Carolyn Park Presbyterian Church

THE HAND OF GOD

Romans 12:1-8


Do you remember the TV series a few years back… about the Addams family? Remember the "hand" that lived in a black box? Gomez would issue an order… "Thing, answer the door." The disembodied hand would jump out of the box… and scurry across the floor on its fingertips to open the door. In the 1991 movie about the Addams family, the hand was done absolutely to perfection. Talk about "let your fingers do the walking!" That hand scurried around like nobody's business… doing everybody's business.

Perhaps you have heard me refer to Christians… to you and me… as being the "hands of God." After all God is a Spirit… and spirits have no hands of their own. God operates in this world through people who allow themselves to be used as His hands! We are the ones who should be scurrying around doing God's business at his bidding.

Actually though, a picture of ourselves as "Thing,"… a disembodied hand scurrying around doing God's business… is not very complete or very accurate. That's not how God really works in the world. Nor does it give us a very accurate picture of ourselves… and the part we play in carrying out God's work in the world. Unfortunately though… I think we often mistakenly operate that way… as if we were God's disembodied hand… scurrying around like nobody's business… doing everybody's business.

Once upon a time there were four people named Everybody, Somebody, Anybody and Nobody. There was an important job to be done and Everybody was asked to do it. But Everybody was sure that Somebody would do it. Anybody could have done it. But Nobody did it. Somebody got angry about it, because it was Everybody's job. Everybody thought that Anybody could do it, and Nobody realized that Everybody wouldn't do it. It ended up that Everybody blamed Somebody and Nobody did the job that Anybody could have done in the first place.

Sound familiar? It's a trap we all have fallen into at one time or another, isn't it? And I suspect that it has been the source of more ill will and conflict in churches than just about anything else.

Maybe it's time to stop thinking about ourselves individually… as somebodies who do everything… or nobodies who have nothing to contribute… and start thinking about ourselves collectively as being members of the body of Christ!

It certainly seems to me that is what Paul is saying in our text today. He tells us not to think of ourselves more highly than we ought to. Rather we are to have renewed minds… a new way of thinking about ourselves… as Christ's body… not simply a disembodied hand… but a complete body… doing God's work in the world on behalf of Jesus Christ!

There was a time when I would wake up on Sunday morning thinking, "Lord, I can't think of a single reason why you should come to my rescue once again this week and give me words to say today! I ran around all week… doing my own thing… not spending the kind of time with you that I need in order to write a decent sermon. Why should I expect you to help me out this morning… when I have failed you so miserably this week."

Do you know what God has finally taught me? He said, "I don't do this for you, Shirley… much as I love you. I give you a sermon every week for the people in my church… whom I love and cherish." Now I have to tell you that I stand convicted of arrogance because… up until then… I truly thought God was doing this for me! This was a new way of thinking for me… a renewing of my mind!

In this day and age… we do truly celebrate the individual, don't we? This is the "me" generation… and none of us ever entirely escapes that pitfall. I know that I am guilty of thinking more about what "I" have to do to make things happen… about how God is using "me" in the life of this church. I even call this "my church" sometimes! I tend to measure success by how many people are here on Sunday morning… and sometimes I don't feel too successful!

We all tend to measure our success by what we have accomplished in life… and sometimes that can make us pretty arrogant… sometimes it can make us feel pretty low. But Paul tells us not to be conformed by this world… our individual success in this world is not a true measure of our value… or our worth in God's eyes.

Although God has blessed each of us richly… and we have much to be thankful for… God is not in the business of blessing us as individuals. God's business is to accomplish his purpose through his church… and that means through us… you and me! Our success is not measured by what we have accomplished in the world… but by what God has accomplished in the world through us as the body of Christ… through us… as a church!

Do you think you have nothing to offer to the body? Well, I suggest that you think again! Paul says that everyone has a purpose… a function… something to offer to the body… and we need you! You'll be surprised by what God has in mind for you to contribute!

Do you think you have done your fair share after years of service? Well, I suggest that you think again! Your function may have changed over time… but the body still needs you in order to function properly! This body of Christ cannot get along without you!

Do you think you are already doing too much? Well, I suggest that you think again! Perhaps you're not allowing the rest of the body to function properly… and you are depriving yourself of the support that you need. God didn't ask you to do it alone!

A couple of weeks ago a group of you got together and enjoyed one another's company as you worked to clean up the sanctuary. You'll have another opportunity to do that on September 11. Yesterday Keith, Charles, and my husband Dave moved some furniture around.

By the way… do you know how many Presbyterians it takes to put in a light bulb? Well, yesterday… it took at least three… and a broom stick! You'll have to ask Keith or Charles about that experience!

God is at work among us! He is giving us an opportunity to function as his body… to refresh and renew our lives in new and different ways! There are at least a couple of opportunities coming up this fall for us to work together… to rely on one another to make things happen… to discover our place… our role… our gift to this body. There's lots of fun to be had in the process… lots of fellowship to be enjoyed. There's an opportunity for us to celebrate God's blessing on this body of Christ over the past 40 years. There's an opportunity for us to meet… welcome… and mingle with many other members of our community… right here on the church grounds as we operate the "Great Pumpkin Patch!" This is a chance for us to let the community know that God is alive and well here… and that they are more than welcome to join this "family of God" anytime.

What does the future hold for Carolyn Park Church? Only God knows for sure. But we can look forward to being used by God for his purposes when we understand what it means to work together as different parts of the body of Jesus Christ doing God's work in the world! Amen


A Sermon Preached on August 29, 1999.
The Rev. Shirley R. Frazier
Carolyn Park Presbyterian Church, Arabi, LA

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