Each of the years I taught 5th grade we started our Science curriculum with team building exercises to allow the class to get to know one another. One of my favorites involved each team of four receiving six plastic cups, a rubber band and four pieces of string. Their objective was to stack the cups in a pyramid without touching the cups with their hands, using only the materials provided…and then right before they would get started I would boldly announce: “Oh! I almost forgot! You are not allowed to talk! On your mark! Get set! Go!” It was so fun to watch my students get over the initial shock of the final rule and use creative strategies to both communicate and complete the challenge. While they worked to stack their cups I would observe how classmates worked together. Who got the team organized? Who worked on problem solving? Who cheered on their group members as they experimented with different ways of stacking their cups? Who worked through a Plan B in case Plan A didn’t work the way they thought it would? Who took notes on the lab sheet where they documented what worked and what didn’t? It would play out differently in each group, but each member had unique skills and a role to play no matter who they were teamed up with. Everyone had a part to play.
In his letter to the Romans, Paul writes about how the kin-dom of God functions as a community. The individual members of the body have skills that are unique to them, in the same way that our lungs function differently from our hearts, our brains, from our hands. Each serves its own purpose individually, but it isn’t until all the members of the body work together that the body actually functions. The same is true of the kin-dom of God. if one member is excluded from their place at the table for any reason, the entire kin-dom loses out on what that member has to share.
Over the last six months I’ve witnessed this community step up to solve the many challenges that came with continuing to be Church even when the building doors were closed. Members with gifts for technology stepped up to help film services, gather small groups on Zoom, and keep our community informed as best we could on short notice. Members with gifts for building are working to make shields to help make our worship space safer once we are able to gather again for worship in person or built a more permanent step for the pulpit to accommodate the smaller readers in the congregation, myself included. Others took it upon themselves to renovate my office at Holy Trinity to provide a more welcoming and well functioning space for us to meet and get to know one another like I’d hoped we would be able to 6 months ago. Many sewed masks to donate throughout the City. Others met and envisioned what it would take for Holy Trinity to re-open safely from sanitation practices, to Holy Communion, to measuring out the Sanctuary to the inch and mapping out how we can seat people in a way that is socially distant and as safe as possible, when the time comes. Others wrote and sent out Sunday School lessons every week leading up to the summer recess so that our children could have that experience at home. Still others are thinking ahead to this winter and acquired 118 pairs of boots for the Midnight Run later this year. And there is so much more. No one member of the body of Christ could do all that alone. It takes many members, working together, regardless of the distance to work to be the body of Christ in the neighborhood and beyond.
After each team solved the challenge in my 5th grade science class, we talked about the ways they were able to stack their cups. They would share that they tied the four pieces of string to the rubberband and then pull on the strings to stretch it enough to grip a cup without touching the cup with their hands, but in order for that to work all four team members had to come together and pull their own string for it to work. Then we would talk about why the experiment mattered. I would ask what they learned about each other through working together and one by one they would share their observations about how each person contributed to finding a solution for the task and how in the end they all had to work together as one team in order to succeed! What are the gifts that you bring to the table? I invite you to share them in the comments. Thanks be to God.