The Rev’d. N.J.A. Humphrey
24 January 2016
I Corinthians 12:12-31a
I’m sorry to disappoint you, but given the weather forecast and the planned annual meeting, I decided this past week to keep this short. So this morning I’m going to offer you more of a brief meditation on the portion we just heard from the twelfth chapter of Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians rather than a full sermon, or even a mid-sized homily.
Paul’s metaphor of the Church as the Body of Christ is so familiar as to be almost cliché. Almost. But when we look at how a Christian community actually functions, or dysfunctions, we can see that the Body of Christ is more than a metaphor. It’s an organic description. Just as we claim that the Sacrament of Christ’s Body and Blood is not simply symbolic, when we describe ourselves as the Body of Christ we put words to a truth about the nature of the Word itself in relation to us. What makes us irrevocably a part of the one Body of Christ is Baptism, “For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit.”
So we are all one Body. But within this unity we also have many parts, and Paul emphasizes how indispensable each part is to the Body. In all of our “gifts differing,” we still need each other. “That there should be no schism in the body; but that the members should have the same care one for another.”
This phrase takes on added weight in light of recent developments on the world stage of Anglicanism, if you have been following the news. If you haven’t, I’m not recommending that you do, lest you be distracted from the very thing that Paul is commending here: unity in the Body means caring for each other. “And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it.” This teaching is actually harder than it sounds, as we do not naturally wish to suffer with those who suffer, and sometimes we secretly believe others bring their suffering on themselves—particularly if we happen to disagree with or even dislike them. Likewise, most of us do not naturally enjoy sharing the limelight with others. When we see others honored, we can become envious, or tend to see things in terms of “winners” and “losers.” But if it is true, as Paul teaches, that “we are all baptized into one body,” and that we should “have the same care one for another,” then this means taking on each other’s suffering, and what may at timed be even more difficult, rejoicing in each other’s successes. Any differences we may have with one another must take a back seat to our common call to proclaim the love of Christ for the world and to model that love for each other and for the sake of the world.
Corollary to this conclusion that we are all called to proclaim the love of Christ and to act out of it is the conviction that each and every one of us matters. Don’t think for a moment that you are not needed or not essential to the Body of Christ. Without you, the Body is weakened.
As I was preparing for our Annual Meeting this past week, I came across these words: “Imagine what your body would be like if your stomach refused to function, or your feet checked out on you. Those of you who have suffered from gastric problems of neuropathy know what I mean. Failure of any part of our bodies has serious repercussions on our ability to live as we wish. The same is true of the body of Christ. When a Christian believer refuses to participate in the life of the church and is absent from his local church life, the full functioning of the body of Christ is affected….[Every Christian] needs the other parts in order to be healthy and to live in harmony with others.”
Ted Schroder, the author of those words, concludes by writing, “The church is not other people. The church is not the preacher, the pastor, the priest, the bishop or the clergy. The church is not a committee or a program. The church is people. The church is the Body of Christ. The church is you. It is made up of people like you. What you do is contagious. You either create healthy functioning or disabling sickness. All who touched Jesus in faith were made whole. We can be the healing presence of Jesus in this community. Will you do it by participating fully in the Body of Christ?”
As we gather today for our Annual Meeting, may our deepest and fullest possible participation in the Body of Christ through St. John’s be our corporate and individual goal for 2016.
 Shroder, Ted, “You Are Indispensible: 1 Corinthians 12:12-27” Meditation for January 24, 2016 www.tedschroder.com. I am indebted to this meditation for helping me shape to my own thoughts on the subject.