Friends, I want to discuss what you and this community have to offer to one another and the world. Before you found community, you were working in the world alone, but the whole is always greater than the sum of its parts.
I will come back to that, but before I go on, I want you to understand that there is goodness inside everyone, and those who say and do evil things are not evil but bruised, broken, and in pain; and those who say and do good things are not better than the others, but they have been held and healed with love and understanding. And these two people are sometimes one person and they are always every person.
Now, there are many different talents, but we use them for good because there is goodness within us, and there are many kinds of service, but we all serve each other, and there are many ways to help, but it is that same inner goodness that motivates everyone.
Each person has a different gift that can benefit the common good. One person gives wise advice about life and another shares knowledge about the world - but both are driven by their desire to benefit others. One has deep faith in his heart, and yet another can heal a heart which has been broken - both hearts are good. One does physical labor, another speaks important truths, and another helps others find their gifts. One speaks wisely so that many will listen, and another listens wisely so that many will be heard. The desire to use these various gifts of ours to help others comes from the same place of goodness within us, and each of our talents individually is a manifestation of this goodness in the world.
But let's return to the idea that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Just as your body is one single body but has many parts, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with us. For in our common goodness, we have all come together into this community, no matter what our individual backgrounds, and we all felt pulled to seek, and find the goodness within us and turn it outward, together, in one voice.
As I said, the body does not consist of one member, but of many. If the foot would say, "Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body," it would still be part of the body. And if the ear would say, "because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body," it would not be less a part of the body having said so. If the whole body were an eye, how would we hear? If the whole body were ears, how would we smell? But as it is, the members of the body are arranged just as they need to be so that it can function properly and be whole. If all parts were a single part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts - many members, but one body.
The eye cannot say to the hand, "I don't need you," nor the head to the feet, "I don't need you." No, we take special care of each part of our body because we need each part, and we note their weaknesses and compensate for them, and each member of the body cares for the other members. If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honored, all rejoice together with it.
Now you are the body of this community and individually members of it. And here there are some who work with their hands to make the coffee and weed the gardens, those who speak important truths from the pulpit, those who work in the religious education program, those who can always be counted on in crisis, those who light candles and pray, who donate generously to the annual fund, who chair committees, who answer questions at coffee hour and who listen carefully in small groups. Is everyone a laborer? Is everyone a good speaker? Are all teachers? Are all crisis managers? Do all have financial means to donate to good causes? But friends, steep these talents and gifts in your greater goodness. And I will show you a still more excellent way.
If I speak elegantly, in many languages, but I do not have love for humanity, I am only noise, and no one benefits. And if I understand science and philosophy and all mysteries of the universe, and have the faith to move mountains but do not have love for my fellow human beings, I am nothing. If I take a vow of poverty, and boast about the simplicity of my life, but do not have love, I have nothing.
Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.2Love never ends. One day we will die and all our work will cease, but the echoes of our love will endure.
When I was a child, I thought like a child and behaved like a child; then I began to grow, I became an adult, and I started to understand and to change. For now we only see each other on the surface, but we strive to truly know and understand one another. Now I love imperfectly; but I strive to love fully, and hope to be fully loved.
And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.3
1 Adapted LIBERALLY from 1 Corinthians 12-13 with deep apologies to St. Paul↩
2 1 Corinthians 13:4-6↩
3 1 Corinthians 13:13↩