Many decades ago, when I was in college, I became engaged to be married. About 8 months before the wedding date, we were going to Wisconsin to see his parents when he announced that he had a present for me– a new home!
I was ecstatic, but rather wondered how he would have made such a big purchase at that point in our lives, and without me having any input.
When we arrived, he ran into the house and called to me “Come on in, it’s in here!” Again, I was a bit confused. How could our home be under the roof of his parents’ home? After all, his parents lived in the downstairs flat with his grandmother on the second story of the house. It might get a bit close!
I came into the living room and he was proudly standing in front of the coffee table where he stepped aside and, voila, there before my eyes was … a brand new NEW HOME sewing machine.
I had never heard of a NEW HOME sewing machine, but I was now the proud owner of one. I had only had 1 semester of Home Economics in high school, and that included both cooking and sewing – to sum it up, I had no clue how to sew!
So, the machine made a good door stop. I did make curtains that were dynamite and I did attempt sewing some clothes for my daughter [when she was too young to notice that the yellow ducks on the dress were actually upside down in the back but right side up on the front.] But for many years, the machine languished in the extra bedroom closet, without a thought of being used in this millennia!
Although the giver of the sewing machine died twenty years ago, and the marriage died earlier than that, the NEW HOME persevered. It is heavy as lead (probably because that’s what it is made of) but it still sews straight lines great! No embroidery or fancy stuff built into the electronics – well, electronics as we know them today did not exist when it was made almost 50 years old. It goes straight and, if you push the fabric gently, it will stitch on the curve that you create.
Now, in retirement, I have been sewing more often, mostly place mats or small tablecloths or decorative towels for our RV. Recently, I wanted something to keep us warm and toasty on cold evenings so I picked up some fleece fabric from the store. Soft and cuddly, I was sure it would be wonderful and I was anxious to get started sewing.
I got my pin cushion (from high school) out and a new pair of scissors — ready to do some sewing! I put the fabric on the machine and stitched about 4 stitches when the thread broke. So, I re-threaded the needle (at a loss of about 20 minutes because I can’t see the hole in the needle and the NEW HOME predated “self-threading” machines). This scenario repeated at least 5 times until I gave up in frustration. I was “over it”.
Bill, upon hearing of my failed attempts at being the Domestic Diva, said “Why not take the failed stitch sample to the fabric shop and see if they could help?”
So, I went to the fabric shop and, upon seeing my fabric swatch, the owner immediately said “Stretch Needle”, and then walked away. I had never heard of a stretch needle – Did it stretch when you used it? Did you have to stretch before using it? It looked like a regular needle to me, but it was worth a try! I bought a pack of them and went home.
I put one on the machine and, to quote a Christmas poem “What to my wondering eyes should appear” but stitches – straight, long and not broken. That was the solution – that was the “tool” that I needed to do the job. WOW. In 3 hours I had my whole project done and a cuddly wrap was being enjoyed.
After this experience, I did some research on “stretch needles” and found that they have a medium ballpoint tip, with a special eye and scarf, and they are designed for extremely stretchy fabrics and elastic.
In short, I was trying to do something with a regular needle when the better way was with a stretch needle for the stretchy fleece fabric.
That prompted me to think — how often do we, in our Christian ministry, do something one way simply because it is how we did it in the past, even though there might be a better, more effective way available now, if only we were willing to change.
Let me be clear – I am NOT talking about changing what we say in our message. The message is, and always should be:
Jesus Christ is the only way to the Father for salvation.
John 14:6 records Jesus’ words about other means of salvation: “Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.’”
Whether our culture likes it or not, my Lord said it, and He is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. His words are recorded in scripture and that ends the matter for me.
But, I am saying that in the Body of Christ, we each have a job to do, and we are ordained to fulfill that specific role in spreading His message of salvation to the world around us. Am I doing my specific role in the Body of Christ or am I doing what I want to do even if this is not the role God created for me to fulfill? What about you? Paul said it this way:
But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. … Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.
1 Corinthians 12:18, 27
As a church, are we using the right tool to accomplish the job before us? Are we using the general use needle when the stretch needle can do the job better? Is there someone in our congregation who is active in ministry but who is having to work harder than an individual who, while gifted in that ministry, is not doing the job because no one has asked them to do so? Are we using the right people for the right ministry, or do we simply have people do the work because they were willing to do so, without respect to whether they could be used more effectively elsewhere in the Body of Christ?
As an individual, are you satisfied with taking in the Word through the sermon and, perhaps, even a small group Bible study but not exhibiting spiritual growth through serving a need that you have been prepared to fill in the Body of Christ? Are you the “stretch needle” that the “general use needles” are looking for?
I pray that we each would be willing to serve as the Lord directs, not seeking the top spot or the glamour of the best position but that we would be willing servants filling the need that we were equipped to do so that the Lord’s kingdom would advance and so that our Master would be pleased.
Both the general use needle and the stretch needle are needed to accomplish what the Body of Christ is to do. Prayerfully consider your role. If you are a Christian, you can be sure you have one because you are part of the Body of Christ.
Blessings to you as you seek to do His will through the power of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Father, enable us to do Your will so that the message of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ would be heard around the world. Give us Your wisdom, strength and love for others as we seek to do Your will in the Body of Christ.