“Better Together: It Takes a Team”
By Rev. Lorraine Diaz
Sunday, June 4, 2023
Reading: Exodus 4:10-17; 1 Corinthians 12:4-6
Two men were riding a bicycle built for two when they came to a big steep hill. It took a great deal of struggle for the men to complete what proved to be a very steep climb. When they got to the top, the man in front turned to the other and said, “Boy, that sure was a hard climb.” The fellow in back replied, “Yes, and if I hadn’t kept the brakes on all the way we most certainly would have rolled down backwards!”
Have you ever been a part of a team where it felt like a few were holding the brakes on, while the rest of the team struggled to move forward? Then you know how much better things go when team members all work together!
Some people try to avoid that problem altogether by trying to handle everything in life by themselves – maybe they’ve been hurt or let down by people they were counting on; or maybe there’s a pride issue going on in their hearts. Some people take a “lone wolf” approach to life, maybe even declaring an oath of independence and invulnerability – “I’m never going to be in a position where I need others again!”
I’ve been in that position myself, of wanting to avoid being disappointed or hurt. I tried to convince myself when I was younger, “I’m a strong, intelligent, independent woman and I can take care of myself; I can do anything I put my mind to, and I don’t need anyone!” And it’s true: I am intelligent and capable and could get by just fine on my own. I was probably in my 30s, though, when I learned the real gift of “interdependence,” of allowing myself to need others, and to be needed, even if it meant being more vulnerable.
Today is Trinity Sunday, when we reflect on the Trinitarian nature of God – that God is Father, and God is Jesus the Son, and God is Holy Spirit – three persons, all of whom are One and the same God. It’s a complex doctrine, one that is almost impossible to describe or explain without falling into some sort of heresy, so I’ll have to trust that none of you are looking to burn me at the stake today.
One of things that I love about the trinity is what it shows us about God’s relational and interdependent nature: that even though God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit are perfect and sufficient each one, their preference is to be in relation with one another and with creation. You could say they are the original team players, but I’m not going to say that lest I tread precariously close to the heresy of Partialism, and you all fire up your torches! But, if God chose to be relational, then it must be good for us too.
I want to read to you a quote from the book, The Gifts of Imperfection (p. 20), which is my favourite book by research professor Dr. Brene Brown – you may recall that I quoted one of her other books a couple of weeks ago. In this book she writes:
We weren’t created by God to be alone or to do everything by ourselves – we were created for relationship. In fact, people who take the approach of not needing or accepting help from anyone often have the same attitude toward God. But we can’t live our best lives without the presence, the encouragement, and sometimes even the challenge or correction that comes from other people who are a part of our lives. Right from the very beginning God created two people, saying that it wasn’t good for one to be alone. That’s because God – as the Holy Trinity of Father, Son & Holy Spirit – IS relationship by His very nature, and He invites us to be a part of that Sacred and interdependent relationship.
One of the most powerful ways that we experience the love of God is through our loving and interdependent relationships with others.
Ecclesiastes 4:7-10 (The Message – contemporary paraphrase) I turned my head and saw yet another wisp of smoke on its way to nothingness: a solitary person, completely alone…yet working obsessively late into the night, compulsively greedy for more and more, never bothering to ask, “Why am I working like a dog? And who cares?” More smoke.
It’s better to have a partner than go it alone. Share the work, share the wealth. And if one falls down, the other helps.
The Bible confirms what we already know, deep down inside… that it’s better to have a partner – or a team – than to go it alone, than to just look out for ourselves. It’s better to share all we have with each other for the good of the whole…work and wealth, time and gifts. Michael Jordan once said, “Talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence win championships.” We can do some things with the gifts God has given us, but in order to win championships, it requires a whole team working together to help and encourage each other.
Another analogy that illustrates the same idea is the difference between winning a battle and winning a war. As Canadians we take pride that in the Second World War the Canadian military won several very important battles; but defeating the Germans took the collaboration of all the Allied countries; no one country could have done that alone.
In so many great things that our world enjoys, teamwork is key. Who would enjoy a symphony if all the musicians were playing the same notes? Or if they were playing all their different parts, but alone in their bedrooms? No, the symphony is beautiful because the musicians all come together and play their own parts to the very best of their ability. It’s not about what each one can do by themselves, but what they sound like together. A hockey team wins when they all play their positions well and trust their teammates to play their positions well. If one player tried to be forward, defense and goalie, they likely wouldn’t win, and nobody would want to watch the game.
The reading from 1 Corinthians 12 expresses the same concept with regards to the church – we all have different gifts, and on our own each of us can do wonderful things for the glory of God when we use those gifts. But in order to build up the Kingdom of God, we work best when we all work together with one Spirit, as one Body and Jesus Christ as the head and leader of that body. We work best together when each of us knows what gifts we have (and what gifts we don’t have!), and when we offer those gifts in the service of the church; and when we honour and respect the gifts of the others who are part of our community.
In the Old Testament Moses was called by God to do a job he could never have done on his own. He was leading hundreds of thousands of people out of the only country they had ever known, into the desert, to go to some land they didn’t know and set up new lives there. It was a huge task; and the people were stubborn and grumpy and negative and complaining. And Moses felt the weight of that responsibility resting heavily on his shoulders. So God gave Moses a great teammate – his brother Aaron. Later, he would build an even bigger team of elders from within the community.
It would be natural to think that if God calls us to do something, then he will give us everything we need to carry out the task – and he does, but what he doesn’t do is give all the pieces to one person. He often gives us what we need to complete the task in the form of other people who have different gifts from ours! Even the great Moses couldn’t do what he was called to do all by himself, even though he had a very close and intimate relationship with God.
In this passage, God reminds Moses that while he has the gifts of wisdom and faith, his brother Aaron has speaking gifts that can be put to use for leading God’s people. Together, they will be able to carry out the momentous task that neither one of them could do alone. In this sense, there’s freedom and power in admitting our weaknesses, being real about our need for the gifts and wisdom that others bring allows us to come into relationships of mutual support and encouragement, and allows us to experience success in the tasks that we are called to, success that glorifies God and brings joy and fulfillment to our lives. Moses and Aaron’s gifts complemented each other in a way that made them definitely better together.
One Sunday morning, a Pastor encouraged his congregation to consider the potential of their church. He told them, “With God’s guidance, we will see the day when this church will go from crawling to walking.”
The people responded, “Let the church walk, Pastor; let the church walk.” He continued, “And when the church begins to walk, next the church can begin to run.” And the people shouted, “Let the church run, Pastor, let the church run!”
The Pastor continued, “And finally the church can move from running to flying. Oh, yes, this church can fly! But of course, that’s going to take a lot of work for that to happen! Everyone must be committed.”
The congregation grew quiet, and from the back someone mumbled, “Let the church crawl, Pastor, let the church crawl.”
Our church can fly too – but it takes co-operative teamwork and a commitment to encouraging and supporting one another. Together, great things can happen right here. We’ve seen how things come together when people work together with things like Chilly Day Chili, and the Art and Treasures Sale, and Spirit Express. Imagine if we all pulled together in other areas of the church’s life as well: in building up the Sunday School and youth ministry, in praying for transformation, in inviting neighbours to come to worship, in reaching out to serve the community, in trying new things and coming up with new ideas, in learning and growing and encouraging each other!
When we all put our time and talents together for the good of the whole, working as a team, together following the relational and interdependent way of the Holy Trinity, then we can be a church that makes a positive impact on the world around us. Thanks be to God.