Summary: Jesus urges us to embrace our differences as Christian individuals who are gifted to serve in unique ways and yet united together around all of the teachings of our Savior.
Hope Lutheran Church - Irmo, SC Pastor Jason Zahn
4th Sunday after Epiphany - ILCW- C
January 28, 2001
1 Corinthians 12:12-21,26,27
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Perhaps you’re like me. My eyes cannot stand to watch it. My ears cringe as the details are described. My mind cannot fathom the catastrophe and the suffering. My heart cannot bear the pain, and my soul cries out for an answer: Why did you let it happen, O God? Early reports estimate that as many as 6,000 people are dead and 14,000 others are injured in India. Why God? Why would you allow such a terrible tragedy to happen to so many unsuspecting people on a day when they as a nation were preparing to unite in the 51st annual celebration of their Republic?
As Christians we know that the world God made and the world that surrounds us today are different by catastrophic proportions. The world of peace and perfection that God created continues to suffer as a result of the earth-shattering decision that Adam and Eve made in the Garden of Eden. The cataclysms and calamities that we witness all around us are constant testimonies of the ongoing problem of sin. They are constant reminders that life in this world will never be heaven on earth.
But there is another purpose that these catastrophes serve. They are reminders to us of the importance and the urgency of the work that we have been called to do as Christians. We have the answer - the only right answer - that can and does rescue people from this world that is steeped in the sadness of sin and drowning in the depths of disappointment and despair. We have the answer that tears a soul from the clutches of Satan and gently rests it in the arms of our loving, heavenly Father. We have that answer to share - not only as individuals, but also as a congregation and as a church body. With that truth in mind we listen to the Apostle Paul’s exhortation to us this morning as he encourages us to: Embrace our Differences. Embrace our differences because we are united in the body of Christ. Embrace our differences because we serve varied functions within the body of Christ.
A.W. Tozer once remarked, "Has it ever occurred to you that one hundred pianos all tuned to the same fork are automatically tuned to each other? They are of one accord by being tuned, not to each other, but to another standard to which each one must individually bow." As Christians we are all tuned by the same tuning fork - the Holy Spirit at work through baptism. In baptism we drank of the same Spirit - that is we were brought together in a common, united faith. At baptism we drank of the same Spirit regardless of our age, our sex, our ethnic background, or our income. Through the work of the Spirit in baptism we are united to Christ as members of his body - and therefore - we are also united to one another.
I’ve heard it said that there are two ways of being united - one is by being frozen together, and the other is by being melted together. By our presence at this Christian congregation you could say that we are frozen together. We physically place ourselves together with this group of people. But notice that the Apostle Paul doesn’t want us as Christians to be content as the frozen chosen. He’s pushing us to the next level. He is urging us to unite together around Christ’s commission. As members of the same body he wants us to seek to grow in God’s Word and go with God’s Word into the world. As we grow and go the Apostle Paul points out that we will be melted together through our experiences. As we are melted together around Christ’s commission this is what happens: when one member of this body suffers we all suffer together. When one member of this body is honored we all rejoice together. That’s true Christian unity - the Spirit of God alive in the heart - and the Spirit of God at work in the hands!
I sometimes wonder if we really understand and apply that truth! Do you see the implications of that truth? Even if there is no one your age in this congregation, even if there is no one who shares a mutual hobby with you, even if there is no one who shares the same life experiences or the same problems, or has the same personality, or the same occupation, there is still a deep and firmly grounded unity in this body! What God has given us as fellow members of this congregation is truly special! Even if you feel like you don’t have a connection with the people of this congregation - God has united you to them in the most intimate of bonds - the bond of faith created in baptism and cemented through growth in the Word and displayed by going with God’s Word!