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Epiphany 3C Sermon
1 Corinthians 12:12-31a
January
27, 2019

 

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1 Corinthians 12:12-31a

12 For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ.13For in the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.
14 Indeed, the body does not consist of one member but of many. 15If the foot were to 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. 16And if the ear were to say, ‘Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body’, that would not make it any less a part of the body. 17If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole body were hearing, where would the sense of smell be? 18But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. 19If all were a single member, where would the body be? 20As it is, there are many members, yet one body. 21The 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.’ 22On the contrary, the members of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23and those members of the body that we think less honourable we clothe with greater honour, and our less respectable members are treated with greater respect; 24whereas our more respectable members do not need this. But God has so arranged the body, giving the greater honour to the inferior member, 25that there may be no dissension within the body, but the members may have the same care for one another. 26If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honoured, all rejoice together with it.
27 Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. 28And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers; then deeds of power, then gifts of healing, forms of assistance, forms of leadership, various kinds of tongues. 29Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? 30Do all possess gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret? 31But strive for the greater gifts. And I will show you a still more excellent way.

May the grace, mercy and peace of God our Father be with us, in the name of his risen son, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ; Amen.

When I first read the second lesson assigned for the day I thought to myself that it is the section from Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians where he uses the body image. Body Image – what an interesting concept for a sermon on this text on the day when we celebrate the year of ministry here at Clinton Heights and talk about our vision for the future. We believe that the church is the physical body of Christ on earth today, and as such we seek to function as a healthy body. Paul’s image of the community functioning like a body lends itself to me asking, “How is our body image here at Clinton Heights?”
Body image is a term that has to do with your own self-perception: how do you feel about your own body? I’d guess every one of us struggles with this in some way, for at none of us is totally happy with our bodies. Whether it is your weight or joint pain, the way you see or the way you talk, there are parts of our bodies that we are sensitive about. Unfortunately, we have too many social influences that want to dictate to us what the “perfect” body image is – especially for young women. Magazines, television shows, movies and peer pressure have a lot of influence on a person’s body image. As a result, eating disorders, bullying and even suicides have increased as people are made to feel “less than normal” in their own skin. As Christian people we know and are called to share with everyone we know that we are wonderfully and beautifully made. God’s love is the most important factor in a person’s life, and when you are confident in God’s love for you no matter what you look like or how fast you can run or how well you play sports, then you can deal with others who may try to tell you otherwise. All of us are beautifully and wonderfully made – and that is the basis of our body image.

But let’s think about Clinton Heights Lutheran Church and our body image. Do we think of this body, this congregation, as less than perfect? - or even less desirable because we don’t meet the standards that some folks place upon us? I mean, it’s hard not to get caught up in expectations, whether realistic or not. Do we not have enough youth or young families? Do we not have enough small groups? Is our worship too traditional or boring? Does our building itself have too many issues?

Our church council has been reading our third little book by a church consultant named Thom Rainer, this one called, “Becoming a Welcoming Church.” It’s good stuff. He focuses on things that we don’t always think about when we want to have a welcoming church, but that maybe we should a little more – greeters in the parking lot and at every door, a visible welcome center with refreshments which is staffed by someone who knows about the congregation, a vibrant website and helpful signage are just a few suggestions he talks about. All are good suggestions.

It would be easy to get down on this body … or critical because we don’t have or aren’t doing some of those things. It’s challenging to stay focused on who we are, our body, or what we actually have. A positive church body image is to see who we are, how we already serve God, and lift these things up as part of our wonderful identity. When I hear Paul talking about the eye saying to the hand, “I have no need of you,” or the head to the feet, “I have no need of you,” I think of how our Bible studies, music ministries, fellowship organizers, mission outreach, maintenance teams, and various administrative committees all may be very different, but they are part of the same body of Christ here in this place. We need all of them to fully function as a healthy body!
In the verses before this one in 1 Corinthians 12, Paul set this whole subject up by asserting that there are a variety of gifts, but the same spirit gives them all. The Greek word for those gifts is, “Charismata.” Charis is Greek for grace, and mata is a suffix which means coming from, or flowing out of. Charismata gifts are those talents and abilities that we have just because God wants us to have them, out of pure grace and love. Paul says that it’s not even possible to say, “Jesus is Lord” except through the Holy Spirit. That means that wherever we show signs of those gifts – even the ability to profess Jesus as Lord – we are a charismatic church because all that we are and all that we do flows forth from the free-gift of grace which God gives out of love for us. Soooo … try this on: No matter what our building looks like, no matter how many or few people gather, no matter how we live out our mission in our community, we are the body of Christ right here and now, wonderfully and beautifully made. And as a whole and as individual parts, we are called to discern … together … how we best use those free gifts to share the love of Jesus with everyone.

And … we need each other. Every one of us. No matter how insignificant you may think you are or someone else is, we are all members of this body of Christ! Whether you are a head, eye, foot or hand, you are vital to the mission of this congregation. And you do not have to be a perfect eye or ear – you don’t need 20/20 vision …you may need hearing aids to help along the way, but that is alright. Being a broken body together is more important than being a perfect body alone. We love and support, encourage and heal each other through the power of the Holy Spirit moving among us.

I am going to leave you with one of the first questions I asked at the top of this message – How is our body image here at Clinton Heights? We might not be featured in any magazines about perfect churches, but I would venture to say that in our brokenness and imperfections, Christ lives in and through us to love each other and this community. None of us is unimportant, none of us can be left out – we are all gifted by the Holy Spirit in some way. Working together as parts of this one body, may we seek to function with grace and love, so that we may truly be a charismatic Body of Christ in this community. Amen.