1 Corinthians 12:12-31a Last Sunday we heard about the great value and worth that God places upon every human life. God says that, from the very beginning of life to the very end of life, he is the one who creates life and bears life in his mighty arms of love and blesses life along the way. We also heard the Good News that his great saving work in Jesus Christ is for all people.
The words we heard last week from the prophet Isaiah apply to every person in the world—whether they are Christians or not.
But in God’s Word this week we move from God’s loving purpose for the people of the world in general-- to God’s loving purpose for the people of the church in particular.
God says that we are all members of the Body of Christ and that we are all needed in the Body of Christ and we are all gifted with the Spirit in the Body of Christ. The Bible says that:
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.
Each and every one of us assembled here today is a part of the Church—each of us a member of the Body of Christ. It does not matter if we are young or old—it does not matter if we are male or female—it doesn’t matter if we are single or married.
Every person here today who confesses their faith in the one true, triune God and has Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior is a member of the Body of Christ.
There is one body with many members and we are united to one another in that body where the most important thing is not the bodily differences that distinguish us from one another-- but what unites us together and how we came to be a part of that body of Christ in the first place. The Bible says that:
In one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.
We each took our place in the Church, the Body of Christ, when we were baptized with water in the name of the Triune God.
The Bible says that in Holy Baptism we died with Christ and were raised with Christ so that we could walk in newness of life and live with him forever. And so then…
United with Christ in one body, our identity in Christ infinitely more important and meaningful that any earthly distinction that might come between us.
In the culture of Paul’s day the differences between Jews and Gentile, men and women, rich and poor, slave and free were profound to the point of being insurmountable. You were, and would remain, as you were born. But in Christ all of those differences fell by the wayside.
Every person in the church stands with open hands beneath the cross as a beggar. Every person in the church needs Christ’s redemption. And every person in the church enters the body through the Spirit’s work in our lives through Holy Baptism.
Now, of course there are differences among us. We are men and women, young and old, rich and poor. All of us are different from one another.
But those differences between us that are rooted in creation and culture are NOWHERE nearly so important as the fact that we are part of the Body of Christ and filled with the Holy Spirit who brought us to faith and empowers our life of faith as we take our particular place- and do our particular part- in the church. The Bible says that: The body does not consist of one member but of many.
Paul used an illustration of our unity in Christ that even a child could understand: the human body. Each of us have a body that is made up of many parts. In other words, there is one body with many members.
So it was with Christ. There was just one Jesus but he had arms that embraced the broken-- and feet that went to those in need-- and eyes that looked with compassionate upon the poor and lonely--and hands that came to their aid. One body with many members.
So it is in the Church, the Body of Christ. Each of us are members of the Body of Christ and the important thing is not our own particular role or function there but that we are members at all in the first place!
Nevertheless, having said that, each of us do have a particular place and role and function in the Body of Christ and each of us are needed. Paul uses a humorous little example to make his point that we belong to the body of Christ and that we are important to the Body of Christ. The Bible says:
If the foot should 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. And if the ear should 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.
This is what happens when we tell ourselves that we are not a part of the body because we have a different place in the body than someone else—as absurd as a foot thinking it was not a part of the body because it was not a hand or an ear thinking it was not a part of the body because it was not an eye.
Each of us have our own place in the body and what matters is that we are connected to Christ in the first place! Far from doubting our place in the body, we need to understand the absolute importance that each of us have in the Body of Christ. The Bible says that:
If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell?
If we were asked which of our senses or which of our members we would prefer to lose, I think that all of us would answer: none! We want to see and hear and smell and taste and move. They are all important to the other senses and they are all diminished when one is missing.
So it is in the Church. Each of us have our particular place and our own particular role and each of us are important to one another and important to the whole body of Christ and it is God himself who has determined our place in the body. The Bible says that:
God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, yet one body. 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.”
This alone ought to be sufficient to silence any concerns we might have about our own place in the Body of Christ: it is God himself who has arranged each part.
Just think of that! God himself, knowing you better than you know yourself, has wisely placed you in the Body of Christ in a role where you can flourish and grow-- and others around you in the body can be served by you in love.
And these same words—that God has arranged the members in the body—ought to be more than enough to silence any sinful ideas about the importance of others in the Body. The Bible says that:
The parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, which our more presentable parts do not require.
When it comes to the church, there is one body with many members and each and every one of us have our own place in that body that is distinct from others but important to the well-being of the body—even if our part seems rather humble.
In my years as a pastor I have walked with people who have had colon cancer and bladder cancer and prostate cancer and I am here to tell you that, while none of us would ever want to lose our eyesight or be paralyzed, when those parts of the body affected by colon, bladder, and prostate cancer fail-- it is pure misery.
For the health and well-being of the body, all of our parts need to be in good working order—even the most humble.
So it is in the church. There is no member of the church that is so humble that we can afford to not have it working away for the good of all. Every one- in every place- is needed and valuable and worthwhile to the whole body. The Bible says that:
God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together. Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.
One of the great blessings of being a member of the Body of Christ is that we care for one another—or at least it should be! But what is happening more and more is that the busyness of modern life is blinding us to the needs of others and fragmenting our common life together.
I recently heard from a fellow pastor who was going through an incredibly difficult time in his congregation and he felt like he was all alone. I don’t think that was because other churches and pastors were uncaring, but they were just so busy with their own issues that they ended up not caring for him in real ways.
The same can happens to us in our life together in the body. But the Bible is very, very clear that we belong to one another in such a personal way that the joys and sorrows of one of us-- become the joys and sorrows of all of us-- and in this way we demonstrate to the world the blessings of being one with Christ. The Bible says that:
God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, helping, administrating, and various kinds of tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? Do all possess gifts of healing? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret? But earnestly desire the higher gifts.
While every member is important and valuable and needed in the Body of Christ, there are gifts that come first—gifts that form the very heart of the Body of Christ because they are the very heart of God—and that is the ministry of the Gospel ministry in all its forms because that gift brings others into the Body of Christ.
God has made us members of the church and blessed us with the Spirit so that we can not only serve one another already in the church, but so that we can be about his work of bringing others into the church. There is always room for more members in the Body of Christ and it is our privilege to use our gifts to bring them to Christ. God grant us the desire to do so! Amen.