Summary: What does it mean to "examine yourself?"
Do You See What I See?
Cascades Fellowship CRC, JX MI
March 1, 2009
Series: The Church in Crisis
When I was in high school, there was this girl – let’s call her “Edith”. Everyone called her Big “Ed” because she was on the heavy side. She was the youngest of four sisters, the three older ones being very attractive. Edith accepted the nickname, showed no real signs of being injured by it and went through her sophomore and junior years quietly. She didn’t get invited to parties – she was a little socially awkward, after all. No one asked her to attend homecoming or prom. She was simply written off as one of those background people who are pleasant most of the time, but peculiar – could be prickly. She was considered by most as unattractive, and athletically proved to be ungraceful as well – which didn’t help. Her sisters were all 1st team athletes.
As you might guess, Edith lived a very lonely existence. Although loved by her family, that’s not always a comfort when you are ridiculed by everybody else – especially those you look up to as popular or cool. In just about every social circle Edith was on the outside looking in.
She disappeared the summer between her junior and senior years. In a town as small as ours was it is hard to remain unseen all summer long – even if you are a social misfit in frumpy clothes. But Edith was a ghost throughout the summer and where she had gone to was something of a mystery.
The first day of school rolled around and suddenly a buzz began to hum in the hallways of Elkins High School – there was a new hot girl in school. Except, this wasn’t a new girl – it was Edith and no one was going to call her “Big Ed” anymore. It was never clear where Edith went, but what is clear is that wherever it was, she got into shape. She blossomed into this drop-dead, gorgeous girl that was now driving all the young men crazy. Suddenly, everybody who was somebody wanted a piece of Edith.
To her credit, Edith never accepted one invitation to a dance or a date. She kept her head with the newfound popularity. She once said in a conversation that I was privy to that none of these people could see who she was when she was overweight and what they want now is not who she is, but what they think she can do for them. Guys wanted her for the bragging rights of dating and sleeping with such an attractive young woman, the girls wanted her for a hunk-magnet. Since that was the case, they would get none of her, just as they gave none of themselves to her when she was less than desirable.
I tell this story this morning for two reasons; first, because I have always liked the story. Edith was a friend of mine, a teammate on the tennis team – and I have always thought it was great the way she refused to allow herself to be used. She had a good sense of self.
The second reason, and more to the point this morning, is to bring the issue of discrimination and separation on the basis of some artificial criteria into the light. Edith was mistreated by a community because she had some excess body fat. Assumptions were made about her on that basis and she was rejected and neglected on that basis alone.
There is something about human nature – something certainly brought on by the fall – that actively seeks to discriminate. We separate on the basis of skin tone, on the basis of music preference, on the basis of how much money we make, or what our body-type is or… we could think of thousand such criteria. We are constantly trying to distinguish ourselves by devaluing others, elevating our own self-image by diminishing someone else.
And unfortunately, in the church we are not immune to this. Even though we are bought with a price and indwelt by the Spirit, we still seek sometimes to push people to the margins who do not meet our approval in looks or money or standing in the community. We build a core of beautiful people around which all the others orbit as satellites rather than enfolding each one as unique and fearfully and wonderfully made.
Now some would describe this as simply being human and shrug their shoulders as if to say, “What am I supposed to do about it?” But let’s remember what Paul wrote to us in 1 Corinthians 3, exhorting us to be more than merely human. We are supposed to form our opinions of people based on a different standard – the image of God is our reference point now. And within the church we are to have a certain vision in view – the Body of Christ. And there is no time in the life and practice of the church where that vision should be more evident than during the Lord’s Supper.