"Let Your Colors Fly!"
This sermon was delivered at Cobleskill United Methodist Church on August 15th, 2021 ,the Twelfth Sunday after Pentecost , by Pastor Anna Blinn Cole
1 Corinthians 12:4-11
4 There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. 5 There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. 6 There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work.
7 Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. 8 To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another a message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, 9 to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, 10 to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues,[a] and to still another the interpretation of tongues.[b] 11 All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines.
It must have been sometime in the 1990s when Crayola crayons introduced its first ever BIG box of crayons. Suddenly the number of colors available doubled from 64 to 96 brilliant colors all in one mega box. This was a big deal. It had been 64 colors since the 1950s and then all of a sudden there was an explosion of crayon options. We didn’t even have 96 different names for colors in the English language. So things started to get creative. This is when “tropical rain forest” made its debut, as well as “mauvelous” and “sunglow” (the debate between yellow and orange must have gotten too heated…).
I was fortunate enough to have this monumental, world-shattering development of 96 crayons happen when I was in my prime coloring years during elementary school. I was so enamored with this array of colors, that I carried that big box of crayons from the 1990s into my junior high years, high school years and even college years because you never know when you may need to color with 96 different options. In fact, I still carry that ragged box around to this day when I need a full spectrum of color.
This full spectrum of color is a great way to dive into our sermon today as we take a closer look at the passage from 1 Corinthians and also at our summer theme. This summer we’re trying to see each other with more compassion. It’s a pretty basic thing, but also so difficult even in our closest of relationships because we’re all wired a little differently. We have different motivations for why we do things, different core fears, and different basic desires that shape our lives. So there’s an ancient wisdom tradition that says most human personalities center around 9 main types. It’s called the Enneagram and those 9 lenses of seeing the world have formed the basis of our summer worship series. Each week we look through a different lens and try to understand what makes that type tick. By the end of the summer, maybe you’ll know your own number and maybe we’ll all move a little closer toward self-awareness.
Today we’re trying on the lens of the Enneagram Type 4, often called the Individualist or the Romantic. It’s one of the most complicated personalities to understand. And starting today with a book about crayons who have big feelings is a perfect segue into the Individualist’s personality. Enneagram Type 4s are people who seek deep meaning and authenticity. They love their uniqueness but also long to be seen and undertood by others. They are often artistic in some way, with big creative ideas, so big that sometimes follow-through is difficult; they are comfortable with melancholy and will dive deeply into big feelings and take others with them as they go. Their worst fear in life is to be mediocre or lack meaning. They desire significance.
Yet as we learn each week, interlaced with these dominant traits are challenges. The qualities of being artistic, different and outside of the norm often come at a price in our image-conscious society. In a world that values conformity and emotional restraint, a desire to be boldly unique and an outside the box-thinker challenges the status-quo. A lot of times these individuals get pushed to the edge of society because their ideas and emotions are too big to be integrated. Whether we can identify as a Type 4 or have just been there at different times in our life, what makes us unique can sometimes make us an outsider. It feels lonely when our gifts are not appreciated.
Feeling left out, or worse yet, rejected, because of what makes us different and unique can lead to a feeling of permanent outsider status; sometimes Type 4s take a stand and also turn their backs on the world that seemingly rejects them. For some this can create a pride in being non-conformist, but it can also, understandably lead to despair. In this position, people feel forced to become like others so that they fit in or, alternatively, they give up trying to belong.
So, clearly if we know anything at all about God and the world God wants to see on earth, we know it’s a world that looks more like a 96-count crayon box than the regular old standard pack. It’s a world that has orange, yellow AND sunglow-colored crayons. We know this is true because the Bible tells us it’s true (in more or less the same way). I picked just one of many passages that say this sort of thing, but here’s what Suzanne read: “There are different kinds of gifts,” but the gifts all come from the same Spirit.” Gifts like (and this is from the Message’s translation now)…”wise counsel, clear understanding, simple trust, healing the sick, miraculous acts, proclamation, distinguishing between spirits, tongues, and interpretation of tongues.” Each gift is difference but vitally important. The whole picture would be incomplete without one of these unique gifts and the unique gift on its own would be meaningless without its others. We complement each other in our difference.
Our difference reflects the diversity of God.
So here’s the way we can see with more compassion. And we have our friend Duncan to thank. If we are going to live well together in our diversity we can’t ignore one another’s unique gifting. If Blue Crayon over here is busting his butt doing what spiritual gift he does best, and no one notices, then we’ve got a problem. Or if White Crayon is coloring over here only on white paper with their spiritual gift, no one will see it! Saying we are a diverse reflection of God’s Spirit is one thing. Making sure each unique person is given the space and confidence they need to make a meaningful difference in the world is an entirely different thing.
Seeing with compassion for these Type 4s in our lives, whether they’re our friends, our children, or our spouses, means recognizing the unique gifts they have to offer and not pushing them to the margins when they do things differently than we would. It means letting them feel their big feelings and letting them teach us how to bring our own feelings out. Seeing this type with compassion means letting some color into our own lives. We need a world and a church that doesn’t just aspire to be a big box of crayons but actually acts like one. We need to be a community that puts all gifts to work producing artwork that delights and surprises. Let’s a be the kind of church where the pink crayons color in the monsters of the world and the black crayons get a turn coloring in the beach balls just because they want to give it a try. Okay, okay. You can maybe tell I have a little Type 4 in myself as I take these metaphors and run with them. What I’m saying is, let’s not be afraid to embrace the passion and creativity that each unique person brings to the table.
What are your unique gifts? What has God planted inside you that needs to grow? How can this experiment of Christian community that we humbly call the church incorporate the gift you have to offer, big or small, conventional or creative? God’s kingdom will not be meaningful unless we’re all in it together, doing the thing that we do best. In short, don’t be afraid to be “mauvelous” in a world of ordinary purples. God ‘s kingdom is anything but ordinary.
Let us pray.
O God, in your love for us you seek out and find us at the edge of the crowd where we find ourselves standing when we feel like something’s missing and we don’t belong. You look us over and call us by our name. You see the tears in our eyes and the passion in our hearts. Heal the envy we may feel when our gifts disappoint us. Remind us that it is you alone who give us the satisfaction we crave. Focus our brilliance on your desires for better world. Cultivate in us your compassion. Let our colors fly high.
In your glow, Amen.
What does a Crayola Big Box of 96 crayons have to do with the Kingdom of God? Absolutely everything. Let’s make church bright and beautiful encompassing the full spectrum.