1 Corinthians 12:12-27
12 Christ is just like the human body—a body is a unit and has many parts; and all the parts of the body are one body, even though there are many. 13 We were all baptized by one Spirit into one body, whether Jew or Greek, or slave or free, and we all were given one Spirit to drink. 14 Certainly the body isn’t one part but many. 15 If the foot says, “I’m not part of the body because I’m not a hand,” does that mean it’s not part of the body? 16 If the ear says, “I’m not part of the body because I’m not an eye,” does that mean it’s not part of the body? 17 If the whole body were an eye, what would happen to the hearing? And if the whole body were an ear, what would happen to the sense of smell? 18 But as it is, God has placed each one of the parts in the body just like God wanted. 19 If all were one and the same body part, what would happen to the body? 20 But as it is, there are many parts but one body. 21 So the eye can’t say to the hand, “I don’t need you,” or in turn, the head can’t say to the feet, “I don’t need you.” 22 Instead, the parts of the body that people think are the weakest are the most necessary. 23 The parts of the body that we think are less honorable are the ones we honor the most. The private parts of our body that aren’t presentable are the ones that are given the most dignity. 24 The parts of our body that are presentable don’t need this. But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the part with less honor 25 so that there won’t be division in the body and so the parts might have mutual concern for each other. 26 If one part suffers, all the parts suffer with it; if one part gets the glory, all the parts celebrate with it. 27 You are the body of Christ and parts of each other.
It was my junior year of college and I was heading home for Christmas. I stopped outside of San Antonio at the YMCA camp where I kept a horse my grandfather had given me. My dad and I went on a ride up and around the rocky hills, enjoying the time together. I remember it was a beautiful, sunny day. I wore a sweatshirt and jeans. After we came down from the trails that wandered through the hills, we it was time to take off galloping across the soccer fields and down by the river. Things were going great until we passed the outdoor amphitheater and my horse got scared and in a quick second bolted down and to the right, sending me high into the air to the left. I was in the air so long I could remember it. I landed hard on left side. Laying there, I realized I didn’t feel any pain and in fact, I couldn’t move. My dad came to my side. And when Pete who lived on the camp saw my horse running without me atop her, he came looking for us in his truck. Thankfully after I few minutes, I could move, had control over my body and could feel the pain of what had happened. They put me in the car and my dad drove me to the hospital. I all but broke my back in 2 places. It took over a year for me to heal.
And last week, my back reminded me of all this when my back tightened and refused to bend for 2 days. It was humbling to have to ask my daughter to tie my shoes for you J
Our bodies are amazing. Our bodies are 60% water. We have 206 bones and more than 600 muscles. There are trillions of cells, elements, systems, organs and part, lots of parts. And when they work in harmony, our bodies can do amazing things. Run, jump, climb, create, dance, bake. We have senses that allow us to explore and relish our surroundings. We have the ability as humans to create life. It is amazing what our bodies can do when they are healthy but when our bodies don’t work well, we see how one part can seemingly control or dictate the actions of the whole body.
My father has two very rare neuromuscular conditions that cause his eyes to involuntarily close for hours or days without any warning or recourse. Watching him struggle at first and later adapt to this condition, always reminds me of how precious the gift of sight is. His love of books, movies and chainsaws and seeing his grandchildren was greatly impacted by one tiny nerve near his eye that was misbehaving. Thankfully with the help of technology, excellent health care and prayers answered after almost 8 years of this, my dad is in remission and can once again proceed through each day confident that he will be able to see it all.
Just as it is our bodies that carry us through this life, in the 1 Corinthians verses we find a metaphor for the Church as the vehicle by which the teaching of Jesus come to life on earth. We are the body of Christ.It’s a simple yet interesting metaphor. We are of course quite familiar with the human body, because we all have one. And there is a lot we can learn about being the church body from these verses.
First, in verse 13, we see the coupling of very opposite categorizations of people, Jew and Gentile, free and slave. These groupings would have been opposites on spectrums of nature or law or custom. Today we could use Cougars v. Huskies, Democrat and Republican, Ivy League and trade school, Gay and Lesbians and straight folk, Black and white, those with disabilities and those without, those with homes and those without, and the haves and the have-nots.For all the ways society separates us and we voluntarily segregate ourselves we are reminded, no matter who we are, or where we are on life’s journey, we all drink of the same Spirit. We are all baptized into the same family.
In the body of Christ, no part is better than the other. This is important because prior to these verses we read of the bestowing of spiritual gifts. But no gift is better, more holy, than another. Therefore, in the body there should be no hierarchy, struggles for power or exaltation of some gifts over others. We each have been given different gift and this is a good because the church needs all our gifts to be fully realized.
Reading this passage we can easily the unity and trust that is necessary for the church body to be healthy. It is also a lesson of inclusion. There is a wonderful realization in these verses that there is room for all of us in the body of Christ. We are called to be united. But this does not mean uniformity. We cannot all be eyes, or hands, or feet. We need some to sing and some to be on committees, and some to teach and some to pray and some to help with the finances. Unity comes from understanding our common purpose as parts of the body of Christ and our ability to celebrate the diversity that we each bring to this place.
Our youth group is an amazing hodge podge of individuals. Sixth through 12th graders, Gay, straight and bi, from various family structures, interests and abilities. We talk about how if we were all at school together we probably wouldn’t end up eating at the same lunch table. But here at church we have the amazing ability to get to know each other, to support and accept others for who they are and what they bring to the group. They are a microcosm of the church. We need to be more like them!
Instead of letting diversity create divisions among us, the writer tells us “ Instead, the parts of the body that people think are the weakest are the most necessary. 23 The parts of the body that we think are less honorable are the ones we honor the most. The private parts of our body that aren’t presentable are the ones that are given the most dignity. 24 The parts of our body that are presentable don’t need this. But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the part with less honor 25 so that there won’t be division in the body and so the parts might have mutual concern for each other.”
This is radial hospitality. It means the church honors and respects those who society has made most vulnerable, marginalized, most in need above ourselves. It is as we read in Matthew 25 how we treat the least of these that matters to God. And within the Church there is no place for categorizations of people that have been created to place us in oppositional roles in the world. To do this means we are continually asking, who is not here? Who is at greatest need in our community and how can we respond? And we work to include other, and are ready to be changed, to grow and expand to make room for all people.
Unlike the world that casts people aside, the body of Christ cannot say, I have no use of you. The body of Christ is built like this so that we will learn to have mutual concern for each other, that we will understand that we need one another. That I need you and you need me. And not just from 10:30–noon on Sundays. But 24/7. We are in a covenant relationship with each other and that demands that we care about each other, that we take risks to get to know each other beyond this time but in the nitty-gritty parts of our lives without judgment and without fear. This being the body of Christ thing required trust. And this can be hard. Because if you are like me, the church has hurt me and it’s hard to trust sometimes. But in community we see that matters of life are matters of faith, because the God of life is the God that is alive in our lives, and what we believe about this God ultimately impacts how we believe we can and should treat one another.
Like the human body, we are going to mess up, things will go wrong on occasion. Church is not prefect because it’s made up of people. But we can continually work to be good stewards of what God has given us because the world needs us. And if you visit other churches, it’s easy to see how different we all are. But the thing that connects us is the same spirit and the call to be Christ’s representatives in the world and to hold space for each other.
The church body is called to be unlike the world, to do things differently here than business as usual out there. Because like the children of Israel who cried out, “is God here with us or not?” The world is crying out every day, asking where is God in the chaos of our lives. God told Moses to strike the rock and water flowed out meeting the physical and spiritual needs of the people. The world needs us to answer their cry with justice and compassion. Jesus says we are to share the good news of God’s radical love and we need to ask ourselves, “If all people know about God is what they see in us, what will they learn about God?
John Pavlovitz wrote in his blog this week about “ The Church of Not Being Horrible”. Let me read you some of it. http://johnpavlovitz.com/2017/03/12/the-church-of-not-being-horrible/
Let’s be that kind of church.