1 Corinthians 12:12-27

If you were to take a dollar bill from your wallet or a coin from your pocket and look at it very carefully, you would find the Latin phrase “E Pluribus Unum.” It is the motto of the United States, chosen by a committee of the Continental Congress in 1776 consisting of Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, and Thomas Jefferson. The motto was officially adopted in 1782. The phrase means “Out of Many, One” and refers to the idea that the United States is one nation comprised by several different states.

The apostle Paul might easily have chosen this phrase as a description of the Church as the Body of Christ. He used this metaphor of the physical human body as an analogy to explain the Church and how it is to function. Several times in the passage, we heard Paul make the point that, though the Body of Christ is made up of many parts and consists of many members, they are all part of one body. This body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ. All who are baptized are baptized in one Spirit into one body, regardless of categories or labels that might define and divide us (1 Cor 12:13; Gal 3:28).  In verse 20, he wrote, “As it is, there are many members, yet one body.” And again in verse 27, to emphasize his point: “Now you are the body of Christ, and individually members of it.”

In this passage, Paul focused on addressing an attitude disrupting the church in Corinth. It appears that the members of this church were arguing about who had the best gifts, who was most important, and therefore, who was least important (or even, unneeded). So, using this image of members of one body, he described how every part of the body was important. “If the foot would say, ‘Because I’m not a hand, I do not belong to the body,’ that would not make it any less a part of the body” (1 Cor 12:15). He continued this absurd idea with ears, eyes, and noses. In his creative way, Paul made some important points for us to remember.

One, we are all different and important. A body that is all eyes or ears or noses, or one big foot isn’t a body. Each member of the Body of Christ is unique, distinctive, unrepeatable, and important. There has never been a member of Christ’s body exactly like you or me. God has created, designed, and called each of us to fulfill our role in the Body for such a time as this.

On my worst days, I wonder, “Why can’t everyone in church be like me?” As if that would solve everything! Can you imagine how boring and tragic that would be? Pastor Becky and the rest of my family could tell you lots of reasons why that would be a bad idea. It would be as impractical as if our glorious human bodies consisted only of eyes, ankles, or left elbows! God has made each of us in marvelous diversity to complement each other, to work together well, to play off each other’s gifts and strengths.

We are all different and important. Second, we need each other. As our eye cannot tell our hand, “I don’t need you” or the head say to the feet, “I don’t need you,” so we need each other. In the Body of Christ, we need each other, not only for the health of the whole body, but to enable individual members to live to their God-given full potential. Turn to a neighbor (or online, comment on Facebook or email or text a friend) and say to them, “I need you, and you need me.”

Therefore, none of us can count ourselves out. Even though we might feel at times that we have nothing to offer, that fact is that we need each other. I need you, and you need me, for the Body of Christ and for this part of the Body known as St. Andrew’s UMC to live into God’s call for us. In the same way, neither can we dismiss someone as unimportant, regardless of age, experience, ability, or any other qualification we might imagine. Every member of the body matters.  

The point is for us to be the church God wants us to be and to function the way God wants us to function, we need each other.

Paul’s third point is this: We are called to care for one another in the Body. He wrote in verses 25 and 26, “… that there may be no dissension within the body, but the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honored, all rejoice together with it.” Every part of the Body should have respect and concern for one another. Every part of the Body should care for one another.

The way we care for one another is by knowing one another and entering into each other’s joys and sorrows, triumphs and trials, hopes and disappointments. We come alongside one another and spur each other on in love – not tear each other down with cruelty, gossip, quarrels, or disrespect. We love one another and serve one another. Turn to someone near you (or online, comment on Facebook or email or text a friend) and say, “When you suffer, I suffer; when you rejoice, I rejoice.”

Let’s be honest for a moment and admit that we don’t develop friendships or relationships by simply sitting in the same room together, looking at the back of others’ heads in worship, or by watching alone on our screens. Worshiping together does create a sense of shared experience and hopefully brings us into the awareness of God’s presence and love. But worship by itself is not enough to grow closer to one another in the Body of Christ.

Small groups, classes, and Bible studies are all ways to gather with others and grow together as you share life, prayer, fellowship, and learning. St. Andrew’s has several existing small groups; we offer Sunday school classes launching today for children and adults. Talk to Pastor Becky for information about small groups and classes for adults; see Kris Tisdale for information on classes for children.

Another great way to grow in relationship and faith is to serve together. When we serve together, we connect around a common goal and get to know one another as we work and share Christ’s love with others. Talk to any staff member about opportunities.

Herman Ostry of Bruno, Nebraska, had a problem. His 1928 barn kept flooding under two feet of water from a nearby creek. He wanted to move his barn to a new foundation on higher ground. His son engineered the project, and Herman invited friends and neighbors to come and help move it – by hand. On July 30, 1988, 344 people from 11 states, each took a place holding on to handles around the exterior of the barn, as 4,000 onlookers watching, waiting for the barn to collapse. At the appointed moment, under the guidance of Herman, the team of able-bodied men and women lifted and walked the nine-ton wooden structure 115 feet to its new foundation and reoriented it from facing east to south. It took less than five minutes, and each person bore a little over 50 pounds.[1]

This is a beautiful image of what the Body of Christ can do when we recognize that each of us is different and important, we need one another, and we care for one another.

In a few moments, we will welcome some new members to our congregation here at St. Andrew’s. They will state their baptismal vows and we will reaffirm ours to renounce and reject evil powers and repent of our sin; to live by the freedom God gives us, resisting evil, injustice, and oppression. We will confess our faith in God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. They will affirm and we will renew our commitment to our membership vows: to participate faithfully as members in Christ’s Body by our prayers, our presence, our gifts, our service, and our witness.

As Rev. Dan Dick, an author and UM pastor, has written in his blog:  “The vows of membership are not burdens loaded on the shoulders of the men and women who make them.  Prayer is a spiritual discipline and a gift.  It helps connect individuals to God and God’s will, and it helps strengthen the bonds of Christian community as people pray with and for each other.  Presence is an invitation to be exposed to the teachings of Christ and the church that impact and shape values, priorities, desires, expectations, and life direction.  Together we are stronger than we are apart.  Gifts challenge us to invest in something larger than ourselves; to take what we have, connect it to the giving of others, and create something that will honor and glorify God.  We give to make manifest what we profess with our mouths — our gifts become outward and visible signs of our inward and spiritual faith.  Service is where we put ourselves on the line to do something — to be the body of Christ incarnate.  We become the hands of Christ, comforting the anxious, healing the hurt, feeding the hungry, visiting the lonely and imprisoned, housing the homeless, clothing the naked, and giving hope to the hopeless.  This is also our witness — and as we walk this earth as the incarnate body of Christ, we praise, glorify, and worship our God with not only our actions, but also our words.  We don’t just serve those who come to us, but we go forth into the world looking for the next person in need.”[2] As witnesses, we go forth to sharing the love of Christ in all that we do individually and together.[3]

We are all individual members, united by Christ, who form one body, the Body of Jesus Christ. We are all different and important. We need each other. And we are to care for one another. We are many members – and today we celebrate our new members. Together, we are one Body.

[1] Shari Reisdorff and Jim Reisdorff, “More than a barn move,” The Banner-Press, https://columbustelegram.com/community/banner-press/news/more-than-a-barn-move/article_fbf80a08-ae28-5a04-a66f-792f540c85c9.html,  09/28/2018. Accessed 09/09/2021.

[2] “The Big Five,” https://doroteos2.com/2009/02/01/the-big-five/, 2/1/2009. Accessed 09/10/2021.

[3] UMC General Board of Discipleship, “New Membership Vows (Revised and Corrected),” https://www.umcdiscipleship.org/resources/new-membership-vows-and-ritual-revised-and-corrected, 12/14/2009

 

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