We have a favorite old story that tells about the simmering conflict between the pastor of a church and the director of music. Their egos frequently clashed as they vied for prominence and position. Each thought himself more vital to the life of the community than the other.
One Sunday, the pastor decided to settle matters once and for all by preaching a stirring sermon on the necessity of humbly stepping forth to serve another. When his sermon concluded, the director of music instructed his choir to stand and sing the hymn, “I Shall Not Be Moved.” The next Sunday was stewardship Sunday and the pastor preached on giving joyfully and generously to the work of the Lord. The director of music had the congregation sing a hymn in response, “Jesus Paid it All.” The following Sunday the preacher took on the issue of gossiping. He warned the congregation to watch their tongues. The director of music then led the hymn, “I Love to Tell the Story.” By the next Sunday the pastor was so frustrated over the continual challenges to his authority that he spent his sermon telling the congregation he was thinking of resigning. As he finished his sermon, the director of music had the choir stand to sing, “O, Why Not Tonight?”
Well, that was the straw that broke the camel’s back. When the next Sunday rolled around, the pastor was ready. He told the congregation he’d had it; he was resigning. He said that Jesus had led him there and Jesus was now taking him away. With that, the director of music led the choir in a rousing rendition of “What a Friend We Have in Jesus.”
The feud between these servants of the church always makes us laugh – maybe because while their behavior is outlandish, it is also recognizable. Haven’t we all struggled through situations where we witnessed jockeying for position and prominence? When we observe others engaged in this game dedicated to demonstrating self-importance, we may smile. But maybe we are players of this game, too, from time to time. If we find we’re telling ourselves we were not treated respectfully enough, we are not held in high enough regard, or we are not appreciated as fully as we ought to be, then perhaps we’ve been drawn in to the game, too.
The temptation to seek a little honor for ourselves at the expense of others is a temptation as old as time. The Apostle Paul spotted the tendency in the little fledgling church in Corinth. He challenged the supposition that there had to be a hierarchy of significance within the community. Paul insisted that no one could really claim superiority, because each individual needed every other individual. Though talents differed, each had an essential gift to offer the whole. Together they functioned as a human body might. The hand couldn’t deny the eye. The ear needed the feet. The head couldn’t do without the nose.
Today our world is stridently divisive. How quickly we split along cultural, racial, political and religious lines, supposing we have found the higher ground and hold a more important or more virtuous position. But Paul’s insight might be the healing glue we need to apply to the divisions among us. No one stands alone. Each one is significant. Everyone has some important job to do that benefits the whole. Let’s just get busy and do it.