Good morning! I hope this day finds you and your family well, and I want you to know that you are in my prayers daily during this difficult time.
I invite you to take a few moments with me to reflect on today’s Upper Room Devotional below — as well as on the theology woven into “It is well with my soul.”
Special thanks to Peggy Graff and her guests for providing this uplifting and inspiring addition to us in her Dog Days Duets series. I pray that these weekly selections will uplift your spirits and feed your soul as much as it does mine.
1 Corinthians 12:5-6 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
5 and there are varieties of services, but the same Lord; 6 and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone.
1 Corinthians 12:12-27 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
One Body with Many Members
12 For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For in the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.
14 Indeed, the body does not consist of one member but of many. 15 If the foot would say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. 16 And if the ear would say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole body were hearing, where would the sense of smell be? 18 But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. 19 If all were a single member, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many members, yet one body. 21 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” 22 On the contrary, the members of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23 and those members of the body that we think less honorable we clothe with greater honor, and our less respectable members are treated with greater respect; 24 whereas our more respectable members do not need this. But God has so arranged the body, giving the greater honor to the inferior member, 25 that there may be no dissension within the body, but the members may have the same care for one another. 26 If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honored, all rejoice together with it.
27 Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.
Tim’s Devotional Reflection for Today
You may be familiar with The Thomas Concept. It is used in businesses, schools and other organizations to help people determine their pattern of strengths. This is helpful for team-building to help people understand and appreciate their differences and better work together. I first became aware of the concept as a seminary student many years ago and then had the privilege of being Jay Thomas’ pastor after his retirement in Georgetown where we used the concept extensively with our staff and lay leadership.
It’s a fascinating concept. It’s not about strengths and weaknesses, but about pairs of opposite strengths. For example, there is thinking and risking. This is the basic pair of strengths. We possess both, but generally one is the dominant strength for us. We tend either mostly toward thinking or mostly toward risking. And in our thinking we tend mostly toward either practical thinking or theoretical thinking—both strengths. In our risking we tend mostly toward either independent or out-dependent risking—again, both strengths.
Now, what I have found fascinating is how this basic concept of opposite strengths works itself out in so many areas of life. Part of the Thomas Concept is recognizing that we need a kind of balance in life. We need the creative tension between these opposite strengths. When we always emphasize and live out of one strength in the pair, we can become polarized and are not as effective in our relationships and our work.
I am struck by how Paul describes Christian Community. He describes Christian Community as a pair of opposite strengths. He says, “You are the body of Christ and individually members of it.” Sometimes we emphasize the corporate body and sometimes we emphasize the individuality of the members of the Church, but we need both and both are strong aspects of the Church.
We celebrate individuality in American culture. The rugged individualist is our ideal. We praise the so-called “self-made” person. We admire the lone cowboy going it by himself out on the range. We appreciate those who march to their own drummers and do things in unique ways. Our theme song is often, “I Did It My Way.” While individuality is a strength, the problem is we can get polarized there. We forget sometimes that to be a Christian is to belong to a body—the body of Christ.
We enjoy being with people like us. We like for people to get along. We want everyone to agree with us. It’s nice when we all see eye to eye. It’s comfortable when those around me are just like me: my own age, my own gender, my own nationality, speaking my own language, with my experience base, etc. We want to be a part of group that is comfortable. While this oneness, this togetherness is a strength, the problem is we can get polarized there. We forget sometimes that to be a Christian is to be an individual—with unique perspectives, unique gifts, unique minds, unique abilities, and a unique base of experience. While community and togetherness is a strength, it is also true that a strength of the body of Christ is the diversity of the body. There are many different parts—just like with any body—and all are important and, in fact, essential to the whole.
“Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.”
Moreover, it is clear from the teachings and life of Jesus that this principle goes beyond the Church. As Martin Luther King put it, “In a real sense all life is inter-related. All [people] are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be, and you can never be what you ought to be until I am what I ought to be…This is the inter-related structure of reality.”
Thank you for sharing this early moment of your day with me, with God, and with the words and music that I hope you will carry with you throughout the coming day and night.
I am so grateful for you, for our church, and for the Love that will see us all through this very difficult time. Please stay safe and well and we’ll be together again in spirit tomorrow morning!
Grace and Peace,
Dr. Tim Bruster