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01.27.19 Body of Christ 1 Cor. 12.12-31, Luke 4.14-21 Sermon Summary

by on January 28, 2019

If you hear this sermon, truly hear it, it may have transformative effects on your own life, the life of your congregation, and the life of the world.

Last November I sustained a shoulder injury, and it has given me a new appreciation for two verses of the Bible in particular:

  • “God has so arranged the body that there may no dissension within the body, but the members may have the same care for one another.” (1 Corinthians 12:24-25)
  • “No one ever hates his own body, but he nourishes and tenderly cares for it, just as Christ does for the church, because we are members of his body.” (Ephesians 5:29-30)

There are parts of my body I like more than others, and I have treated them with special care. But through this injury, I realize I have to love my whole body. In my shoulder I damaged the subscapularis tendon and the bicep tendon, both of which are located at the front of the shoulder. Through six weeks of physical therapy, those areas are feeling better, but now the back of my shoulder (the teres minor) is painful. Why?

It’s because that muscle (and some others) has been compensating for the weakness in the front of the shoulder. Just like Paul says, “when one part of the body suffers, the whole body suffers.” So now I know that while I like some parts of my body more than others, I have to love my entire body.

The same is true of the Body of Christ. There are parts I like: Reformed theology, Lutheran worship, Roman Catholic charity, and Mysticism, for example. And through the years my likes have changed, like from pop Christian worship music to traditional hymnody.

It’s OK to like some parts of the church and not like others. But we have to love the whole church for we are members of one body. If one part suffers, the whole body suffers, including us.

We suffer when the fundamentalist turn the Bible into an idol, and when the progressives separate the Kingdom of God from Jesus. We suffer because we share one body with them. We may not like them, but we have to love them.

To love something means you give yourself to it willingly, generously, and consistently. When we love someone we rejoice with them and suffer with them. This is so important to understand because one of the biggest lies in our culture is that anyone can do anything. Just think back on the last commencement speech you heard.

The truth is that human beings are limited. This is the point of the stories in Genesis 3 and 11 (the two trees and the tower). You and I cannot do anything we choose. We are limited by countless factors, which is why we need God to lead us, to help us navigate through our limitations. This is why Jesus said “I am the vine and you are the branches.” As branches we need the vine. As members we need the body.

While it’s true that you and I cannot do anything we choose, still together we can do more. This is what Paul taught. He asks, “Are all apostles? Are all prophets?” The obvious answer is “no.” Between the members in the Body of Christ there are differences, in other words, limitations.

But taken together, the Body of Christ has apostles and prophets and healers and leaders. God has designed us different but complementary so that as we work together the Body of Christ grows and Christ’s ministry continues.

On Sunday morning I preach and pray, but Saturday night someone else spent the night here with our families experiencing homelessness. Throughout the week I study and offer pastoral care while someone else counts the milk money and delivers it to the shelter for youth experiencing homelessness. I may be able to talk someone down from suicide but I can’t write a big check to the church.

But when I do my thing and you do your thing, the Body grows and the ministry continues.

Paul accounts for this design because “we were all baptized into one body, and all made to drink of one Spirit.” Jesus was also baptized in the Spirit, and it was only after his baptism that he began his ministry “filled with the power of the Spirit.”

He taught in the synagogues and people praised him. He read Isaiah’s vision that someone would come anointed by God’s Spirit to bring good news to the poor, release to the captives, sight to the blind, freedom to the oppressed, and proclaiming the year of God’s favor. Then he said, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”

It was fulfilled because Jesus had come. He was the fulfillment of Isaiah’s vision—back then and in his day. Today we are the Body of Christ. Today this scripture is fulfilled in OUR hearing, if indeed we hear. If, in the power of the Spirit, we work together as the Body of Christ, not necessarily liking everything but still loving the church, giving ourselves to that which we love.

If by this same Spirit the scriptures are fulfilled in OUR hearing, we will be good news to the poor on the other side of the tracks and on the other side of the border. Jesus and Paul taught that this occurs by the Spirit of baptism, so remember your baptism and pray for the Spirit.

Where can you bring the Body of Christ? Jesus did in his small home town. Paul did in Corinth. You can bring the Body to school, to work, and to Faith Church.

Jesus and Paul discerned their calling in prayer and worship. You also can find your way in and with the church today.

Jesus and Paul took their guidance from scripture and the tradition. You also can align your life with these testimonies and become yourself a living epistle, a living Word of God.

One of the ways we become the Body of Christ is to receive the Body of Christ, remembering Christ’s example. This is why we come to the Lord’s Table each week, to “behold what we are, and become what we receive” in the words of Augustine.

So remember your baptism and pray for the Spirit. The church needs you. For in the words of Teresa of Avila:

Christ has no body now on earth but yours; no hands but yours; no feet but yours. Yours are the eyes through which the compassion of Christ must look out on the world. Yours are the feet with which he is to go about doing good. Yours are the hands with which he is to bless his people.

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