, and a Church.

There are Mary and Martha people and they both need each other. Marthas often do not appreciate Marys because they think they are unorganized. But Marys need Marthas and Marthas need to realize that if it were not for Marys there would not be anything to organize.

Are you fitting in with people who have what you do not have, and sharing with them what you have that they do not have?

When we experience unity while celebrating diversity we do not have uniformity but a supernatural community that is in reality the body of our risen and living Lord Jesus Christ.

Dick Woodward, 25 June 2013


Ambassadors of Reconciliation

July 8, 2016

“So we are ambassadors for Christ, since God is making His appeal through us; we entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.”  2 Corinthians 5:20

One of the most profound Scripture passages addressing the redemptive quality that can accompany suffering is found in the sixth chapter of Second Corinthians.  Paul tells us suffering is like a God-ordained ‘seminary’ in which God trains qualified ministers of the Gospel.  There is a sense in which this seminary never ends.

By passing through this seminary of suffering, we can be proven ministers of God.  When Paul uses “minister,” he does not mean a clergy-person; he means the minister every believer is designed, created, and recreated by God to be.  Everyone who has experienced the miracle of reconciliation to God through Christ has been commissioned to carry out the ministry of reconciliation as an ambassador for Christ.

How do we prove ourselves to be ministers?  Paul writes, “In afflictions, hardships, calamities, beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, sleepless nights, hunger.” (2 Corinthians 6:4-5)

I call these adversities “wringers.” (Old washing machines had a wringer through which wet, soapy clothes passed to squeeze water out of them. It was very painful to get your hand caught in the wringer!)  These challenging adversities describe the daily life experience of the Apostle Paul. (More of Paul’s wringers are summarized in 2 Corinthians 11:23-28.)

When we find ourselves in a wringer, the important thing is our response to that wringer. In 2 Corinthians 6:6, Paul shows us how to respond: “By pureness, knowledge, patience, kindness.”

In verses 6 and 7 of this passage, he tells us where to find the spiritual resources to respond as we should: “By the Holy Spirit, by love unfeigned, by the Word of Truth, by the power of God, by the armor of righteousness on the right hand and on the left.”

In verses 8-10, Paul describes the results when we respond to our wringers by drawing on spiritual resources:  “in honor and dishonor, in ill repute and good repute.  We are treated as impostors, and yet are true; as unknown, and yet are well known; as dying, and see – we are alive; as punished, and yet not killed; as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing everything.”   These nine paradoxes profile the witness of the minister who has been trained in the ministry of suffering.

Loving Heavenly Father, use our suffering to make us faithful ministers of reconciliation, in Jesus’ name, Amen.

Dick Woodward, from 30 Biblical Reasons Why God’s People Suffer


Celebrating Diversity

April 14, 2015

“If the whole body were an eye where would the sense of hearing be?”  (1Corinthians 12:17)

There’s a story about a doctor who came out of the delivery room to tell an expectant father: “I have some grave news for you.  Your wife has given birth to a 7-pound eyeball.”  After pausing a moment he added: “And that’s not all. It’s blind!”

If you came home one night in the dark to find a 185 pound eyeball in the corner of your front porch, would that give you a rush of anxiety?

In this verse from First Corinthians the Apostle Paul uses an illustration just as grotesque as the illustrations I just used.  He does this in his inspired letter to the Corinthians because he wants to make a point: the beauty of diversity.

One of the fingerprints of the Church of Jesus Christ is that in the Church we celebrate diversity.  Diversity in the body of Christ is to be celebrated rather than resolved.  If two of us are exactly alike one of us is unnecessary.  Some of the members of the First Church of Corinth were telling others they were not authentically spiritual unless they had the exact same spiritual gifts.

Paul remedied that kind of thinking with the hideous metaphor of a body being just one member and not a body with the beauty of many diverse parts.  Other members of the body of Christ have what you do not have and you have what they do not have.  That means you need them and they need you.

The body of Christ is a team sport.  Are you willing to be a team player?

Step up and play your part.

Dick Woodward, 05 February 2013


Shibboleths

January 21, 2014

“… ‘Then say, ‘Shibboleth’!’ And he would say, ‘Sibboleth,’ for he could not pronounce it right. Then they would take him and kill him at the fords of the Jordan. There fell at that time forty-two thousand Ephraimites.”  (Judges 12:6)

Although we Americans have a common language we all have accents that show our origins to a discerning ear.  The above incident demonstrates how thousands of years ago different regional accents caused the death of 42,000 people.

There had been a civil war among people of the same ethnicity.  As the victors captured survivors, the only way to tell if they were the enemy was to force them to say “Shiboleth.”  When prisoners could not pronounce the “sh” sound because of their regional accents, 42,000 of them were executed.

What does all this have to do with us today?  Metaphorically speaking, when we meet people we often have a hidden theological agenda.  If they do not say that which agrees with our hidden agenda we hit the reject button.  The sad thing is that they never even know why we have rejected them.

As a pastor since 1956, I have been greatly blessed by people who did not have the same precise theological agenda as mine.  While meeting recently with two of the founders of the church where I am now Pastor Emeritus, we thanked God that we did not miss the blessings of our relationships over the past 35 years.  Coming from diverse theological backgrounds, we could have hit the reject button when we met in 1979 if we each had tried to push our theological agendas.

As Christ prayed that we might be one as He is one with the Father, may we watch out for Shibboleths that divide us.  Instead, let’s focus on Jesus Christ and the supernatural unity we have in  Him.