We Are The Body Of Christ

Another Sunday, another sermon.

Actually, I really like the way this sermon turned out – not necessarily in terms of preaching (you be the judge of that!), but in terms of my own discernment on the subject matter.

Enjoy!

(p.s. Sorry about the really bad joke.)

***

1 Corinthians 12:12-31a
Luke 4:14-21

We Are The Body Of Christ

In a moment of desperation as I was writing this sermon I found myself googling the phrase, “Jokes about the Body of Christ” in the hopes of finding some clever quip or opening story. This was the best that I could find:

“The Body of Christ.”
“Ah, thanks Father. I’ve been working out.”

Okay, so let’s face it – the Body of Christ seems straight forward. We are the Body of Christ. “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,” Paul wrote to the church in Corinth. “For in the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body – Jews or Greeks, slaves or free – and we were all make to drink of one Spirit.” We, as human beings, make up the Body of Christ. We, both as Christians within our specific communities and as Christians throughout the world, are a part of the Body of Christ.

I have heard many sermons throughout the years – come to think of it, I have even preached some of them myself – that remind people that the Body of Christ was intended to be diverse. Those sermons usually happen as a response to a group of people who are finding it difficult to agree with one another or a community who is having a hard time coming to some sort of a consensus on their beliefs and practices.

I think we can all agree on this: A body would not function well if all of its limbs and organs were identical. In fact most bodies must have different limbs and organs that serve different purposes in order for it to survive and thrive.

I think call also all agree on this: The metaphor is slightly flawed. The Body of Christ is much easier to agree with on paper than it is to actually live out in the word. Accepting differences and diversity within a community – particularly a religious community – almost always requires a little bit of grace and a whole lot of work.

This morning’s Gospel reading can be found fairly early on the Gospel of Luke. It immediately follows Jesus’ baptism and temptation of Jesus in the wilderness. Luke uses this story – Jesus teaching in the synagogue in his hometown of Nazareth – to mark the very beginning of his public ministry.

Jesus walked into the synagogue on the Sabbath and read from a scroll containing words from the prophet Isaiah. We can look back and find Jesus’ words in our bibles in the Old Testament – Isaiah 61:1-2 and Isaiah 58:6. This was – in a way – Jesus’ inaugural address in his ministry. He talked about what he was going to do, what he hoped to accomplish.

This was only the beginning of Jesus’ ministry and he was looking forward; but in a very traditional and sacred way, he quoted scripture as he talked about how he was going to move forward in his life and ministry.

‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to let the oppressed go free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.’

By using ancient texts to look ahead into his ministry, Jesus was proclaiming to the people in Nazareth (1) that the old traditions were still relevant, but (2) that there was still a lot of work that needed to be done.

The same could be said about where we are today, couldn’t it? The old traditions are still relevant, but there is still a lot of work that needs to be done, both in our community and in the world.

So we have these two texts – one where Jesus uses the words of an old scripture to make a public proclamation about the new covenant he is bringing to the world and another where Paul explains to us the Body of Christ. Where do these scriptures meet one another?

Perhaps we should – like Jesus did when he read from the book of Isaiah – look at these ancient words and make a proclamation about how they are going to shape the future of our own ministries.

Let’s focus now on the passage from 1 Corinthians. We are the Body of Christ. Now – it is one thing when Paul says it to us and when we acknowledge it; but what would it mean if we proclaimed it for ourselves?

Karen Stokes, who is an ordained pastor in the Presbyterian Church, wrote something in her commentary in Feasting on the Word that sparked my interest and made me think about the Body of Christ in a new way.

The inviting church is a tangible expression of the hospitality of God; people come in search of meaning in their lives, spiritual growth, deeper relationship with Christ, opportunities to be of service in the world. They also come in search of authentic community, a place where they are known and accepted and where they can experience a sense of belonging. {Feasting on the Word, Year C, Volume 1, Page 280}

What does the Body of Christ look like?

I always assumed that when Paul talked about the fact that church is the Body of Christ he was simply bringing comfort to a dysfunctional religious community, that he was simply assuring them that their diversity would not divide them, but make them stronger. But I think there was more to it than that. In fact I am starting to think that acknowledging our own place in the Body of Christ is only the beginning; there is so still so much more work that needs to be done.

There is true suffering in this world. Every single day men, women and children are without food, water and shelter. Millions of families have no access to healthcare and education. Discrimination is real. Hatred is real. Violence is unspeakable. Inequality is divisive. Pain runs deep through the veins of communities desperate to feel the presence of God. People feel like they do not belong, as if they do not have a place to seek safety and security.

We have to do something. In fact, we are called to do something.

Some of the problems in the world are too large for us to tackle by ourselves. But we – we as individuals and we as a community of faith, as members of the Body of Christ – can make this world a better place.

Being the Body of Christ does not mean simply accepting and remaining complacent in our role. It means – in real and tangible ways – action. Being the Body of Christ means, like Stokes said, being a tangible expression of the hospitality of God.

This scripture was not meant to comfort us, it was meant to command us. It is not enough for us to simply be the Body of Christ. We have to act as thought we are the Body of Christ.

Perhaps the metaphor of the Body of Christ is not flawed, it is simply incomplete. Being the Body of Christ does not merely describe who we are; it also tells us what to do.

We need to look outside of ourselves. We need to worship, we need to serve, we need to teach and we need to learn. We need to love one another, even when that is difficult. We need to be open to new people and new ideas. We need to serve God by serving others. We need to be humble in our words and graceful in our actions. We need to give of our time, our talents and our resources. We need to make sacrifices. We need to put our faith first and trust that the other pieces of our lives will fall into place.

We need to share our faith with the people around us – both in word AND in action.

We need to heed the call the feed the hungry, heal the sick, reach out to the oppressed and fight for the marginalized.

And we need to act on that call.

Robert Brearley once wrote, “The Holy Spirit comes when we have something to do for God and a time to do it. Following this Jesus means accepting his mission and time.” {Feasting on the Word, Year C, Volume 1, Page 288}

Well the time is now.

Let us listen to a song by Casting Crowns called “If We Are The Body”. The lyrics are printed on an insert in your bulletin if you would like to follow along.

If We Are The Body
Casting Crowns

It’s crowded in worship today
As she slips in trying to fade into the faces
The girl’s teasing laughter is carrying farther than they know
Farther than they know

But if we are the body
Why aren’t his arms reaching?
Why aren’t his hands healing?
Why aren’t his words teaching?
And if we are the body
Why aren’t his feet going?
Why is his love not showing them there is a way?
There is a way

A traveler is far away from home
He sheds his coat and quietly sinks into the back row
The weight of their judgmental glances
Tells him that his chances are better out on the road

But if we are the body
Why aren’t his arms reaching?
Why aren’t his hands healing?
Why aren’t his words teaching?
And if we are the body
Why aren’t his feet going?
Why is his love not showing them there is a way?

Jesus paid much too high a price
For us to pick and choose who should come
And we are the body of Christ

If we are the body
Why aren’t his arms reaching?
Why aren’t his hands healing?
Why aren’t his words teaching?
And if we are the body
Why aren’t his feet going?
Why is his love not showing them there is a way?

I want to leave you with a blessing I have heard many times throughout my life.

May the Christ who walks on wounded feet
walk with you on the road.
May the Christ who serves with wounded hands
stretch out your hands to serve.
May the Christ who loves with a wounded heart
open your hearts to love.
May you see the face of Christ in everyone you meet,
and may everyone you meet
see the face of Christ in you.

We are the Body of Christ.

Thanks be to God!

Amen.

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