by Dale Reeves
This past Sunday at Christ’s Church we concluded a four-week sermon series on the essential reasons that we need to all belong to a community of faith. We talked about why we need to find a place to belong, how we can build better relationships, and how we are all better together. As I preached this past Sunday I shared that putting jigsaw puzzles together is one of the hobbies that I enjoy—especially during the long winter months. As a matter of fact, many others have joined in this pastime with me the past two years during our months of isolation and quarantine. More than once last year I visited a store in search of a new puzzle to discover that the puzzle shelves were picked over, or completely bare! I usually put a particular puzzle together only one time, then I enjoy sharing the puzzles with others. The only rule is they don’t come back (so I can make room in my puzzle shelves for new ones!).
I love the tranquility that I enjoy while putting them together, and the sense of accomplishment and appreciation of art that I have when they are completed. But the worst feeling I have experienced in the midst of my puzzlemania is to arrive at the end of a puzzle and discover—you guessed it—a piece is missing! NO!! You’ve got to be kidding! I might have labored over a puzzle for hours into the late night and early morning, and after looking under everything on the table, on the floor, in the dog’s mouth, and anywhere else I can think of, to discover that one piece is missing is so frustrating!
This is the “Year of the Bengal,” and our city’s professional football team is currently on a playoff prowl, heading to Super Bowl LVI. Just before the AFC championship which the Bengals won over the Kansas City Chiefs, I decided to assemble together the “Tiger Lagoon” 2,000-piecer my daughter Courtney and her family had bought for me some time ago. When our grandsons would come to our house this past week, they would venture to the dining room to see how much progress “Pop Pop” had made on the tiger puzzle. Since the pieces are pretty small for this one, I did my best to let them see the progress, but not let them rearrange or lose the pieces. As I finished the puzzle this past Wednesday, our four-year-old grandson Luke was here, and I invited him to put in the last piece. He was thrilled to be able to do that, and we celebrated with a fist bump and a rousing “WHO-DEY!”
Can I ask you today the same question I posed to our church last Sunday: “What piece are you bringing to the table?” In our message last week, we talked about the fact that God has gifted everyone in the community of faith with at least one spiritual gift, and many have more than one. Let’s be honest. In today’s world of online church, you can choose to just be a consumer, not a contributor. You can just be a taker, not a giver. You can come to the table and enjoy the smorgasbord of spiritual nourishment that is laid out for you without ever bringing any food to the table yourself. Personally, I’d rather be consumed with the pursuit of God in my life than be content to just be a consumer of others’ provision that is offered for me.
The Missing Piece
The apostle Paul challenges us with these words: “Just as our bodies have many parts and each part has a special function, so it is with Christ’s body. We are many parts of one body, and we all belong to each other.
In his grace, God has given us different gifts for doing certain things well. So if God has given you the ability to prophesy, speak out with as much faith as God has given you. If your gift is serving others, serve them well. If you are a teacher, teach well. If your gift is to encourage others, be encouraging. If it is giving, give generously. If God has given you leadership ability, take the responsibility seriously. And if you have a gift for showing kindness to others, do it gladly” (Romans 12:4-8, NLT).
And God’s Word tells us in Ephesians 4:16, “He makes the whole body fit together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love” (NLT).
What spiritual gift has Jesus given you to use in his church for building others up? If you don’t know, ask people who know you best, and they will tell you. Ask God, and he will reveal it to you. But be prepared to follow through when he answers. When you don’t jump in and fulfill your role in the church, we are missing something that God has gifted his body with! When we don’t “give back,” we really just become very selfish, very self-absorbed, and we miss out on what Jesus wants to do in and through our lives.
Jesus told us as the good shepherd of the sheep he would leave 999 pieces of the puzzle to go find the missing one (I’m going with a tiger, not a lamb or a ram this year! How’s that for mixing metaphors?) Jesus wants everyone to get in the game. He knows that we really are better together than we are by ourselves. And that’s why he not only wants you at the table, he wants you to bring your own unique piece to it. You’ve been given a gift. As has often been said, “Use it or lose it.” Don’t be the missing piece.