Sunday, May 17, 2009

Invasive Species

1 Corinthians 12:19-20 “If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many members, yet one body.”

I had a landscaper come out to my house last week to see if it were possible to turn this jungle around my house into something resembling a yard. He laughed when I said I wanted something that required no maintenance and he laughed even harder when he heard what I had for a budget. And then he told me I had illegal aliens in my yard.

It’s a shrub called the “burning bush” for the vibrant red color the leaves turn in the fall. They are lovely and grow just about anywhere, which is the problem. They are an invasive species that is not native to New England. Human beings love their color, and the birds love their berries, which they proceed to eat, digest, and then deposit in a slightly recycled form all through the woods. New bushes spring up and choke out native plants, squelching biodiversity. They are now illegal to buy and sell in Massachusetts.

It struck me that we often do the same thing in the various communities of which we are a part. Churches, families, workplace, neighborhoods—they all can have a tendency to latch onto one particular type of personality or talent and value the beauty of the one to the exclusion of others. With my grandmother it was gardening. If you worked in her gardens you had her favor (and her cash), but there were no other options if gardening wasn’t your thing. She would have no sympathy for my yard plight.

Sometimes we get so involved in one hobby or activity that it chokes out our spiritual lives, and sometimes we are so involved in church activities that our family bonds wither. Sometimes we nurture only one type of gift or expertise and others suffer. In the centuries since the Enlightenment the words for a smart person have been “rocket scientist” and “brain surgeon,” but never “concert pianist” or “imaginative writer.” We are out of balance as a result.

Paul is clear in his teachings about the Body of Christ, that we are one body with many members. Many important members. Many different members with different gifts. It is as difficult for the Body to be without arms as it is to be without eyes. When a particular member or gift is beautiful, we must watch to be sure that specific beauty doesn’t become an invasive species. It must not be allowed to choke out anything that needs more precise conditions and extra help to grow.

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