(Start by asking who in the congregation is left handed, and who is right handed.)
I’m going to ask you to do some pretending with me, today.
Once upon a time, long, long ago and far, far away there was a church. This church was quite a bit different from our church, in lots of different ways – but one thing was the same – it was made up of people! Now, some of these people were right-handed (Right-Handers, please wave.) Some of these people were left-handed (Left-Handers, please wave.) For the most part, they got along pretty well.
Except… except… well, except that each group believed they were better than the other.
The left-handers would pat themselves on the back and say, “We’re much better than the right-handers!” (Left-Handers, please pat your back.) The right-handers would pat themselves on the back and say, “Oh – WE are the best handers in the whole wide world.” (Right-Handers, please pat your back.)
When they would pray, the right-handers would put their right hand up, so that it would be closer to God… ’cause they thought God was up. (Right-handers, please put your hand up to pray). When they would pray, the left-handers would put their left hand up, so that it would be closer to God… because they thought God was up, too. (Left-handers, please put your hand up to pray.)
After a while, someone noticed that the other group was doing it differently. (Can everyone say, “Hey, that’s different!”) After a while, someone decided that it wasn’t just different… it was wrong. (Can everyone say, “HEY! THAT’S WRONG!”)
The left-handers shook their left-hands at the right-handers. The right-handers shook their right-hands at the left-handers. The right-handers said, “God likes us better, because we’re doing it right.” The left-handers said, “God likes us better, because we’re special!” And everybody got very, very angry.
One day, while the people in the church were shaking their “special” hand at each other, visitors came to visit. The visitors watched. The visitors listened. The visitors wondered.
Then the visitors put both of their hands in front of their faces and looked carefully at each of them – the right hands and the left hands.
Then the visitors put both of their hands in their laps and prayed.
Then the visitors sat on their hands and prayed.
Then the visitors brought both of their hands in front of their face and looked carefully at each of them – the left hands and the right hands.
As the visitors did this, things got quieter, because the right-handers and the left-handers were wondering what was going on. When the visitors realized everyone was staring, they said, “Oh.. hi. We don’t get it. God made our left-hands and God made our right-hands. They look very much the same. They can do similar things. I’m glad they’re a part of my body. don’t you think God is glad, too?” And they raised both their hands in the air, singing a song of thanksgiving and celebration.
Slowly, people began to join them… singing, celebrating… and raising both of their hands.
The apostle Paul met a congregation like that. They weren’t worried about hands, but about what people were eating. Here’s what he had to say: “Those who eat meat must not despise those who don’t, and those who don’t must not pass judgment on those who eat, for God has welcomed them. Who are you to pass judgment on servants of another? It is before their own lord that they stand or fall. And they will be upheld, for God is able to make them stand.” (Romans 14.3-4, NRSV)
What do you think?
(First printed in “gathering: resources for worship planners” Summer/Autumn 2007)