The Body of Christ According to Android

When you’re talking church, and you’re talking about engaging one’s neighborhood,

the Body of Christ is like…. this:

Sure wish I had a way to show this Sunday morning.

Be together. Not the same.

1 Corinthians 12:12-27
For 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. For in the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body–Jews or Greeks, slaves or free–and we were all made to drink of one Spirit. Indeed, the body does not consist of one member but of many. If the foot would 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 would 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. If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole body were hearing, where would the sense of smell be? But as it is, 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 members, 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.” On the contrary, the members of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and those members of the body that we think less honorable we clothe with greater honor, and our less respectable members are treated with greater respect;  whereas our more respectable members do not need this. But God has so arranged the body, giving the greater honor to the inferior member, 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.

Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.

Lessons from My Father’s Desk

Well, I’ve been here a week now. Got it all figured out! I know what to do to increase attendance, solve all the church’s financial problems, engage our neighborhood, and make everyone happy in the process!

Right. But I did at least remember to bring my sermon with me this morning.  Baby steps…

I have met more people now, and am beginning to know the stories of some of you. One thing I think EVERYONE has said so far, in some form or fashion: “Western Hills is such a good place. We just need more people!”

This sermon is an attempt to share some thoughts about that.

In the scripture today, Paul is addressing the people of the church in Corinth, because they are having problems being a church. It’s nothing new, even when it WAS new. Same sort of problems have been around, as long as churches have existed, because churches are people.

This isn’t to say at all that organizations are inherently bad things. But they are all composed of people, and we are all fallible. Paul is using imagery to compare the church to a human body with a head, hands and feet – the body comprising all the people in the church. He wasn’t the first person to use this body analogy – lots of writers in the Roman world used it, especially politicians and philosophers. But there were differences. In the social hierarchy of the Roman world, the head of the body was typically going to be chosen from among the elite and wealthy – the ruling class as it were. Everyone else was responsible for the grunt work.

What works in the secular world doesn’t work as well for the body of Christ. Paul was using the same image but doing something very different with it. He was saying we are one body, united in Christ, so we have unity with each other. And because of that unity with each other, we all get treated the same. Weaker parts are treated with special care, and all the parts belong to one another, equal. It’s not a case of some parts being more equal than other parts. Paul was turning the social hierarchy upside down, just like Jesus always did, and does.

Brian Peterson, a NT professor at a Lutheran seminary in NC said it very concisely:

We often confuse unity with uniformity, because it is much easier to gather with people who are like ourselves than it is to reach across the divisions which mark our culture. Thus, few of our churches reflect the ethnic, social, and economic diversity of the neighborhoods around them. Our congregations are often very homogenous, and we are, sadly, comfortable with that.

 Paul made examples of the disparity between Gentiles and Jews, women and men, rich and poor. Church people don’t usually quibble over each other’s spiritual gifts. What I’ve seen so far is caring people, working together, doing a good job of taking care of each other within the church and reaching out through several established channels to the world beyond the church – Under the Bridge, Heifer, helping out with supplies for the school next door, and until recently, the Food Pantry.

But where do we go from here, and how do we do it? What polarizes us – or paralyzes us here, in the 21st century in the Western Hills neighborhood? What’s our plan for moving forward?

I don’t know yet, but if we do it right, it should look something like this: (Android ad – Be together – not the same) Unlikely pairings blue-tick hound/orangutan, baby rhino and a sheep, a sheep and an elephant, dog and cat, cats and duckling, cockatiel and dog, dog and dolphin, a marmot and tortoise — Together, not the same at all, but together.)

***
I’ve noticed when people ask me about my family background, a lot of them conclude that because my three older brothers were United Methodist pastors, my father must have also been a pastor. But he was not. My dad was a jeweler. He was many other things, too, as we all are, but by trade, he was a jeweler. He was good at taking tiny bits and bobs of metal and stone and creating new things of great beauty and value. It seemed an odd profession for someone with broad, thick hands and short, log-like fingers, but he was very deft and skilled with tiny tweezers, special tools and an ever-present head-mounted eye-loupe, which he called his “lookers.”

And in our house, as far back as I can remember there was the rolltop. This behemoth desk was Dad’s domain, its myriad drawers and shelves full of mysterious and wonderful treasures – and off-limits to my curious kid hands. There is probably fodder for an entire sermon series based on the things in that desk: clockworks – springs, cogs, tiny screws, flat crystals, gears, stems, broken rings, earrings and watchbands, loose coins, receipts, buttons, rubber bands, marbles, fountain pens, and little manila envelopes with rocks in them. Little rough pebbles – brown, greenish gray, black, reddish gold – just rocks. I remember once when a friend was over to play, she asked about “that desk with all the drawers,” and even though I wasn’t supposed to meddle with things on the desk, I showed her some of the things in the drawers, and in so doing, I came across a drawer I’d never noticed before. It had a number of beautiful, polished stones in it – we thought we must have opened a drawer of rare gems – stones smooth and shiny as glass – some solid, some with stripes and bands of contrasting colors, some with swirls, purple, green, deep crimson, some translucent, some solid, one a deep rusty brown with golden flecks and sparkles, a piece of turquoise, shiny onyx black – it was a treasure drawer.

I sort of got myself in a pickle, because I wanted to ask where those beautiful stones had come from, but I would have to explain what I was doing rummaging around in the rolltop that was off limits to me… I did ask, though, and Dad told me all those shiny stones were just like those envelopes of pebbles and rocks, except they’d been tumbled to make them smooth and shiny.

I was pretty skeptical about that until he showed me a rock tumbler and how it worked. Rocks, water, grit, motion, and time. I still remember the feeling of wonder that hit me when it sank in that something as plain and ordinary as those little pebbles could be transformed into something so beautiful.

The same thing happens to us as the body of Christ.

We work together, worship, pray, and play together, plan, sweat, laugh, argue, get in each other’s way, love each other, forgive each other, and do it all over again and again and again, all the while listening for the voice of God and trusting in the proddings and nudges of the Holy Spirit, and then one day, we discover we have moved from where we were to where God was calling us to go. And the journey continues.

We discover we’re starting to resemble that pile of tumbled stones

It’s the friction.
It’s the motion together, over time.
It’s embracing opportunities and challenges rather than being defeated by problems.
It’s dealing with the issues, whatever they are. It’s listening to ideas, having ideas, making plans, experimenting, by trial and error, maybe taking some risks, and it’ll take time and effort.
It’s sandpaper Christianity.
The body of Christ in a rock tumbler.

“One Body” (This is a song I learned at the national Episcopal Youth Event in Amherst, MA in the early 90s.  I can’t find the songbook I know I still have, and I’m no longer sure who wrote the song. Might have been Lindy Hearne, might have been someone else. But the words are basically as follows.)

CHORUS
We are one (we are one)
One body (one body)
Many parts (many parts)
One body (one body)
God has made (God has made)
One body (one body)
All of us (all of us)
One body (one body)

VERSE 1
If I am an ear (one body) I will need the eye (one body)
If I am a foot (one body) I will need the hand (one body)
One –ooooooh

CHORUS

VERSE 2
So it is with Christ (one body) each one has a gift (one body)
Each must do a part (one body) Together we will stand (one body)
One –ooooooh

CHORUS

 

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