It is very difficult for any one person to dominate the swimming world in the way Michael Phelps has the last twelve years. Usually swimmers at the world class level focus on one stroke and then compete in the various distance events for that stroke. Phelps has managed to compete and dominate in the free style, butterfly and the individual medley demonstrating not only great technique but also great endurance. And, although Phelps is gifted as an individual athlete, he would not have been able to acquire the number of medals he has if it were not for his ability to be on a team. Because, what people tend to forget is. . six of the Olympic medals Phelps has acquired over the years are the result of relay events. At all three Olympics Phelps has participated, he has been part of both the freestyle and medley relay teams.
I think the medley relay is the more exciting of the two relay events. In this relay, the team’s best at back stroke, breast stroke, butterfly and freestyle are teamed up. Together they combine their collective strengths and talent in hopes of being the fastest in the pool. No one can win without the other as each is dependent on the other for victory.
In today’s reading from First Corinthians, St. Paul basically tells the church in Corinth the community of faith is like a relay team. Each of them is given gifts and talents by God to be used towards the greater glory of God and the community. He is also clear that no one gift supersedes another. All gifts come from the Spirit and all gifts are equal in nature. To use the example of the medley relay, there is no way Phelps could claim his role as the freestyle anchor superior over the role of the one who swims backstroke because both roles are equally important to completing in the event. If any member is off that day or too slow, the team cannot succeed.
I am not sure if the issues or the concern of one ministry being more important than the other is as relevant today as it was to the first century Corinthians. What I feel is more relevant is the subtext of this passage, that all gifts and individuals are important and necessary to the functioning of the community. The problem is, we live in a world where the 80/20 principle seems to be the rule. The 80/20 principle claims 80% of the work of any organization is accomplished by 20% of its membership. This means that 80% of the gifts and talents pooled at St. Luke’s today are kept hidden from the community. It is as if Ryan Lochte were to refuse to swim with Michael Phelps in the freestyle relay. Yes, another swimmer could take his place. But, would they have been able to take home the gold without him?
Even with the 80/20 principle seemingly alive and well here at Saint Luke’s, miraculously we are still able to accomplish our goals, but I ask you to think about how much more we could accomplish with 100% commitment. Truly the sky would be the limit.
Five years ago, we ended an incredible run of Vacation Bible Schools. For four years in a row, we not only offered a week of VBS to the children of this community, we also offered those who participated a full-day camp opportunity. This was only possible because we combined the resources of this parish with the day care provider and the resources of CNY Karate which operates one night a week in the parish hall. For four years, nearly 100 children were able to be dropped off by their parents as early as 6:30 a.m. and picked up as late as 6:30 p.m. From 9:00 – 12:30 this congregation provided what many parents told me was one of the best Vacation Bible School programs held in Camillus. This three hour program required the efforts of ten youths, twelve adult area leaders and a host of others who worked behind the scenes. Those four summers of VBS were some of the best coordinated efforts of this parish I have seen in my nine years as your rector. Each summer program was successful because those who had the gift of organization, coordinated the event, those who had the gift of music led singing, those who had the gift of oral interpretation led children through stories, those who had the gift of art, led crafts and those who had the gift of cooking supplied the snacks. Those who could not physically be here donated necessary items. Because everyone was willing to generously share their gifts and talents, we were able to provide an amazing vacation bible school program. And then, when combined with the resources of Partners in Parenting and CNY Karate, children went home every day tired and excited for the next, as parents left confident knowing their children were being well cared for and kept active each day while they were at work.
Our experience with VBS is but one example of what this congregation can do when we commit to pooling the human resources of this community. Unfortunately, we do not exist for only one week of the year but for fifty – two weeks. And the energy and resources required to sustain events like VBS are taxing on a small community.
Time and energy are a premium commodity in most lives today. For many of our retired members, caring for ailing spouses or grandchildren take up a great deal of our time. For our younger members, with both spouses working, what little time they have left is often reserved for household chores and driving children to various activities at night and on weekends. All of this leaves us with little time for ourselves let alone for giving time to the community beyond Sunday morning.
This is why it is so important for us not to allow the 80/20 principle to rule our community. Like raindrops falling into a bucket, every little drop over a sustained period of time adds up and eventually overflows the bucket. The same is true with the giving of our time and talent. As each of us gives what little time we can and focus our effort in one area of our communal ministry, great things can and do happen.
Our newsletter, Vital Signs is a perfect example of this. Vital Signs, now in its tenth year of publication, is still considered one of the premier newsletters in the diocese. Each issue is the work of many. Articles and information are provided by team leaders and those with the gift of writing. I provide a monthly letter, Cathy Martin organizes the calendar, birthdays, anniversaries, prayer lists and communicates the names of those who have lost a loved one to Sheila Lange. Sheila Lange reads and edits all submitted articles, including mine. Carolyn Muratore provides the layout and then Cathy Martin and a team of volunteers print, fold and label the newsletter for mailing.
The hours it takes to write and produce Vital Signs each month would be a full-time job for one person and no one person would have the time and all the gifts it takes to make the newsletter happen. My grandmother used to tell me many hands make light work. And, Vital Signs continues to be produced ten months a year because many hands have make light work of it. Just think what our other ministry areas could accomplish if each had as many hands involved.
Last fall a ministry fair was held between services for two weeks. Every committee and ministry team was represented. Many of us took the time to learn about the needs of each area. Some even volunteered for a new ministry. If you are one who gives generously of your time, the community is thankful, for your gift of time has greatly enriched us. If you are not currently engaged in a ministry or committee, I ask you to prayerfully consider where your talents could best be utilized, because without you, either someone is taking on an extra burden, or a job is just not getting done. For as St. Paul tells us, every gift is of the same spirit, and together, we become the Body of Christ, the reign of God on earth.