In August, I was my church's lay delegate to the Unifying Conference for the Great Plains Conference of the United Methodist Church. It was the final process for joining the Kansas East, Kansas West and Nebraska conferences into one Great Plains Conference as of January 1. We slogged our way through 154 pages of a Plan of Organization. Who knew that the kind of insulation used or the number of GFI outlets available in parsonages would spark such debate? (Not me! I didn't even know what a GFI outlet was until I got there!)
But, tucked in the minutia of parliamentary procedural amendments and votes, the 1,700 conference delegates had the opportunity to Serve Salina. More than 1,000 of us accepted the challenge. Projects included yard and groundwork, minor home repairs, helping the elderly or disabled, sorting food and supplies at pantries and working with children. In all, volunteers completed 50 service projects for individuals, families and nonprofit organizations throughout Salina.
I was among those sent to the Saline County Commission on Aging, which occupies the 103-year-old former Saline County Courthouse. It has soaring ceilings and rich wood trims surrounding beveled glass windows and marble walls. The county allows the Commission on Aging to use the building for a nomimal charge, but they don't have the staff to do deep cleaning projects. They are too busy making a difference in the lives of the aging in the county through program like Meals on Wheels, the Older Kansans Employment Program or Live At Home Solutions.
So there we were - armed with rags and Windex and Murphy Oil Soap - and bolstered by a common cause. Our Serve Salina t-shirts got a little sweaty as we got on our hands and knees or climbed ladders to clean - me a lay delegate from a farm in South Central Kansas and another woman from metropolitan Lincoln. There were pastors who serve the big congregations of Wichita and some who preach at three little churches in rural Nebraska each Sunday morning. Big or small, laity or preacher - we were all trying to make a difference in some small way.
As I started at the bottom of a wrought iron stair rail and worked up and a lady from Agra started at the top and worked down, I was struck by the symbolism. We could have sat in the air-conditioned Salina Bicentennial Center and stuck to the business of approving mission statements and vision statements. But what's the use of a mission statement without some hands and feet to put them into action? That would be about as effective as hanging a rag over a staircase and hoping it would miraculously get dusted.
Saline County Commission on Aging and related programs, whose offices occupy the structure. - See more at: http://salina.com/search/Old-courthouse-tour-091310#sthash.T7iXqQsV.dpuf
How do we live out the mission statement of "making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world?" Sometimes, it's overwhelming. When you're at the bottom of the hill - or the bottom of a three-level staircase - and staring upwards, it's hard to see the end goal. Likewise, in a world where people are more likely to follow a celebrity on Twitter or check their status on Facebook than they are to attend church on Sunday morning or read the Bible each day, "making disciples" is an uphill climb.
But the only way to finish is to start. You have to get into the nooks and crannies and do the work - one detail and one step at a time.
At our evening worship service, organizers showed a video that featured several of the volunteer projects completed during our afternoon of service. Maybe this particular "cleaning volunteer" was a little envious that some of the other volunteers got to experience smiles and laughter while playing with children at a day care center or watched as a Mother walked away from a pantry with a newly-packed box of food so she could feed her children for another week.
But, there's something to be said for dusting, too. After all, Jesus did his own version of "dusting" before He went to the Cross. Jesus was having a final meal with his disciples in the Upper Room. But no one volunteered to clean the dusty feet of the disciples. Until Jesus…
Jesus “got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet.” (John 13:4-5) ... Jesus said: “Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet.” (John 13:14)See? Sometimes Love itself comes by washing away a little dust. It may even come when you're comparing the virtues of furniture polish brands with ladies who've come to the Senior Center for an afternoon game of pool. We may be rubbing out apathy and instead shining on compassion as effectively as that bottle of Windex and paper towel takes away grime from a streaked window.
As we ended our work at the Senior Center, a pastor asked the center's director to stand in the middle of a circle. We built our circle from the inside out, each of us grasping the shoulder of another, as we prayed for the ministry offered by the director and her staff and for the people who walk through the doors each day.
Later, I thought about all those hands and hearts joined together in work and prayer. I've always heard there's no "I" in team. It's a favorite saying of coaches. I found it somewhat ironic that I personally was part of an "i" in a banner that decorated the Bicentennial Center. The banner used the photos of every delegate and every pastor who had come together for the Unifying Conference. My face happened to fall in the "dot" of the "i" in the word, "Plains."
In this instance, I'd have to say there was an "i" in "team." And in all the other letters, too.
And, yes, there was the essence of Christ Himself in that orange-scented fragrance of cleaning supplies and in the many hands that picked them up that day ... or helped a nursing home patient clap their hands to a praise song ... or skipped down a sidewalk with a laughing child.
Christ has no body now but yours. No hands, no feet on earth but yours. Yours are the eyes through which He looks compassion on this world. Yours are the feet with which He walks to do good. Yours are the hands through which He blesses all the world. Yours are the hands, yours are the feet, yours are the eyes, you are His body. Christ has no body now on earth but yours.A Casting Crowns song called, "If We Are the Body," says, in part:
Teresa of Avila
If we are the body
Why aren't His arms reaching?
Why aren't His hands healing?
Why aren't His words teaching?
And if we are the body
Why aren't His feet going?
Why is His love not showing them there is a way?
There is a way.
There IS a way.
***This post is my contribution to the Lovely Branches Ministries website for the month with the theme, "Serving God, Serving Others." Check out what my friends, Suzanne, and Keva, had to share at Lovely Branches. And, if you're close to Stafford, come by the Taste & See Coffeehouse, another of the LBMinistries.
***This week, I'm linked to MIchelle's Hear It On Sunday, Use It On Monday and Jennifer's Tell His Story. Check out what other bloggers of faith have to say.