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Over the years I have written several "book" or "booklets" and many, many, many newsletter and bulletin articles. Because the book market seeks writings to meet specific needs at specific times, my material has never been accepted. I have a tendency to write what is on my mind and so I am left with self publishing. So, with the encouragement from my wife and others, I am beginning this blog in order to put my "ramblings" "out there"! I hope you enjoy!

Disclaimer

Please note that while my intentions are to use good grammar, because of the way in which some of the material presented here is presented (orally) the grammar and syntax might not always be the best English. Also note that good theology is not always presented in the best English so there may be times when the proper grammar rules are purposely broken.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Being the Body of Christ - January 24, 2016 - Third Sunday in after the Epiphany - Text: 1 Corinthians 12:12-31a

Last week Paul was tell us about the fact that God gives gifts. God gives spiritual gifts for the purpose of strengthening His people and that is done through our encouraging and building each other up as brothers and sisters in Christ. God gives spiritual gifts for extending His Kingdom and that is done through our living lives of faith and sharing the good news of Jesus with others. And God gives spiritual gifts so that we might give Him praise and glory, which He rightly deserves and this is done through our encouraging and building each other ups as brothers and sisters in Christ and through our living lives of faith and sharing the good news of Jesus with others. This morning we continue reading through Paul’s letter as he compares Christ’s Church, the Holy Christian Church, and we as one congregation of the Holy Christian Church, to a body.
 
Just as Paul began with God last week, so He begins with God again this week. The function of the body of Christ, that is the function of the Christian church in a local congregation or in the body as a whole always has its roots in God. God does and God gives and we are done to and given to. Thus, Paul begins by reminding us of our redemption. We begin at verse twelve, “12For 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 one Spirit we were all baptized into one body— Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit” (v. 12-13).
 
As we read and hear Paul’s words for this morning we want to make sure we do not misunderstand Paul, nor take his words out of context, nor put them in opposition to any of God’s other word. In our text Paul is speaking about the order of redemption. The order of redemption is that by faith in Jesus we are all, everyone of us as individuals, at the same time sinner/saints. When it comes to the order of redemption there is no distinction made among the people of the world, no distinction between race or culture, gender or ownership. Before God we are people, individuals, who are sinners, who have, by faith in Jesus, been redeemed and made saints.
 
What we want to be careful of is that we do not make the order of redemption take the place of nor negate the order of creation. The order of creation continues alongside the order of redemption. The order of creation continues to be the fact that God has created the world in an orderly manner, that He has set certain boundaries within His creation for the sake of good order, for the sake of peace and harmony. These boundaries have not been negated by the order of redemption.
 
Paul helps us to understand the order of redemption and he does so by what I call making the comparison in negative. We pick up at verse fourteen, “14For the body does not consist of one member but of many. 15If 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. 16And 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. 17If 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? 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 parts, 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 parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23and 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, 24which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, 25that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another.” (v. 14-25)
 
Notice what Paul is not doing. Paul is not making a one to one comparison, in other words, he is not saying that the feet are one board or committee within the congregation and the hands another board or committee. He is not comparing the fingers with Mr. Evischefski and the toes with Mr. Jones and so forth.
 
Notice that Paul is not mentioning what he believes to be the weaker or indispensable parts, although I cannot imagine him thinking in terms of appendix or tonsils. Perhaps he understands that different people look at their own bodies differently as we do today and so he is leaving this to the readers understanding.
 
And notice that Paul is not mentioning which are the parts which receive greater or less honor. Again, perhaps there were people just as vain then as they are today who wish to hide certain parts of their bodies and to show off other parts. The fact of the matter, for Paul and for us, is that we do not necessarily look at the Church or our congregation in the same way that God does. Although our human thinking might tend to elevate certain people or positions, Paul reminds us that in God’s eyes we are of equal value and importance.
 
Continuing on, Paul gives us a more positive comparison. We pick up at verse twenty-six, “26If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together. 27Now 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 miracles, then gifts of healing, helping, administrating, and 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 with tongues? Do all interpret? 31But earnestly desire the higher gifts” (v. 26-31a).
 
Anyone who has been sick and in the hospital and has one part of their body breakdown or malfunction, such as having a heart attack, or a kidney stone or a gall stone, or a stroke, or whatever, will certainly understand that Paul is telling us the fact that a body has to have all its parts working to function properly. When one part fails the whole body struggles.
 
Here again, Paul is comparing the fact that we may humanistically put more emphasis on some parts of our body and hide other parts, we may humanistically believe that certain positions or boards and committees are more important or less important, but he reminds us that all parts are equally important.
 
And Paul reminds us that when one part suffers the whole suffers. Again, anyone who suffers from one part of the body suffering knows that this is the way it is, that when one part suffers, the whole part suffers. Likewise, when one member is suffering we do indeed all suffer, even if we may not feel like it at the time.
 
So, what does this mean? And what does this mean for us? We need to constantly remind ourselves that it is God who redeems us and He has redeemed us for a purpose. He has redeemed us so that we might be His people, so that we might live lives of faith, so that others might see how we love each other and give glory to God, so that others might see our faith and praise the Lord.
 
We want to constantly remind ourselves that it is a privilege to be the people of God in this place and to do the works of service He has prepared in advance for us to do. We want to constantly remind ourselves that God is the one who gives us not only to do works of service, but also the gifts to do them.
 
And so we will continue to work together and working together means we will work together. Working together does not necessarily mean we will always agree with one another, nor does it mean we will always get along together, after all, we are still sin tainted sinners. It is because we are God’s people in this place the devil is going to work on us even more in order to divide and conquer. Working together them means to recognize when the devil is tempting us to be divisive; tempting us to refuse and reject the gifts of God; tempting us to speak half-truths and false statements or prodding others to do so; tempting us in order to move our focus from being God’s people in this place by encouraging each other as brothers and sisters in Christ, especially encouraging each other to be in Divine Service and Bible Class. With the help of the Holy Spirit we recognize the devils temptation to move our focus away from being God’s people in this community working to share God’s Word with those nearest us, instead of focusing all our attention inward as if we are some country club for the Lord.
 
We need to constantly remind ourselves of the bigger picture. We are not here to be self servicing, but we are here to be of service to our Lord who gives us the gifts to use in the first place, in other words, we are here in this place to work to serve our own members so they might be strengthened in faith; we are here in this place to be of service to the community so they might be brought to faith; and we are here in this place to give glory to the Lord. Does what we do give glory to the Lord?
 
Paul’s last statement is “But earnestly desire the higher gifts.” Paul encourages us to desire to be God’s people the best way we can.
 
Finally, let me remind you that we do fail. Time and again we fail, that is why I need also remind you that God never fails. God continues to give us forgiveness and through His Word He continues to guide us to be the people He would have us to be.
    In the Gospel lesson for this morning we were presented with the story of how Jesus own family, friends and congregation treated Him and how they treated Him in person. Perhaps this lesson causes us to pause and ask ourselves how we treat Jesus? Remembering that whatever we do for one of the least of His children, we are doing it to Him.
 
Now, let me take you back to the beginning of our text. Remember, Paul began with God. And so we began with God and this morning we will also end with God. God is indeed the prime mover. The whole reason Jesus came was to do for us what we cannot do for ourselves. Jesus came to live perfectly for us because He knew that we cannot live perfectly. Jesus treats us perfectly, as sinner/saints. Jesus hurts when we hurt. Jesus suffers when we suffer. And Jesus suffered the greatest suffering, indeed, He suffered the eternal punishment for our sins, for us, in our place because of His great love for us. Jesus forgives us so that we may start over again and again and again. That we would desire the higher gifts would be that we would desire to be more Christlike, that is that we would desire for our Lord to have His way with us, loving us and loving others through us. And ultimately, that our desire would be that our very lives might be lives that bring Him praise and glory. For Jesus’ sake. Amen.

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