The Body of Christ
As we wind down our stewardship campaign for the year, we take a look at our stewardship theme, that we are all a part of something greater than ourselves, and we examine what this means for us, internally and externally, as we strive to live as the body of Christ in the world.
The Body of Christ
Rev. Leanne Masters
Southern Heights Presbyterian Church
November 10th, 2013
I love this classic image of the church as the body of Christ that Paul write about in his letter to the church of Corinth, where we each individually are parts of the body, that come together to make the whole body. I love this image, because it so succinctly illustrates for us how vital we all are to the body of Christ...with all our varied gifts and skills, we each bring something special to the body that it cannot do without, and that the diversity that we all bring is not only good and special, but necessary to the working of the body. In another part of this letter, which we didn't read here this morning, Paul goes on to elaborate...can the body be made up of only ears and have it's only function be hearing?
Yes, the body of Christ is made up of all of us, with all that we are and all that we bring. Together, we are the body of Christ, and individually members of it.
But what we often miss when we are talking about this beautiful image of the body of Christ is the purpose that Paul lays out for the body...the reason why the body is made up not just of ears, but of ears and eyes and hands and feet and mouths and tongues and...
Paul tells us that the purpose for the gifts that we have been given, the purpose for which we are brought together in all of our beautiful diversity, is that we are given manifestations of the Spirit for the common good.
Now, it's easy for us to look around and say, "oh, yeah, that makes sense! We are given a variety of gifts for the common good of the body." Because, in many ways, it is very true, after all, this church is made not only more whole, but much more better because of the people and the gifts that we have represented in this place. We have individuals who are gifted at hospitality and planning of events, making each event and program that we have welcoming and, well, quite functional. We have individuals who are gifted at teaching, helping us all to understand the word of God more deeply in our lives at many different stages in our life, from the youngest to the most experienced. We have those who are gifted in fixing and maintaining things, keeping the building and the land running and growing in more than one way. We have individuals who are quite gifted at accounting, managing the financial gifts that we have been given and keeping us on track.
I've named just a few, but the reality is that I could go on and on and on, listing the different gifts that we each have been given, and how they serve the common good of this congregation...to build up the body of Christ here in this place...to deepen our faith in God, to strengthen our relationship with Christ, and to help us be filled with the Spirit.
A while back, under the leadership of one of our interim pastors, this congregation came up with a mission statement, a definition, so to speak, of who we are as a congregation. The first part of this mission statement talks about this understanding of what Paul was saying when he said that we are gifted with a variety of gifts for the common good. The mission statement declares that we are Inwardly Strong. And we truly are. We are strong as a family because of the many members of this family. We laugh with one another, and we weep with one another. We support each other through thick and thin and we come together to worship and to pray and to sing and to dance and to be the body of Christ here in this place. Our gifts are brought together for the common good of Southern Heights Presbyterian Church, and for the common good of all the individual members of this church.
Our mission statement does not end there, does it?
Nor does what Paul was saying here in Corinthians.
For we are not only called together for the common good of the body itself, but for the common good of the world.
We are called to be Outwardly Focused. We are called to go out, as the body of Christ, into the world to serve.
And, as we do so, those very same gifts that we have that serve the common good of this congregation go to serve the common good of the world. Now, those gifts may take different forms and have different manifestations as we take them from one context to another, but the fact of the matter is that they come together, fit together, to serve God’s purpose as we go out in the world. To, as Micah says, do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with our God in all the ways that we can as we are gifted to do so as a body.
Whether we are looking at the common good of the congregation, or the common good of the greater world, it is important to know that each of us is a part of that. We are each a part of something so much greater than ourselves, as our gifts combine with the gifts of others to serve and to share and to live and to love God’s truth in this place and in every place.
Now, here’s the rub. What does that mean for us, sitting here today?
You know that we’re in the midst of our stewardship drive. Hopefully, you will be staying for the meal after the service and for the presentation after the service. During this, I promise short, presentation, we will be talking about some of the things that we have accomplished in this church and as a church in the past several years, and we will be talking about some of the things that we hope to do in the future, in and as the church. The reality is that none of what we have accomplished in the past would have been possible without the gifts of each of the members of the body, coming together in all our varied abilities...and not a single thing that we hope to accomplish can be done without the members of the body.
Friends, as we continue in a time of prayerful discernment on our giving for the coming year, I would encourage you to remember that you are a member of the body of Christ, with your own unique gifts and abilities, and I encourage you to seek God’s guidance in how your gifts can be used for the common good...of this body and of God’s world, as we continue to seek how best to be the Inwardly Strong and Outwardly Focused body of Christ in and for the world.