The deli counter has become one of my favorite spots for analyzing human behavior and creating stories. Usually it’s a long line, and if the kids are well-behaved, I enjoy listening to people order their meats and cheeses.
Before we moved to Pennsylvania and frequented a discount Mennonite grocery with a deli counter, I had no experience ordering meats and cheeses this way. Now, I’ve settled into a groove. We get a couple of meats, some of it sliced, some of it chipped (or shaved if you aren’t PA Dutch), and a couple of cheeses, always sliced.
It’s an art form, really, the ordering process. Some people want their cheese cut to a certain thickness or their ham sliced super thin. Or they want thick slices of bologna or cheese ends. Or, on rare occasions, a whole block of cheese.
Everyone has their own preferences and no one questions each other’s way of doing things, even if it isn’t for them.
I wonder if the Church could learn from this.
Because when it comes right down to it, we all have our deli-style preferences for church, don’t we?
Some of us like 30 minutes of praise music; others want to sing two hymns and only with an organ. Some of us like both styles and don’t care what instruments are playing. Some of us want a 45-minute sermon. Others prefer more of a discussion-style of message. We want it to start early so we can have the rest of our Sunday to ourselves, or we want it to start later so we can sleep in or don’t have to rush to get the kids out of the house. We want to sit in pews. Or we want to sit in chairs. We want to meet in a church building with a steeple. Or we wish we could tear the building down and meet in homes. We want everyone to wear their “Sunday best” or we want to dress casual.
At the deli, we can agree on a couple of things: meat and cheese are great ingredients for a sandwich. And we probably wouldn’t be at the deli counter if we didn’t enjoy a sandwich now and again. You might like thick slices of bologna and Clearfield American cheese while I would choose turkey and cheddar. Either way, we’re both going home to make a sandwich. We’ll disagree on the kind of bread or the condiments (I’m a mostly mustard girl; my husband loves mayo) we use, but again, the end goal is pretty much the same: we’re making sandwiches.
So, why do we make this more complicated in the Church?
If the end goal is the same–to come together and worship God–why do we bicker over how it’s done?
Can’t we experiment with variety?
Can’t we respect other people’s preferences, even if they’re different from our own?
Can’t we break bread together, enjoy each other’s company, and be fed by the Word of God, even if it’s like PB&J two weeks in a row and we haven’t had a Dagwood sandwich in a long time?
These words, they’re directed at me, too. Because I know what I like, and of course, I think you’d like it, too.
But it’s not the way.
We are one body with many parts, with different functions.
We are not carbon copy Christians.
We are mysteriously and simultaneously individual and corporate.
Connected but not confined.
The Bible has no shortage of things to say about this, so I’ll leave you with some verses on which to meditate. Maybe you’ll want to read them while eating a sandwich.
Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.
Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. For we were all baptized byone Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.
–1 Corinthians 12:11-13
Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.