I opened my sermon from this weekend with a retelling of Max Lucado’s children’s book, You Are Special. I found a link with the whole story here.
The short, short summary is that there were these wooden people called the Wemmicks. And all day, every day, the Wemmicks would give each other stickers- stars and dots. Stars, for every time they did something exciting, cool, or special; and dots for every time they did something silly, weird, or uncool. In the end, the main character (who had always tried to get stars, but always ended up getting dots) went to go see the woodcarver, the one who made him. The woodcarver reminded him that he was special for no other reason than the woodcarver had made him. It didn’t matter what the other Wemmicks thought of him, only that the woodcarver thought he was good enough just as he was. (Read the whole story, that super short summary did NOT do it justice!)
Even though it’s a children’s story, the book really does a good job at painting the human experience. It doesn’t seem to matter how old we are, we are still passing out stars and dots.
We assign value to all kinds of things:
- How old you are
- How much money you make
- What family you are a part of
- What part of the world you are from
- Who you love
- What friends you have
- What the color of your skin is
- What your gender is
- What political party you belong to
- What you do for a living
- How long you went to school
We still pass out stars and dots.
This happens in bigger and corporate ways. Like the systems that we are all a part of that give privilege to some and not to others. Sometimes it’s complicated and we don’t even mean to pas out stars and dots.
It also happens in deeply personal ways. Each of us knows what it feels like when someone has made you feel like you aren’t good enough, that you don’t matter as much as you do. And every single one of us knows the guilt of making someone else feel that way, or not defending someone when they needed us.
Paul writes about the body of Christ in his letter to the Corinthians in 1 Corinthians 12:12-31 as a way of talking about the importance of community.
Paul uses the image of the body to describe how intricately and intimately connected we are to one another. He goes as far to say, “if one members suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honored, all rejoice together with it.” Every single member of the body is important. Every single one.
I think it’s important for us to be honest with ourselves about where we are handing out stars and dots. It’s important for us to strive to be kinder, more inclusive, more loving, more respectful, more honoring of people. That we seek to live out Paul’s words in his letter to the Corinthians.
The heart of the text to me, however, is not about what we do, but about the thing that unites us. For Paul in this letter, it’s baptism. The place where we receive a promise from our maker- that we matter, that we are loved, and forever claimed by God. The thing that unites us and one thing that we share in common is that each of us is loved and claimed by God.
We must keep going back to our maker and remember who God says we are. And we need to keep going back to God to remember how to share that love and belonging with others.