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  • Writer's pictureGreg Dover

Greg's Weekly Word: "jenga"

You've probably played or at least heard of Jenga. There's the classic version, and some giant adult versions, too.

The game is played like this: Three wooden blocks are stacked in one direction, then three more on top of those, but in the perpendicular direction. And so on and so forth until a 54-block tower is formed. Then each player removes a block from anywhere below the top three levels, and stacks it on the top of the tower, making it taller and taller...

...but also more and more unstable, as the top gets heavier and heavier and higher and higher. The game ends when the tower collapses, the loser being whoever pulled the last block that caused the fall.

The name "Jenga" comes from a Swahili word, Kujenga, meaning "to build." Which, of course, makes sense. But until this past week, I'd never really thought about it.

On Sunday morning, I overheard one of our church members teaching the children's Sunday school class on Zoom. (My kids were watching/participating.) She talked about the game, not only as a game but as a metaphor for our world and for our faith.

Much of our society is built upon and supported by those at its bottom - laborers, teachers, service industry workers, etc. As we saw during the pandemic, when blocks of those people are removed (because of illness, or death, or lack of resources), our society as a whole becomes less stable. And, in many ways, they are just as (if not more!) important to the health and functioning of our world than those at the very top.

And yet, as we heard in our scripture reading in worship this past week, Jesus tells those who will follow him, "Whoever wants to be first must be last of all and servant of all... Whoever welcomes one such as these in my name, welcomes me.” (Mark 9:35, 37)

The Apostle Paul develops this more fully with the metaphor of the body of Christ.

As it is, there are many members, yet one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” On the contrary, the members of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and those members of the body that we think less honorable we clothe with greater honor, and our less respectable members are treated with greater respect; whereas our more respectable members do not need this. But God has so arranged the body, giving the greater honor to the inferior member, that there may be no dissension within the body, but the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honored, all rejoice together with it. (1 Corinthians 12:20-26)

Who would those lower, lesser members be in our world? In our churches, even? Who are those that are on the bottom of our Jenga-like society? And how might we welcome them? Serve them? Honor them?

When we do, Jesus says, we welcome and serve and honor Him. Which makes sense, I suppose. After all, if Jesus is indeed "the church's one foundation," then that's right where we would expect to find him - at the bottom.


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