Sermon for January 27, 2019
Third Sunday After Epiphany
Text- I Corinthians 12:12-27
Title: “Called As Partners in Christ’s Service”
This letter was written by the Apostle Paul, the most influential missionary that there ever was. He wrote this letter to the church he founded in the city of Corinth which was a large, bustling city, comprised of people from many other countries and cultures, religious traditions and norms. Paul wrote this letter in response to the reports he had received regarding how the church had been doing after his departure from them.
Both a sense of hyper spirituality and pagan worship were influencing the members of this church. So, Paul now addresses them, reminding them of their role as individual Christians and also their goal as a Christian church.
Now, we do not have the problems that this original church had. But I love that we can learn something from this far from perfect church. The portion we just read is very well known. Paul uses the example of the human body to make an analogy of a church.
Basically, he reminds them that although each part of a body has different functions not one part is more important than the other. Moreover, he goes on to say that no matter who they are- Jewish, Greek, slave or free, they are all equal and all made to drink of the same Holy Spirit.
What do you think he meant by saying drink of the Holy Spirit?
Well, according to the classic commentator, Matthew Henry, he believes that “being animated by one Holy Spirit, makes Christians one body.”
I must pause here. Because much has been said and taught about the Holy Spirit which has caused some confusion over the years by many in the Church. It is almost easier to speak of what the Holy Spirit isn’t than what it is. The Holy Spirit which at one time was referred to as the Holy Ghost, unfortunately, is not a ghost. The Holy Spirit is the third person in the trinity and is God’s presence and power in the world. The Holy SPirit is what gives us the desire to worship and serve in God’s name. The Holy Spirit is the part of God that gives us the gifts to serve, to worship, and to be filled with God’s joy.
Some would say that you do not in fact have to refer to the Holy Spirit as a separate thing, so some people now refer to the Holy Spirit as just Spirit or Holy Spirit, leaving off the clause, “the” therefore making it more accessible and user friendly, sort to speak.
Sadly, in the main line Protestant tradition, I do not think we have placed enough importance on the Holy Spirit, while there are other traditions that probably place too much importance on the Holy Spirit.
But, notice that Paul simply reminds them that they are indeed meant to drink of the Holy Spirit- in other words, go to the Holy Spirit and be quenched by the Holy Spirit.
Let’s go back now to Paul stating that all are equal members of the same body. Recently, as I was hanging a picture up on my wall I recalled how during that vacation I managed to sprain my ankle. I was on vacation in lovely Cape Cod, Massachusetts. I had been given the opportunity to stay at a lovely cottage which was only a five-minute walk from the ocean, for free! My mom and niece had flown out there to spend the week with me. It was a new experience for all of us to be that close to the ocean for a whole week.
Well, on one morning, we were rushing to leave and I quickly put on some sandals that I normally didn’t wear because they weren’t too comfortable or functional. They were cute but not really meant to be walking around a lot in. (You know the kind of sandals I’m talking about, ladies.) Well, I jumped off the deck and onto to grass, wanting to rush to the car.
I didn’t notice there was a small whole in the grass and managed to sprain my right ankle. All I remember is that I experienced the sharpest most horrible pain I had ever felt before, in my life.
My mom had to drive me to a nearby UCC church that lent out crutches to vacationers and I went to see a doctor in an emergency room. Sure enough, they said it had been fractured several places but not broken. I remember they said it would have been better had it been broken than just a sprain as it would have healed better and quicker.
Well, I didn’t believe them. I figured if I did all that they told me to do- ice it, bandage it, keep my weight off to it, begin to go see a physical therapist, that it wouldn’t be a big deal. I would heal and go on with my living.
Ha! I lasted a good 4 months not being able to walk right. The pain persisted. The physical therapist told me to go more often. I used crutches longer than I wanted to. I could’ve drive comfortably… One of my co-workers had to help me get in and out of the car every day…My neighbors helped with groceries. Oh brother! This was not how I had wanted to spend that summer at all!
I remember trying to compensate. I put more weight on my other leg but that only managed to make my left hip hurt. I was a mess. What I thought was a simple injury wasn’t at all. I learned that summer how important my ankles were, my legs, my hips, and yes, my body, in general.
I say this long story to tell you that I could appreciate what Paul says here when I think about that summer. We need our whole body to function well. Every single part of our body is indeed, important. Any of you who have had an injury or who live with on-going pain in some part or parts of your body know what I am talking about. Indeed, after I turned 40, I realized that I couldn’t just take me body for granted.
It suddenly mattered what I ate, if I slept enough, what I drank, if I exercised or not…I never took my body for grant it after that, not any one part of it.
Well, we are indeed, all equal members of this body of Christ. God is the head of the body but We are all needed.
Today we will meet as a body of Christ during our annual meeting.
What an opportunity it will be to celebrate all that this body of Christ has done and will do. What an opportunity to re-dedicate ourselves as individual parts of the body of Christ to God’s service. What an opportunity ask God in prayer to keep this body of Christ healthy, able to work in one accord, not against itself in any way. It is an opportunity to lift up the fact that indeed it takes every member of this church to make this church work in the manner in which God has called it to work.
Now, I want to ask you a question. What part of the body of Christ are you? Using the analogy of a body. Are you an arm? Are you an eye, an ear, a leg, or maybe an organ like the heart or the lungs? What part of Christ’s body of this church are you?
You might not be able to answer that question but it is a fun one to contemplate. Not only is it fun but it invites us to give God thanks that we, although are unique and different from one another, we are all each and every one of us needed.
You’ve heard me say that one of my favorite theologians is Henri Nouwen who wrote the following about community. It might help us to reflect further on how each part of the body of Christ is important.
“Community is like a large mosaic. Each little piece seems so insignificant. One piece is bright red, another cold blue or dul green another warm purple, another sharp yello, another shining gold. Some look precious, others ordinary. Some look valuable, others worthless. Some look gaudy, others delicate. As individual stone, we can do little with them except compare them and judge their beauty and value. When, however, all these little stones are brought together in one big mosaic portraying the face of Christ, who would ever question the importance of any one of them? If one of them, even the least spectacular one is I missing, the face is incomplete. Together in the one mosaic, each little stone is indispensable and makes a unique contribution to the glory of God. That’s community, a fellowship of little people who together make God visible in the world.” (From The Only Necesary Thing by Henri Nouwen. Crossword Publishing Company. New York, 1999.)
I pray that we can continue to grow as a healthy body of Christ. That we can be patient when one part of the body is hurt or weak. That we can care for each and every member as if we were caring for ourselves.
This requires patience, respect, and love. Then, let us rejoice that God, being the head of this body of Christ is with us, directing us, giving us wisdom and purpose. Let us not get tired of lifting one another up in prayer, in friendship, in partnership so that indeed all parts of this body can work as God wants it to work. Amen.