BishopLogoprioritiesNo one can whistle a symphony. It takes a whole orchestra to play it.
[H.E. Luccock (1885–1961), Professor of Homiletics (Preaching), Yale Divinity School]

Where did we get the idea that every local community of faith could or should whistle the entire symphony of the gospel by itself? At best, each local community of faith, each gathering of the baptized, is a section of the orchestra; it’s not the whole thing. And not a single section – no matter how big or small or gifted or well-rehearsed or disciplined – can pull off by itself the fullness of the breadth and depth and power and beauty of the symphonic good news of Jesus crucified and risen for the life of the world.

Perhaps this is why the apostle Paul wrote, “There are varieties of services, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good” [1 Corinthians 12:5-7].

We tend to hear these words with individual members of a particular congregation in mind. That is not a bad place to begin and, most assuredly, it was at least part of what Paul had in mind when he wrote to the oft-troubled Corinthian community. But the orchestra (Paul called it the body) of Christ is much more than any one congregation, one denomination, one institutional expression. And the abundant life offered in Jesus cannot be proclaimed and lived in its fullness for a needy world by just one section of the orchestra playing its part the best it can.

Take a little time to read, reflect on, and talk with others in your local community of faith about 1 Corinthians 12-13 as if Paul were writing to communities rather than individuals. What if the various parts of the body Paul writes about were imagined not as individuals so much as congregations or campus ministries or new missions or denominations or social service agencies? What if your congregation is the gospel’s trumpet section and the congregation down the road (of whatever denomination) is the flutes? What if a cluster of congregations is the violins and synodical, churchwide or global leaders and communities are the French horns, clarinets and cellos?

Perhaps this familiar passage will take on a different tone for us. Perhaps we will find the horizon of our vision broadened, the resources available multiplied, partnerships and collaborations blossoming in ways that far exceed what any section of the orchestra could ever do alone.
Your congregation is gifted, filled with gifted people who bear the mark of Christ on their brows and the power of God’s Spirit in their hearts; God has promised that. The local gathering of the baptized of which you are a part has the gifts it needs to do the work God has given it. But it does not have all the gifts needed to embody the fullness of God in Christ or to engage all the complexities and challenges of the world around you that is in such need of good news.

To collaborate is to co-labor, to work together. If there was ever a time that both the gospel and the world needed us to collaborate deeply and broadly, that time is now.

+ Bishop Bill Gafkjen