Alert: Moving Parts
A sermon by Bart Dalton, Minister to Students
Richmond’s First Baptist
January 27, 2013
All I really needed to know, I learned in kindergarten.
Have you heard this phrase before?
I remember hearing of this book by Robert Fulghum for the very first
time when I was a graduating senior.
It was graduation, and the student who was charged with speaking the
the students rattled off a list like, be fair, and don’t hit people, and
share everything. And as I
listened to this list of things I was thinking, really?
Everything I needed to know I learned in kindergarten?
And so I started putting this together, and I was thinking, wow!, my
kindergarten teacher Ms. Tume really does deserve a pay raise.
And I thought, if I just learned everything I needed to know in
kindergarten, then I just wasted the last twelve years of my life in school.
But as I went on to college and then on to grad school, and then full-time
employment, I learned that while Fulghum’s advise is very good and
heartwarming, there are lessons that we need to learn that they just
don’t teach us in kindergarten. For
example, compound interest. It
can be a blessing and it can be a curse. The don’t teach you how to drive a
stick shift, a manual transmission in kindergarten.
And they don’t teach you that if you can actually learn how to do
that, then you can learn to do just about anything well.
They don’t teach you the lessons about the opposite gender, about how to
listen to them, and how to try and understand them, how to respect them and
genuinely appreciate them, what to do when your heart is broken, and how to
convince someone to marry you.
There are things that you need to learn that they just don’t teach you in
kindergarten. And another
important lesson that they didn’t teach in kindergarten is from the letter
that Paul wrote to the Corinthian church, and it’s found in, it’s 1
Corinthians chapter 12. It’s a
lesson that every single person in this room today needs to pay attention
to. And this is the short
version, it goes like this:
You are important, you are needed, you have a specific place and a specific
job and purpose for being here.
When you’re here, things are better, when you’re here things run better,
things work better and this church is a better place because you are a part
This is what Paul says in 1
Corinthians chapter 12:
Just as a body, the one, has many parts, but all of it’s many parts form
one body, so it is with Christ.
For we were all baptised by one Spirit as so to form one body, whether Jews
or Gentiles, slave or free, and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.
Even so, the body is made up of not one, butof may parts.
Now, if the foot should say,’because I’m not a hand, I don’t belong
to the body,’ it would not for that reason stop being a part of the body,
and if the ear should say, ‘because I’m not an eye, I don’t belong to the
body,’ it would not for that reason stop being a part of the body.
If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be?
And if the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be?
But, in fact, God has placed the parts of the body, everyone of them
just as he wanted them to be. If
they were all one part, where would the body be?
As it is, there are many parts, but one body.
The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I don’t need you,’ and the head
cannot say to the feet, ‘I don’t need you.’
On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are
indisepesable, and parts we think are less honorable we treat with special
honor. And the parts that are
unpresentable are treated with special modesty while our presentable parts
need no special treatment. But
God had put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked
it, so that there should be no division in the body.
But that it’s parts should have equal concern for one another.
If one part suffers, every part suffers with it.
If one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.
Now, you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a member of
When I was going to seminary at Baylor University, I spent part of the time
there working at Cracker Barrel, to serve tables and earn tips so that I
could pay for tuition and for bills, and I was training so that I could one
day be a servant leader in a church.
And I really enjoyed working at Cracker Barrel.
When I was there Marianne and I became engaged.
She was living in Nashville, Tennessee, I was living in Waco, Texas
going to school, and so I got a second job so that all of the tips that I
earned while I was working the tables at Cracker Barrel could go in this
little wooden box in my room.
And everytime I earned tips I would go home at the end of the night and I
would throw the money in that little box, and over time I collected enough
money so that we could go on this amazing honeymoon to Colorado Springs.
And the fun part about it is that I spent everything, we would pay
for everything in cash. And so
it was funny to see the look on the Bed and Breakfast man’s face when we
showed up to pay for five nights in fives and tens.
And I enjoyed serving the tables at Cracker Barrel, and working with the
people at Cracker Barrel was really challenging and it was rewarding, and
definitely took some of Fulghum’s advice about the kindergarten stuff,
especially the wash your hands part.
I decided that if I were going to write a book I would call it, “Everything
I Need to Know About the Church, I Learned at the Cracker Barrel.”
And in the front cover of the book there would be a gift card so that
you could go and eat at the resturant, and in the back cover of the book
there would be an application so that you could fill out and hopefully get a
And here are the lessons I learned while I worked at the Cracker Barrel.
Serving people is hard work. It
might seem like serving tables is an easy job, but for those of us who have
done it and actually tried to do it really well, it can be pretty stressful,
and at times it can be overwhelming.
I remember some nights on my way home driving and thinking, ‘Oh no, I
forgot to give the woman extra napkins,’ but it was too late to turn around
and take care of that. Some
nights I would go home and I would have stress dreams that I was still at
the restaurant, I was the only one working there and I was busy trying to
put food on the plates, and I would wake up in my bed and I was re-arranging
the pillow and covers in different stacks.
It’s really hard work!
I learned that people have a tendency to get frustrated with those who are
serving them. If the restaurant
takes too long to get the food out to you, or if the people feel rushed, if
the food is undercooked or overcooked, if it’s too hot or too cold, people
get mad. If you hover on the
table that’s not a good thing, but you have to make sure that they don’t
feel ignored. If the restaurant
itself is too hot or too cold, or if it took too long for them to get to
their seats, or if they are sitting in a place they don’t like, they’re
already in a bad mood before you get to the table.
And sometimes people are just rude.
I remember one table with three businessmen, they were rude the whole
time, and when they left they did leave me a tip but they poured honey all
over the money. And I was
thinking, ‘People are rude!’ Now
let me be clear, I never saw anything ever bad happen to the food in the
kitchen before the server took it out, but I do remember thinking from time
to time, why would you be rude to the person who sees your food before they
give it to you? Never, anything
ever, ever bad happened to the food, and I still eat there now, it was
One lesson I learned at Cracker Barrel is that we need each other.
We really do need each other.
There were many servers on the team that I was working with at
Cracker barrel, and a lot of them were friends mine and through time we
started hanging out after work, and we’d go bowling or play pool or just
spend time and have a good time, but there were some servers on the team
that I didn’t like, and I didn’t see eye to eye with, and there were some
servers on the team that didn’t like me, that didn’t agree with me, but I
found that even the servers that didn’t like me would help me when I was
overwhelmed. They would go to a
table and take a drink order, or they would go and deliver food to a table
when I was really, really busy, and I found that even if I didn’t see eye to
eye with them, that I would in turn help them when they were overwhelmed.
And we just did this for each other because we needed each other, and
we relied on each other, whether we liked each other or not.
And there were lots of people that worked at Cracker Barrel besides the
servers, people who had different jobs than I did, but we were all working
towards the same purpose. There
were managers, bussers, dishwashers, cooks, and don’t call the cooks, cooks
to their faces. They’re chefs,
and they carry big knifes and they have big attitudes.
There are people at Cracker Barrel who take the money, there are the prep
cooks, and those are the people in the very back of the restaurant, you
never see them but they are busy all day putting ingredients together to
make the biscuits and the hot cornbread muffins and the gravy and the hot
soup. They’re always back there
And then there are people who come to work when everyone else leaves, even
when the manager leaves at the end of the shift.
There are people who come and work at the restaurant all night
cleaning the kitchen, cleaning the floors, getting the restaurant ready for
the next day.
I remember thinking as I was working there, “Wow, this place really does
work well when everyone is doing their job.”
And I remember thinking, “Some genius put this whole operation
together.” I was very impressed,
so if I do write my book, please buy it on Amazon or please check it out of
the church library, because there are important lessons in that book that we
need to know for the church today.
I’m not talking about getting in the car and driving to Cracker Barrel right
now to get a hot bowl of soul, I’m saying that these lessons are lessons
that we need to know as a church, and I believe that that’s what Paul was
getting at when he was talking about the body of Christ.
Let me explain what I mean.
We were created, we were put here on this earth in part to work.
In Genesis 2, after making the garden, God leans down and uses God’s
hands to form the first person out of the dirt, and he makes the person
exactly like he wants, and then God takes in a deep breath, and He breaths
into that pile of dirt God breath.
And the person becomes alive.
And the first thing that God did after He made humanity was to put
him to work in the garden taking care of God’s creation.
Part of being made in the image of God, part of being filled with that
unique God breath means that we get to join God in God’s work in the world.
Because our God is a God at work, our God invites us to be a part of
In today’s gospel reading Jesus says, “I am here to proclaim the good news,
I’m here to proclaim freedom to the prisoners, I’m here to give sight to the
blind, and I’m here to set the oppressed free.”
Jesus didn’t say he was here to relax and to take it easy and to waste his
time. And so believers in
Jesus today make up the body of Christ right here in Richmond.
And that means that we, the people in this room have a big job to do.
We go to people in need, and we help people who need help, and we are
the presence of God wherever God leads and we do whatever God tells us to
And in my opinion, because of God, we have the best job in the entire world.
Since I graduated from high school I learned that there are two different
kinds of work. There’s the kind
of work that drains you, and there’s the kind of work that fills you.
There’s the kind of work that drains you of energy and you’re really tired
when it’s over, and then there’s the kind of work that as your working it
fills you with energy.
After those long nights at Cracker Barrel I would go home, I would put my
feet up on the table, I’d sit down on the couch, take off my shoes and even
though I was tired and exhausted I couldn’t fall right to sleep because I
knew those stress dreams would come, so I had to watch TV, or I had to do
homework, or spend time with friends, or call Marianne in Nashville.
I was exhausted, and you know this just as much as I do, that there’s
work that drains us, and when it’s over we’re left needing a really big
But there’s another kind of work.
There’s the kind of work that fills us up.
It was my first year in student ministry and I had just planned one
of the craziest summers that I ever experienced in my life.
I call it the “The Three Week Youth Ministry Marathon.”
And in that summer, the first week of this marathon we went to
Maryland and we did this week long construction mission trip where we were
outside in the hot building wheelchair ramps, painting houses, taking care
of people who needed help. We
came back and then the next day after we had washed our clothes and gassed
up the bus we went back out on another trip.
It was a week-long youth camp.
And we spent all day outside, from early in the morning to late at
night doing activities and having fun and spending time worshipping and
hanging out with each other. And
we came home in that morning, and then later on in that same afternoon, we
got back in the busses and went to the Appalachian Mountains where we played
with rambunctious children for two to four Vacation Bible Schools a day.
The work that we did building wheelchair ramps, painting houses,
helping people in need, running around busy outside in the heat, was just as
much work, or even more as an 8 hours shift at Cracker Barrel, but at the
end of the day we had energy to keep on going because we were at work with
the body of Christ.
Two years ago here at Richmond’s First Baptist Church, we took a large group
of students to Nashville, and we spend all day digging in the dirt, in the
100 degree weather, we were digging out 30lb. rocks, 50lb. rocks, and were
moving them across the field, and if you asked most of the students today,
“Remember that trip?” they say, “Oh, that was great!” Remember that?
So when we’re a part of the body of Christ, God puts us to work, and
it’s a work that fills. And it
makes us strong, and the work keeps us going.
And we actually need one another.
It doesn’t take long when you’re at work in the body of Christ to
realize that we really do need one another.
One person can’s say to someone else, “You know, because you don’t
look like me, or talk like me, or act like me, we really don’t need you
around here anymore.” And we
can’t even say, “Because you disagree with me on this and on that, then you
need to find another place to worship.”
And at the same time we can’t look around and say, “You know, I’ve
looked around and no one here needs me, and there’s no place here for me to
get to work.” Whether we like it
or not, whether we like one another or not, we actually need one another.
God says, just like our feet need our eyes to show us where to walk,
in the same way those of us in the body of Christ who are different from one
another need one another.
So what does this look like in real life?
How do we see this playing out every day?
In our church we have teachers, servers, deacons, we have people that
serve on teams and councils, musicians, ushers, communication people, we
have those that work with preschoolers and children, and youth and college
students, and adults. We have
people working with men and women, we have those that work with the home
bound, we have people that work with the homeless.
We have people that focus on those inside the church, we have people
that are focusing outside of the church.
We have sent out a challenge to the membership this year so that every
single member of the body of Christ gets to work on a mission project, and
every part of the body start to work together, and every person joining
hands to help bring the Kingdom of Heaven to earth.
Now hear me, you are important, and you are needed, and you have a specific
place and a specific purpose for being here, and when you are here things
are better, things work better, things run better.
And this church is a better place because you are a part of it.
I wish that someone had reminded me of that when I was a graduating senior,
that I was gifted, that I was included and that I was loved.
I think it’s something that we all need to be reminded of.
And if you are looking for that place, if
you are looking for a place to use your gifts, if you are looking for
a place where you can live out your passions and thrive in the church, then
just ask. There are lots of
things that need to be done that aren’t getting done.
I believe that when we all get to work, and when we all start to work
together, we’ll step back and say, “Wow! This place really does work well.”
I’ll bet some genius put this whole operation together.
—Bart Dalton © 2013