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April 19, 2021

And there I stood with my piccolo

Memo from Rev. Mathews-Johnson

Composer Meredith Willson once told the story of a band whose music so pleased a king of long ago that he opened his royal treasury to the musicians. He invited them to walk in and to fill their instruments with as much gold as they could hold. For the bass tuba player and a few others that was wonderful news. But one man, dejectedly departed saying, “And there I stood with my piccolo.”

When it comes to our spiritual gifts, far too many of us live out our lives with the piccolo response. I know I’ve felt that way.

And that’s a crying shame. I believe we all have God-given gifts, no matter who we are. No, I’m not talking about our stuff. I’m talking about the ways God equips us for life and loving, for seeing a need and responding to it. We may not all be equally talented; but together God made us wonderfully diverse and different, gay or straight, tall or short, old or young, flashy or quiet, the list goes on and on. I believe that no matter who we are, God gives us all spiritual gifts, and it’s never too late to use ‘em.

The Apostle Paul knew that, too. “The old labels we once used to identify ourselves—labels like Jew or Greek, slave or free—are no longer useful. We need something larger, more comprehensive.” (1 Corinthians 12:13b, The Message)

I remember years ago before I became a pastor, I was invited to lead the youth ministry team at the Methodist church in Salinas. I had a blast with the kids, going on field trips and studying the bible and all. One day in the parking lot a parent came up to me and asked me about communion, why we did it and what it meant. Suddenly I realized that I didn’t really know the answer. I discovered that I needed to ask for help in order to delve more deeply into my faith.  And that’s when things began to change for me at church.

If you feel you don’t make the grade, if you feel that you just don’t have what it takes to play God’s tune in your life, if you think you’re not good enough for God, or God’s work, there’s help. You never have to go it alone.

Many people think of themselves as what old-time preacher Robert Hastings called “Lone Ranger” Christians. I used to think of myself this way. These Lone Rangers think they can serve Christ—the greater good—without being part of a team. Hastings has designed a “Do-It-Yourself Worship Kit!” for such people.

“Here’s what you’ll find in each carefully planned package: One portable, lightweight seat, shaped like a church pew. Can be set up anywhere. One small, paper covered hymnal containing one dozen well-known hymns (words and music). One harmonica or mouth organ, to take the place of the church organ. (Frankly, you will find it difficult to play and sing at the same time. But you can master it, and after all there must be some challenge.) One abbreviated New Testament with familiar selections designed to be read in less than one minute each…. One brief sermon entitled ‘What a Good Boy [or Girl] Am I.’  You will feel much better after using this sermon.”

“Those who have used our Do-It-Yourself Worship Kit,” says Hastings, “tell us they get an extra lift from their own service if at the close, they rush to a mirror and shake hands with themselves.  But this is optional.”

My friends, we don’t have to be stuck in that lonely place. This time of Covid is not the end of the story. The truth is, all the parts of the body are needed to make beautiful music. We cannot be who God has called it to be, if each of us is not doing our part, using our gifts, and working together.

I believe we work best as a team. Are you with me?


Rev. Robin Mathews-Johnson has been the pastor of Watsonville First United Methodist Church since the last century. Weekly Online Gatherings are linked to their website: watsonville1stumc.org. Contact her at (831) 724-4434, or [email protected] 

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