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Tend To Your Own Knitting
January 24 and 25, 1998

1 CORINTHIANS 12:1-11

The title of our new Saturday evening service is HOPE HAPPENS HERE! Through this title, we are announcing to the world two things: 1) There is a lot of hopelessness today. 2) Church is where you can find hope. Hope happens here.

The Corinthian Church was a squabbling, disagreeing, arguing, ragtag group of Christians, most trying to convince the others that their spiritual gifts were more important than anyone elseís. Especially those who spoke in tongues felt that their gift made them superior. In the lesson read today, Paul lists some of the spiritual gifts, how they are all different, yet how they are important and tied together, because the gifts are given by the Spirit. 12:11, "All these are activated by one and the same Spirit, who allots to each one individually just as the Spirit chooses." Then, Paul goes on to remind them that the church is like a body. Each of us is a member of the body of Christ. vss 12-13, "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. For in the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body-- Jews or Greeks, slaves or free."

In the church, in the body of Christ, there are no important and less important people, no head for Christ is the head, and to that head, we are all connected, connected to Christ and connected to one another. A hopeless, lonely word is "unconnected." Can you picture someone unconnected, disconnected, not connected with anyone. How lonely, isolated, barren, hopeless.

My wife, Ellie, is in Minnesota this weekend. She went home for the funeral of her aunt. The only one left in her Motherís family of eight brothers and sisters is one brother who no longer lives in the home community. There is no longer a hub for the extended family. They feel disconnected. One family member made the observation that in his experience so many of his coworkers and neighbors are not connected, or no longer connected, to a larger family. We stay in touch with a member of my former church. She is now in a nursing home with no connections. She has no family and, because of her personality, has no friends-- no community, no network. She has lived a lonely, isolated, unconnected life. Sad.

God has raised up the church where we can connect, connect with Christ and connect with one another as members of Christís body. Some folks contend that they donít need the church in order to connect with God. They feel they can find God out in the woods hunting, on the river fishing, or on the golf course. Maybe, but they are certainly making it difficult for they are bypassing Christís body.

Do you know what is the strongest material made? Before you answer with "steel", the material I am describing is five to 10 times stronger than steel. Give up? The strand of silk made by a spider! When youíve walked into a spiderís web, you know how delicate, sticky, clingy, and tenacious it can be, but they are also strong. Bioengineers today are fascinated with the spiderís web, and are determined to see if they can break the spiderís genetic code so that they can create a material that can out-muscle steel and be pulled out to 20% of its original length without breaking. The chemical makeup of an ordinary strand of spiderís web is five to 10 times stronger than steel, stronger than the material that holds up our tallest skyscrapers or supports our longest bridges. It has been computed that a pencil-thick strand of spiderís silk could stop a Boeing 747 in flight!

Equally fascinating is the realization that there is already in existence a structure that successfully imitates the inter-woven strength of a spiderís web. This structure has reproduced the enduring elasticity of a spiderís thread so well that it can stretch not just to 20% of its original length, but it can transcend time itself-- stretching its silken cords of connection back into the past and shooting them far into the future. This structure, this intricately woven web, is the body of Christ, the community of faith we call the church. The web-weaver is not the spider, but the Holy Spirit. The church is bound together by the continuing living presence of the Holy Spirit in its midst.

Last Sunday we worshiped with an English speaking group of tourists in Mazatlan, Mexico. Some of them spend the winter there, most of us were there for a week or two. The only room they can find to meet in is a sports bar and restaurant across the street from the hotel we stayed in. The pastor is a retired Lutheran minister from Minnesota who delights us with his thick Norwegian accent. The local Lutheran missionary brings a wooden cross to sit on a table, and a hand-held Yamaha keyboard on which she plays the hymns. A Methodist from New Mexico played the prelude on his autoharp. In those humble surroundings, with graffiti carved on the walls and rafters, we worshiped. When we sang "How Great Thou Art," I felt connected. Someone counted 21 different denominations represented. And, we were connected. The web of Christ transcends not only time, but denominations as well.

The Holy Spirit weaves a web of witness and commitment between believers, even across generations of believers, through the astounding power and diversity of the spiritual gifts each one of us has received. God gives a variety of gifts. No one of us has received all the gifts; therefore, we need each other. We are connected to one another, so that the body is complete. Call out some of the gifts, listed in the lesson, that God gives and spreads throughout the congregation: wisdom, knowledge, faith, healing, miracles, prophecy, discernment, tongues, and there are many others. Thank God for the variety. Thank God for the connection, because each of us are where we are today because people used their spiritual gifts. They believed in us, sacrificed for us, and used their gifts to encourage us, to build us up.

I have a ball of yarn. Iím going to start the ball rolling by tying the end of the yarn to my finger. Iím going to offer thanks to God for someone in the church who has inspired and encouraged me. Then, Iím going to toss the ball into the congregation. Whoever catches it, pull the yarn taut, and name someone to whom you are grateful, living or dead, a member of this congregation or some other. Then, toss the ball across the room, continuing to hold on to the yarn.

What we have created here is a web. A web is a collection of holes held together by a string! If you tend to think of yourself as a nothing, or a nobody, or one who canít do much, look what happens when we are connected! We are a web of considerable strength. While you are holding on to a strand, will you bow your head in silence, and consider the One who believes in you more than you believe in yourself. Jesus believes in you so much he has called you to be part of his body, and connected you here today with himself and with all of us... Letís say in unison, "Thank you, Jesus, for believing in me. Thank you, Jesus, for believing in our church."

Have you ever been told to tend to your own knitting? Thatís the challenge for our church: to tend to our own knitting, to knit a web of love-relationships into the strongest structure known in the universe, a structure so strong even the gates of hell cannot prevail against it.

ã 1998 Douglas I. Norris