1/27/2019 Third Sunday after Epiphany The text is 1 Corinthians 12:12-31a.
Grace and peace to you from God, our Father and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
What was in the mind of God when he looked out over the earth one day and said, “I know what this place needs – it needs a church?”’
For many of us, when we think of church, we think of this place. We think of the familiar liturgy and hymns. We think of the generations of people who have passed through these doors. We think of past events and people who have passed. For some of us, when we think of “church,” we think of this building, this temporary place in which we meet for worship. For other people, the church is an institution. And to some, the church is a community. Of course, there’s some truth in all three of these common ways of thinking of the church – the church as a building, as an institution, and as a community – but they all fall short of the image that Paul uses in our epistle for today when he talks about the church as a body – and not just any body, but as the body of Christ. For when God looked out over the earth and said, ‘I know what this place needs – it needs a church,” God was not referring to a building or a denomination, like Lutheran, or an institution, or even a small community of people. God had something more in mind, a much bigger picture and one that would bring all people together under the umbrella of Jesus and Christ’s mission to a broken and hurting world.
My friends, the church is not just here because of human initiatives: the church is the primary way that Jesus Christ has chosen to be present and working in the world today. When Jesus walked the earth as one of us, he had a body, and he used it to do God’s will and to love God and other people wherever he went. He used his legs to walk around and go to new places to share the good news and heal the sick. He used his hands to heal people and to touch the untouchables. He used his ears to listen to what his Father was saying to him, and to listen to the needs of the people he met. He used his mind and voice to proclaim the gospel and teach people how to live in the Kingdom of God. And ultimately, he offered his body as a sacrifice, allowing nails to be pounded through his wrists and feet and a spear to be thrust into his side, showing everyone that the price he was willing to pay in order to save those who could not save themselves.
Our lives are enriched through our connection with Christ. But this connect is not isolated. We are not alone. When God decided that a church was needed, God formed us into a huge organism made up of millions of limbs and organs and members – each a living, breathing human being. You and I are the Body of Christ. We are not members of the body of Christ in the same sense that we are members of the Facebook or of a political party. There is an organic connection between us that isn’t present in any other human society. Through the grace of God, we are united in very special way. We are united to one another, to Christians throughout the world, to those Christians yet unborn, and to those who have passed from this world and who now feast at the banquet table in God’s heavenly realm.
It takes a lot of different people doing a lot of different things in order for the ministry we do in Jesus’ name to take off, to expand, to continue throughout the generations, and to reach full potential. It takes more than a pastor braving winter conditions and driving in on a Sunday morning to preach and administer the sacrament. It takes more than an organist or special musicians or members of a choir. It takes more than ushers and financial people. It takes an entire community – from cooks to greeters, from those visiting shut-ins to Sunday school teachers, from the youth themselves to our oldest members. It takes an orchestra of people, all playing and praying and working together to the tune of the one spirit which gifts us all.
Now some may think that they have nothing to offer the church. But, the Lord who created each of us has gifted us. God has given you a gift which this community needs in order to for us to function fully as Christ’s body. And the gift that he has given you is special. Your gifts are different from mine – thank God. For if they were not, we would be in a bind when it comes to fixing leaking roofs or doing the work that is needed to put on a pancake breakfast. I may be many things, but I am no mechanic, no carpenter, no secretary, and in spite of what you might think, I am no Ever-Ready bunny, either. But then, I don’t have to be those things. And you don’t have to be all things either. So that means I’m the one who sits down and writes a sermon every Saturday, while you’re the ones who set up communion, water plants, prepare Sunday School lessons, bring in food for the local pantry, count offerings, make building repairs, shovel walks, order materials, call those members who need to hear a familiar voice, and do a thousand and one other things to touch people’s lives with the grace of God. We all share some aspects of the ministry, but at the same time, we specialize in other areas. So that all you have to do when it comes to the sermon is to sit in the pews and listen. And all I have to do when it comes to the maintenance of this building is place a telephone call or two.
So you, my friends, are gifted. The God who created you, who redeemed you through his son, and sanctified you with his spirit, has given you something to share with me and with all the other people. You are needed for the ministry of Jesus Christ. So don’t be afraid to offer what God has given you. Don’t just sit on the sideline, thinking I’m too old, too young, to poor, to anything to offer something of value. And don’t be quick to think that what you have to offer is of greater value than the gift of another. For each is important and each is needed to create the whole. For, the church is like a body, and as a body has many parts and all the parts are necessary for the body to function fully, so you are needed. If the eye refuses to fulfill its job thinking that it has nothing worthwhile to offer, then there would be no sight. If the ear thinks that it can do it all, then there would be no smell or taste. If the foot is too busy doing other things, then the body cannot move forward. If the finger nail decides to go elsewhere and leave the body altogether, then the finger would be left unprotected and could not fully fulfill its role. All parts are needed – from the least to the greatest – and when any part is missing, then the whole body suffers.
So now is the time, my friends, to look around and take stock as to who is missing. If some people you know have not been in worship for a while, give those people a call and let them know that they are missed. The Body of Christ will not be complete without them. If someone is ill or unable to come, give that person a call and let that person know that he or she is not forgotten. For, when one part of the body hurts, the whole body suffers. If you see someone here that you do not know, introduce yourself and invite that person into the heart of our church. For, God has placed that one among us for the benefit of all. And if you should find yourself facing a crisis in your own life, know that you are not alone. You are part of the body, created by God, for mutual support and ministry. You are part of the church, and God knows that if there is one thing needed in this world – it needs a church.
So, rejoice in your gifts, my friends and don’t be afraid to use them. Rejoice in the gifts of others, and don’t be afraid to acknowledge them. And rejoice in the spirit which binds us together and makes us one. And may the peace of God, which surpasses all human understanding, keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.