Have you ever heard the phrase, “the right hand doesn’t know what the left hand is doing?” In other words, there’s a lack of communication within a group or organization. Here’s an example of what I mean. When I was in seminary we did a personality profiling assessment called DISC. If you’re not familiar with DISC it identifies four personality traits and then utilizes them to categorize and predict behavior. The four traits are Dominant (D), Influencing (I), Steady (S), Compliant (C) DISC.
Now, at the time, I thought this was just a bunch of mumbo-jumbo. But here’s the thing. It really works. After completing the assessment process, we were divided into groups according to our personality types. I, as you might imagine, fell into the “I” category. I’s are described as “friendly, outgoing, talkative, optimistic, the life of the party, and people-oriented.”[ii] Talkative kind of stands out there doesn’t it. Anyway, we were grouped according to our personality types and challenged to make a poster promoting an upcoming event at our church. We were given the name of the event, a set of markers, one piece of poster board, and ten minutes to create the sign. And this is where it gets interesting. By the time our ten minutes was up, our “I” group had each grabbed a marker, proceeded to scribble all over the poster board, change our minds, turn it over, change our minds again, scribble out some things and draw an arrow pointing to something else… In short, it was as mess. But this wasn’t the case for the C’s. C’s are described as “Logical, organized, data-driven, perfectionist, and detail-oriented.”[iii] In the allotted time, the C’s hadn’t written anything or even opened their markers. Instead, they had taken out a pen and paper and were still in the process of making a list of what might be on their poster. The point of this exercise, of course, was to show that we can do our best work when a variety of personality types participate.
Paul understood this. Paul knew that the Church would be stronger if she recognized the diversity of gifts and talents within her ranks. And I think he choose the perfect metaphor to illustrate his point. The human body. The imagery here is more concrete and seems to work better than family or team. I mean, you can take a break from being a member of a team. You can go on vacation without your family. But you can’t take a break from the parts of your body.[iv]
Paul says, “…though there are many of us, we are one body in Christ, and individually we belong to each other.” Now, historically, the Roman Church, to whom he was writing, apparently needed a lesson in finding “unity within the diversity” of their community. The larger context of this passage finds Paul attempting to convey the idea that Jews as well as Gentiles are forgiven and accepted by God. Paul chose this illustration of the human body because he needed a positive metaphor to express the indivisible, intimate kind of unity that is Christ’s hope for the Church.[v]
Now, just in case we, his readers, are unable to connect the dots, Paul gives us four examples; four distinct spiritual gifts that exemplify diversity within the church. These gifts are prophecy, service, teaching, and encouragement. And as we attempt to apply these four ancient gifts to our faith community and to intergrade them into our lives, I think a contemporary translation of their intended meaning is vital. In other words, how might these four gifts find there way into the conversation and take root in the 21st century church?
First prophecy. Prophecy is about justice. The prophets found in the Hebrew Scriptures, like Jeremiah or Isaiah, were not fortunetellers, but rather they were God’s voice of justice in their time and context. They challenged the status quo, pointed out the need to care for the widows and orphans, they called the people and the nation to repent and return to following God’s ways of justice. And if the nation refused, the prophet would point out what might happen as a result.
Now, let’s apply this to our congregation. Do you have the gift of challenging those around you to remember God’s ways and to be a people of justice? If so, you have the gift of prophecy.
How about service? The gift of service is simply reaching out to those in need. We often call this our mission. Is working in the food pantry or serving [tacos] meals your thing? How about reading to children at the school? Does going to a remote location to build or repair a house, while sharing in a different culture, speak to your sense of what it means to BE the church. If so, you have the gift of service.
How about the gift of teaching? In our nation and in our faith community, education is vital. In the same way, we need a strong public education system, the church needs faithful, educated teachers. But teaching in the church is often misunderstood. First, the pastor isn’t the only teacher and Sunday school isn’t the only place that education takes place. Here’s an example of what I mean. When we have our Bible study, I learn as much from all of you as you do from me. I am enriched by your understanding of scripture and application of theology. And even in more informal conversations, time and again, I’m impressed by the depth of knowledge and insight you all possess. Far too often I’ve heard members of the church say, “I don’t know enough about the Bible to teach.” And that’s a shame because it doesn’t take a Biblical scholar to share the wisdom of God. Do you have stories from your life experience or tales about faithful people you’ve encountered in your life? Stories you might share with the next generation? If so, you have the gift of teaching.
Finally, encouragement. This is an important one. The gift of encouragement asks the question, “How might we better honor each person’s gifts and seek to expand and refine our own talents for the betterment of humanity? The gift of encouragement brings us all the way back around to Paul’s idea of “unity within diversity.” Those who have the gift of encouragement understand that we all bring something to the table. Each person here today is an important part of this the Body of Christ. Paul says, “…individually we belong to each other.” So, whether our spiritual gifts are conveying justice or serving humanity; whether our gifts are sharing wisdom or encouraging unity within the community; or something completely different or a combination of gifts; no matter where we fall on the DISC assessment, we are all members of one unified, interconnected body: the Body of Christ. “…individually we belong to each other.”
The final thought this morning. I read this prayer this week, written by a Catholic order known as the Sisters of the Earth. And as read it, I was reminded that God’s desire for the church, indeed for all humanity, is unity. Why unity? Because unity gives birth to justice, it propagates hope, and unity clears the way for peace. When we come to realize that it’s not “their” god or “our” god, but one God; that all humanity and all of the natural world were created to coexist on this planet, it’s then that we begin to recognize the presence of God.
Let me conclude with these sacred words prayer:
There is one breath.
There is one life.
There is one earth.
All is holy.
All is sacred.
All is one.[vi]
May it be so.
DISC is often described as a “Personality Test“. However, DISC is really a “personality profiling system” DISC Profile utilizes a method for understanding behavior, temperament, and personality. A DISC Profile provides a comprehensive overview of the way that people think, act, and interact. It is the most widely used profiling tool of its kind, and is supported by decades of validation and reliability studies. (www.discinsights.com)