With the limited time available in Sunday morning worship, we often don't get to delve deeply into all of the nuances and implications of the scriptural passages that are chosen for a particular day. And, sometimes, there are more questions that arise from the sermon than answers given. The "After-Sermon" offers an opportunity to continue our Sunday morning conversation into the rest of the week while at the same time inviting different voices and perspectives to the party. Thus, this "After-Sermon" blog is born and you are invited to participate!
As we feel our way through the process, I envision that the After-Sermon blog can become the springboard for future on-site and electronic bible studies and other Q & A style conversations which will allow us to learn from one another without having to actually be present in the same place and at the same time! I hope this will prove profitable for everyone. Let's start!
1 Corinthians 12 - Being the Body of Christ
Our time in the Word Sunday was centered around Paul's letter to the church in Corinth (Chapter 12) as he tried to encourage the folks in that assembly to be a people who really represent who God is and what God does in and through each and all of them.
As I and other scholars read these passages, Paul is making the case for God essentially making a new body for Christ.
Why? Because the ascended Jesus no longer had a human body, and to address this circumstance, God was making him one out of anybody he could find who looked as if they might possibly fill the need. So, God was repurposing their hands to be Christ's hands and their feet to be Christ's feet, and when there was some place where Christ was needed immediately, God calls upon available, if less-than-perfect bystanders and sends/directs and empowers those persons to go and be Christ -- for lack of anybody better.
At first glance, this may look a bit like a Frankenstein moment, but unlike Mary Shelly's character - who took disparate parts from the multitudes of the dead to "build" a reanimated body, God puts us together as an animated whole where our "living" gifts combine with others' to form the Church - which is now the "body" of Christ!
Why does that make a difference? Because, for better or for worse, we sometimes begin to arrange the various gifts in a hierarchy that divides the body - making artificial and debilitating decisions about which "parts" are more important than others. And this is what was happening in Corinth.
I know, I sound like a three year-old with all of the whys? But we need to ask the questions in order to get to the answers.
Why is the unity of the Church important? Because any "body" - any organism or organization - is totally dependent upon the proper functioning of its various parts! Paul is moving us from identifying ourselves by our individual gifts into seeing ourselves as part of a cohesive and interdependent whole -- God's chosen instrument (body) to represent Christ in the world.
In other words, we don't bring our gifts to the church, we combine our gifts to become the Church!
Opposite an identity which elevates some while diminishing others -a divisiveness that affects the whole of humankind - we, as the people of God and created in the holiness of Christ, are to find our sense of identity not in the roles we play within the Church and world, but in the sense of the oneness we share in the life of Jesus.
We are not asked or required to be or play Christ in the world. We are, however instructed to be members of a body, the body of Christ - who serves as the "head" - and to play our unique part. Nothing more and certainly nothing less. While some of the "parts" of the church, such as deacons and elders, are more public and known/shown, it takes all of the "behind the scenes" players for the church to function as it should. Regardless of how we view our "spirituality" or giftedness (either overplaying our gifts or underplaying our roles), we are all required for the body to function at its peak.
Okay, that's enough for now. I preached this once and once is probably enough. But, that doesn't mean I don't have questions to ponder, and here they are:
Have you ever considered or evaluated what your spiritual gifts are?
If you use Paul's imagery of a human body, what part are you and why?
Is there really a place for every body in the Church? Is anyone too old, young, disabled, wounded, uncertain, or doubting?
Where is God calling you, as an important and necessary "part"?
Remembering that we just celebrated the Holy Spirit's advent at Pentecost, how does this person of the unified trinity enable us to become a cohesive whole?
Please come on board and let's talk about what you think regarding either "The After-Sermon" or the ideas I have advanced about the writings of Paul. I look forward to your comments and insights. See you soon!