Our pastor, Alex Mauck, is currently doing a series on the Church, the Bride of Christ. Yesterday we were in Ephesians 1: 3-14 where Pastor Alex spoke on “The Church’s Identity: What makes the Church Unique?” The passage in Ephesians shows how “The Church is Blessed by the Father” (vv. 3-6), “Redeemed by the Son” (vv. 7-12), and “Sealed by the Spirit” (vv. 13,14), so we see how the Triune Godhead is involved in the identity of the Church. Pastor Mauck pointed out too how the pronouns used referring to the Church are: “us” and “we,” emphasizing that while we are individually accountable to God and must individually make a choice concerning Jesus Christ and salvation, when we do trust Him as our personal Savior, we are placed in a body made up of many members with whom we need to spend time and to help each other grow into maturity as Christ’s Body, the Church.
Interestingly, my wife and I are currently reading The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown and I want you to observe the portion we just read this weekend. (Usually Kathy drives and I read since she gets motion sick very easily if she doesn’t do the driving. So I read to us as she drives).
The Boys in the Boat is a true story about nine American young men and their quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympic. It is a thrilling tale of struggle, and triumph during the most desperate of times, the Depression of the 1930’s. You would thoroughly enjoy reading it.
Rowing is an interesting sport where, in this case eight big, strong, athletic young men try to propel a narrow, shallow cedar boat called a shell as smoothly and rapidly as they possibly can while they are directed by the smallest and least powerful person in the boat, the coxswain, “who must have the force of character to look men twice his size in the face, bark orders to them, and be confident that the leviathans will respond instantly and unquestioningly to those orders. It is perhaps the most incongruous relationship in sports.” And, added to this crucial relationship between the coxswain and the rowing crew, is the fact that while the goal is to move as quickly through the water as possible, the faster the boat goes, the harder it is to row well, as each oarsman must stroke with exquisite precision, as the pain to his body increases with the stroke rate.
As I quote three paragraphs from pages 178-180 of the book, keep in mind the Body of Christ, the Church and how we are to relate and work together, though we come from different backgrounds and have differing spiritual gifts, personalities, and interests.
“The greatest paradox of the sport has to do with the psychological makeup of the people who pull the oars. Great oarsmen are necessarily made of conflicting stuff—of oil and water, fire and earth. On the one hand, they must possess enormous self-confidence, strong egos, and titanic will power. They must be almost immune to frustration. Nobody who does not believe deeply in himself —in his ability to endure hardship and to prevail over adversity—is likely even to attempt something as audacious as competitive rowing at the highest levels. The sport offers so many opportunities for suffering and so few opportunities for glory that only the most tenaciously self-reliant and self-motivated are likely to succeed at all. And yet, at the same time—and this is the key—no other sport demands and rewards the complete abandonment of the self the way that rowing does. Great crews may have men of exceptional talent or strength; they may have outstanding coxswains or stroke oars or bowmen; but they have no stars. The team effort—the perfectly synchronized flow of muscle, oars, boat and water; the single, whole unified, and beautiful symphony that a crew in motion becomes—is all that matters. Not the individual, not the self.
‘Even as rowers must subsume their often fierce sense of independence and self-reliance, at the same time they must hold true to their individuality, their unique capabilities as oarsmen, or for that matter, as human beings. Even if they could, few rowing coaches would simply clone their biggest, strongest, smartest, and most capable rowers. Crew races are not won by clones. They are won by crews, and great crews are carefully balance blends of both physical abilities and personality types….Each must be prepared to compromise something in the way of optimizing his stroke for the overall benefit of the boat so that all oars remain parallel and enter and exit the water at precisely the same moment. This highly refined coordination and cooperation must be multiplied out across eight individuals of varying statures and physiques to make the most of each individual’s strengths. Only in this way can the capabilities that come with diversity—lighter, more technical rowers in the bow and stronger, heavier pullers in the middle of the boat, for instance—be turned to advantage rather than disadvantage.
‘And capitalizing on diversity is perhaps even more important when it comes to the characters of the oarsmen. …Good crews are good blends of personalities: someone to lead the charge, someone to hold something in reserve; someone to pick a fight, someone to make peace; someone to think things through, someone to charge ahead without thinking. Somehow all this must mesh…Even after the right mixture is found, each man in the boat must recognize his place in the fabric of the crew, accept it and accept the others as they are. It is an exquisite thing when it all comes together in just the right way. The intense bonding and the sense of exhilaration that results from it are what many oarsmen row for, far more than for trophies or accolades.”
Now check out the Apostle Paul’s description of the Body of Christ, the Church, working together in Ephesians 4:1-16. You will see an amazing parallel of the importance of unity in diversity. With our varied giftedness, personalities, and backgrounds, we are to lay aside self and work together as a team, recognizing our place, accepting others for how God has equipped them, and striving to work together as a team. When it all comes together, “It is an exquisite thing!” And it is exhilarating.
A Member of the Team,