I Corinthians 12:12-31a
The body is one, even though it has many parts; all the parts-many though they are-comprise a single body. And so it is with Christ. It was by one Spirit that all of us, whether we are Jews or Greeks, slaves or citizens, were baptized into one body. All of us have been given to drink of the one Spirit. And that Body is not one part; it is many.
If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” does that make it any less a part of the body? If the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” would that make it any less a part of the body? If the body were all eye, what would happen to our hearing? If the body were all ear, what would happen to our sense of smell? Instead of that, God put all the different parts into one body on purpose. If all the parts were alike, where would the body be?
They are, indeed, many different members but one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, “I do not need you,” any more than the head can say to the fee, “I do not need you.” And even those members of the body which seem less important are in fact indispensable. We honor the members we consider less honorable by clothing them with greater care, thus bestowing on the less presentable a propriety which the more presentable do not need. God has so constructed the body as to give greater honor to the lowly members, that there may be no dissension in the body, but that all the members may be concerned for one another. If one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; if one member is honored, all the members share its joy.
You then, are the body of Christ, and each of you is a member of it. Furthermore, God has set up in the church, first apostles; second, prophets; third, teachers; then miracle works, healers, assistants, administrators and those who speak in tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles or have the gift o healing? Do all speak in tongues, or do all have the gift of interpretation of tongues? Set your hearts on the greater gifts. But now I will show you the way which surpasses all the others.
Paul outlines in his letter to the Corinthians a vision of a church which is not a building, but a body of people, caring for one another, sharing the work of God in the world. As a church without a building, I wonder how this description sounds to our community. The past few months I have been reflecting a lot on our worship space and feel grateful for it. I love that we are nestled there in between a view of pond and ducks on one side and the sounds of basketball games on the other. We worship between creation and community, with no where to hide except perhaps in the shadow of God’s wings.
I think that can make us feel a little exposed at times, but perhaps that also is a gift in that vulnerability can drive us deeper into authentic community. Many if not most of us have limited experience with this kind of community– being more familiar instead with relationships that are functional, that exist in order to do or achieve something.
But Paul reminds us that our relationships in Christ have no purpose beyond themselves. They exist as the visible expression of the love of God, a love that simply takes delight in the presence of the beloved — the embodied presence of the beloved.
Now just to clarify we are not talking here about a forced uniformity. There will always be differences within a congregation –differing opinions, experiences, priorities, needs and it is dangerous to try to play down those differences in the interest of cultivating a superficial harmony. Instead, Paul reminds us, natural diversity strengthens the body as each member contributes a vital function.
Ultimately it is the Spirit of God which prepares us for this role as member of the body of Christ. We come to the waters of baptism as individuals, independent and self-contained and come out of the water changed. Our identity is no longer solitary; we are defined by our relationships and our common dependence on the Spirit, who is our lifeblood.
Join us tonight as we read and reflect more on Paul’s words and what they suggest to us as people on the Jesus Way in this time and this place.
PS Join us at Casa Semrad tonight for Pizza and conversation (bring some cash to contribute por favor). 108 South Rosemont Ave, 6:30pm. All are welcome! Call church number for more info 214. 233-4605
PPS Today’s reflection represents a weaving of ideas drawn from the lectionary resource, Feasting on the Word, as Perl woke me up at 430 this morning because of her sick little body so my own capacity to generate thoughts is seriously limited.
I loved this meditation, Courtney. I am not suggesting that Perl wake you up every Wednesday at 4:30, but this was just what I needed to read at just the time I needed to read it. Exposed and a little vulnerable, it sounds so scary sometimes and yet it seems that our little congregation insists on reminding me that this is the way in which true community happens. Maybe it isn’t the only way, but in my little sphere of experience if there hasn’t been vulnerabilty, there hasn’t been community.
Of course, if your gentle nudging wasn’t enough, there is always Paul to put it in one’s face. Sometimes being part of the community just isn’t a choice. The ear wanting to be the eye neither changes the location of the ear, the funciton of the ear, or the ear’s attachment to the body. It reminds me of an old t-shirt a friend used to have that says “if we all have to live with each other, we might as well learn to play with each other.” Here’s to figuring out how to do that…at least we get to do that together.
This is one of the things that I most appreciate about Church in the Cliff so far- this understanding that the Church is a “people, not a place,” as I like to say. I love that this is reflected even on the worship bulletin each Sunday which says, “Church in the Cliff…gathered for worship.” That is, WE are the Church. I work hard to teach Samuel that those white buildings with steeples on the corner are church buildings, not churches. Anyway, we’re glad to have found a community here that is working hard to be a community, to be the Church.