I'd like to share with you something today about me that I would not have shared with the church board at my interview. Now that you are stuck with me, the truth about me is this: I have ugly toes. I have ugly toes. My toes are long and skinny and gnarly and I can do weird things with them. I can move my pinkie toes separate from the rest of my toes. I can pinch my wife, Kristen, with my big toes. I can even pop my big toes repeatedly over and over like you crack your knuckles. This used to drive my parents crazy. I'm very proud of some of these things.
But you know, I didn't really know that I had ugly feet or ugly toes until I won an ugly foot contest. I was a youth member in the Calhoun church. My friends and I had arrived and they were going to have ugly foot contest. My friends said, "David, you ought to try it." I just said, "No, I'll never win." They said, "Come on, David!" I guess they knew. So they had me stand in front of a blanket that was strung up high and and just my feet were sticking out. I sort of made a claw with my foot. And the crowd went wild. They were screaming and cheering. And I came from behind the blanket. The youth pastor was laughing at me. He said, "David, you win!" And he handed me a Tootsie Roll, the prize for winning the ugly foot contest. Ever since then I've been self-conscious about my feet.
I remember walking when I was young and single in college. I took this walk with a beautiful girl on the beach. We say down on this log and put our toes out in the sand. Her feet were so pretty! I put my toes out and I wanted to curl them under the sand, you know.
But, I've learned one thing about my toes. I need them. I need my ugly toes. When I was working at camp one summer, after I discovered that my toes were ugly. I managed to get infections in both of my big toes. I could hardly function. I was the rock-climbing staff of the camp. I couldn't climb the rocks. I could barely stand just to help the kids learn ho to climb the rocks. I was supposed to be working as a counselor for rock- climbing camp. It was terrible. I was practically useless because of my hurt big toes. I need my toes. I really need all of me. I need every part. It's the same with the body of Christ. We need all of us. That's my main point today: We need all of us.
You know, in all the different churches I've been in, I've notice that there are people in every church that are ugly toes; members of the body of Christ that just don't fit in. I've been pastor of entire churches that were ugly toes. They are people who just don't fit in. Maybe they're not very talented, or they struggle with public sin, or they're new in the church and they don't understand how things work. You can always tell. Sometimes they're sitting off by themselves. Perhaps they don't have a lot of friends.
I've also noticed that in every church I've ben in that there are people who don't like the ugly toes; people who would rather them not be there. Usually because the ugly toes don't make themselves to be very likeable. Sometimes they're mean, or they're defensive, ot they're irrational. If you're in either of those two camps, ugly toe or ugly toe hater, I'm talking to you today.
I believe that Paul is talking to you today, actually. The book of 1 Corinthians, in his letter to the Corinthian church. In Paul's day they had both types. They had the ugly toes, those who didn't fit in; and the ugly toe haters, those who disliked the ugly toes and wished they weren't there. In the Corinthian church they especially had this problem. Some of the Corinthians were saying, "Oh, I'm a disciple of Apollos, "No, I'm an disciple of Paul." Paul is writing to them and trying to get help them to stop being this way. He talks to them about how them come together for their love feasts, there are some people who aren't able to have meal, and they go starving. This was very true. Back then, when they had their pot-lucks you brought your own food, and you ate it and you're supposed to share it with others. Instead of just putting it all on the table, you brought your food to your spot. But there were people who were not getting any food, who were poor and they were being ignored. And so, Paul is talking to them, he says in 1 Corinthians 12:15, he uses the illustration of the body of Christ and he uses feet, just like my ugly toes, he says, If the foot says. "Because I am not a hand I'm not a part of the body." It is not for this reason any the less a part of the body. He says, "Just because you don't think that you fit in, just because you feel you're not a part of things, it doesn'nt mean that you aren't. You can't make yourself not a part of the body of Christ by feeling like an outcast. So, I want you to know that if you feel that way, you're not quite a part of things, you don't quite fit in to the church, it doesn't matter. You are part of the body of Christ, and you are necessary. You are important. You are needed."
One of my church members, I'll never forget: Minibelle. Minibelle was in her nineties. She had osteoporosis and other diseases. She was doubled almost completely over and she could hardly walk. She was in a lot of pain. Minibelle felt like she was useless. She even told me she felt like that. She didn't feel like there was o place for her in the church. She had been active once, but now she couldn't do much until the personal ministries director of our church called her up and said, "Minibelle, do you think that you could be a host for a prayer warriors group that would meet on Wednesday afternoons?" Mimibele said, "Yes! I'd love to do that." And soon a small group began meeting in her home and then it wasn't a small group anymore and it was a group of prayer warriors. They were meeting every afternoon. Minibelle loved it. You could see the excitement in her eyes every Wednesday as she exercise her part, her roll, her place in the body of Christ. Minibelle, who thought she didn't have a place, discovered she was necessary. She was important now. She was a part of a church, Christ's body.
If you're an ugly toe, if you feel like you don't fit in, I want you to know that we need you. There is a place for you here. You are an important part of the body of Christ.
Paul goes on and he begins to speak to those who have a problem with the ugly toes, those who do quite fit in, in 1 Corinthians 12:21. And the eye cannot say to the hand, "I don't have no need of you; or again the head to the feet, "I have no need of you." Paul is saying, "Don't tell somebody in the church, somebody else, that you don't have any need for them. It's foolish. How in the world can the hand doesn't need the feet? Wherewould the hand be without the feet? Make those who feel unwelcome feel like they're a part of things. They are necessary. They are needed.
And then he goes on, and he says something interesting. He says in 1 Corinthians 12:22. On the contrary, it is much truer that the members of a body which seem weaker are necessary. Then the part of your body that seems not that important really are very important. You know, I can go down Monday to my barber in the Village Market area and I can have him give my toes the most incredible fixing up that you have ever seen. He is an ex-podiatrist I guess. Now he gives pedicures. And people do this, they fix up their toes and they paint their toenails and make their toes look so nice. It's just toes folk, just toes. But we treat them extra special, some of us, mostly the female ones of us. More than that, (1 Corinthians 12:23), And those members of the body which we deem to be less honorable, on these we bestow more abundant honor, and our unseemly members come to have more abundant seemliness. He's saying, that the parts of our bodies that aren't that presentable we give them more honor. I would say, "We protect them.
Have you ever watched soccer, futbol as it is called in other countries? How many of you watched the world's cup this spring? Neither did I. I've notice that soccer players usually wear one kind of protection, at least that you can see. It's on their shins. Shin guards. I don't see elbow pads, or knee pads. Just the shin guards. What's the big deal about shins? They should be protecting other parts of their bodies that help them to kick, or whatever they do. Well, shins aren't that important until they have been kicked. Have you ever played soccer after your shins have been kicked? I have. It's not fun. We protect the parts of our body that aren't necessarily that important.
In 1 Corinthians 12:24 it says, whereas our seemly members have no need of it. But God ha so composed the body, giving more abundant honor to that member which lacked. God gives more honor to the lacking member of His body. Those among us who don't seem to be that special in truth, in God's eyes, are the most precious. The next time you say to yourself, "Boy, I'm glad I'm not like that one." you're automatically making them more honorable than us.
Do me a favor for a second. Imagine Jesus standing before you. Jesus, the beautiful Savior. You think of the scars in His wrist from the cross, from the nails, and His feet and His side. He has His arms out and He's saying, "I love you." Then imagine taking a knife and saying, "Excuse me, Jesus." Could you do that? That is exactly what we are doing when we choose to cut off or exclude a member of the body of Christ. It brings new meaning to the text "You've done it to the least of these, My brethren, you've done it unto Me." It's a wonder Jesus protects and has special regard for those who others deem less important.
Now, I realize that in the church today we're not as big on church discipline as we used to be as far as excommunicating, dis-fellow-shipping. I believe that we do it right. We're not too strong on it but when necessary we do it. But I think that we do excommunicate, dis-fellow-ship in a more subtle way, a social way. I can tell you stories of people that I have heard from in the past couple weeks who have been completely ostracized from the church that they're in, people who did nothing to deserve it. In fact, the people that ostracized them admit that they're doing it and can tell you why they're doing it and the reasons are completely petty. And the people that I'm speaking of are now looking for another Adventist church to attend. This happens everywhere, I believe. We need to learn to accept and appreciate the ugly toes in our church.
I dealt with an ugly toe when I was in college. We'll call him "Danny." Danny didn't fit in very well at Southern. He didn't have a lot of friends. I was his friend. I tried to be his friend and I admit I didn't always want to spend a whole lot of time with him. Danny really wanted to sing for Jesus, but he couldn't sing. He had a terrible voice. I was responsible for a lawn concert at Christmastime at Southern. He tried out and against my good judgment I said, "Okay" even though his audition was terrible; it sounded awful.
So, the night of the lawn concert came and the student were rowdy and rude, not very reverent. The first few songs were secular and people were laughing and jeering and goofing off. It was not really Christmasy as far as spiritual things go. And then Danny got up to sing. I knew I had made a mistake as soon as he got out there because I could see people's faces. They got the look of scorn. They started to mock him. One guy shouted, "Go, Danny!" He didn't let me down. He sang "Silent Night" terribly. But as he sang, you could see his love for the baby Jesus. It was all over his face, all over him. The people who were teasing him and making fun of him and not appreciating him. Their faces changed and you could see them look uncomfortable and look down. By the time the song was finished there was a hush over the crowd. And then suddenly, people began to cheer for all they were worth. Danny had stolen the show. There were people who had tears in their eyes. They could see how much Danny loved his Lord. That night he taught me and those who were there that we need all of us. We need our ugly toes. He taught us that because he reminded us of what Christmas was all about that night.
So, which group are you in? The ugly toe group, you feel like you don't fit in? Maybe you're an ugly toe disliker. You don't like ugly toes.
You know, I've noticed one thing about people who don't like ugly toes, don't like those who struggle to fit in. They're usually this way, and I've been like this, they're usually this way because deep down inside they're afraid that they're an ugly toe. So, I'd like to say to both of you that we need the ugly toes and wee need the ugly toe haters. We need everybody. God, Jesus needs every part of His body. We need all of us.
Have you heard of the swimmer Michael Phelps from the 2004 Olympics? This man was amazing. He won eight medals in one Olympiad, the first for an American. Six of them were gold, and two of them were of them were bronze.1 It was incredible. During those games I read an article about him in Newsweek.2 It describe his story and his secret of success. He said that when he was very young, he was swimming and his coach saw him and recognized that Michael Phelps had a weird body. His body was perfectly made for swimming. He went to his parents and said, "You have got to give me Michael. I can make him into an olympian." And he did.
In the article, the author shared the strange things about Michael Phelps' body. He said he has this very long torso like a long boat that helps it go faster through the water. It said that his arms bend back at the elbow ten degrees that allows him to swim better, but I'm not sure how. Then it said something that really struck my eye: Michael Phelps had these long skinny toes. In a word, they're gross! Look at my toes! I could have been an olympian! I wanted to swim and I didn't even realize. If only I had discovered the value of my ugly toes! Who knows what kind of success I could have been.
And wen we discover the importance and the value of our ugly toes, those who don't fit in, we will be a success as well. We need all of us.
2. Mighty Michael by Devin Gordon, Newsweek, August 16, 2004.
Hymn of Praise: #43, When Moring Gilds the Skies Scripture: 1 Corinthians 12:21-27 Hymn of Response: #348, The Church Has One Foundation
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last updated 06/10/06 by Bob Beckett.