Monday, January 28, 2013

The Body of Christ

Julie Monnard, Zion Lutheran Church
1 Corinthians 12:12-31, 3rd Sunday after Epiphany C, January 27, 2013

Grace and peace be unto you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, Amen.

One of the joys of a Mr. Potato Head doll is that you can mix up the parts, putting his eyes where his ears should be and putting his nose where his hat should be. In Toy Story, after switching his body parts around, Mr. Potato Head said, “Look, I’m Picasso!” We love Mr. Potato Head because we can make him look ridiculous. But he is just a kid’s toy. Real bodies don’t work like that, and the body of Christ doesn’t either.

Just as we are members of this church, we also are members of the body of Christ. To be members of this church, we are baptized, we receive communion, and we give gifts to this congregation. We have each met these “requirements,” yet like the body’s organs, we have special qualities as well. We each have different spiritual gifts that we share with Zion.

Unique Spiritual Gifts and Talents

Some give in large amounts, and others give in small amounts, yet all of us give as we are able. Some have the gift of vision. Some of you can look into the future, one, five, even ten years ahead, and see what this church might look like. You have ideas for how this congregation can prepare this building and these people for the joys and challenges ahead. Others of you are doers. Some of you can take the ideas of the visionaries and make them happen. You have renovated this worship space, fixed the building when it breaks, and sustained vital ministries. Each of you has special gifts for ministry, and Zion needs both visionaries and doers.

Some of you have the gift of art. Some of you can take a few skeins of yarn and transform them into a beautiful prayer shawl. Some of you can take simple ingredients like apples, flour, sugar, and butter and make a delicious pie. Others of you have the gift of numbers. Some of you can count our offering, enter it into our records, and set our church’s budget. You understand complicated things like taxes, insurance, and loans. You have helped keep our church running.

Some of you have the gift of compassion. We all care for each other, yet some of you go out of your way to send cards, make phone calls, and visit. You represent the church as you spread God’s love. Others of you spread God’s love by teaching. You are dedicated to the children of our church. You share the gospel to children who need to hear it most. Others of you are organizers. You planned the Harvest Feast, the Christmas Party, and the 160th anniversary celebration.

Some of you have the gift of music. You sing in the choir and help to lead hymns. Some of you accompany our worship and share special music. You enliven this space every Sunday. Others of you help lead worship by reading lessons, acolyting, and serving communion. Others usher and greet people as they enter and leave the sanctuary. Others provide flowers and food for fellowship.

None of these categories is exclusive of others. The Lord has blessed each of you with a unique set of spiritual gifts that you can share with this church. I encourage each of you to discover what gifts you have that you might not already be sharing with us. The Lord can work through you in wonderful ways that you might not yet have realized.

We are the body of Christ.

Paul says, “If the foot would say, ‘Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,’ that would not make it any less a part of the body.” He means that we each have special roles in the church, and we are not to be jealous of each other. For example, if a knitter would say, “Because I cannot bake pies, I do not belong to the Women of Joy,” that would not make her any less a part of that group. If a visionary would say, “Because I cannot run a committee, I do not belong on council,” that would not make him any less valuable to council.

Paul continues, “If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole body were hearing, where would the sense of smell be? But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as God chose.” If the whole church were made up of readers, where would the ushers be? If the whole church were made up of communion preparers, where would the singers be? We at Zion need everybody to share their gifts with the church, as you are able.

Paul also says, “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.”

The one who fixes the pipes cannot say to the teacher, “I have no need of you,” nor can the pastor say to the sick, “I have no need of you.” For even the oldest and the youngest have important roles in this church. Even those who may feel useless are valuable. The children brighten the lives of the elderly, and the elderly share their wisdom with the children. These people may not be able to serve on committees or lead worship, yet they still have a valuable place in this church.

United in Mission

Just as we are unique in our gifts that we share, we also are united. Because we all know each other so well, we care deeply for each other. When one of our members is in pain, we suffer as well. When one of us grieves, we all grieve. When one of us receives bad news at the doctor’s office, we all worry and weary together.

We are united in our suffering because we also are united in our joy. We celebrate birthdays and anniversaries together. We celebrate during fellowship and in our prayers. The bulletin board in the back is covered with newspaper articles of how our members are being recognized in the public.

Most of all, we are united through worship. Together, we confess our sins and are forgiven. Together, we hear God speak to us through our readings and our hymns. Together, we receive Holy Communion, and we pray. We each have experienced the love of God, and we share it with each other. Every Sunday, we leave this place to go out into the world. We use our spiritual gifts in our work places and in our homes just as we do in this church.

We are the body of Christ. No matter who we are, where we come from, or how old or young we are, we are the body of Christ. No matter how long we have been members, how often we attend, or how much we give, we are the body of Christ.

Just as we individuals have special gifts to give, we as a congregation also have important gifts to give. We give financially to our synod and to other local organizations. We provide food and gifts to the poor around us. Every Noisy Can Sunday, we give to a group outside our walls. We as a congregation are the body of Christ.

In the end, I wonder if this church is more like Mr. Potato Head than we realize. Our church body is made up of a menagerie of people with a huge selection of spiritual gifts. I wonder what God thinks we look like. We are the body of Christ, but do we look more like a Picasso?