Summary: Bodies can be united and strong or broken and weak. If we join together in a combined effort, we can be the body of Christ in the world!
Have you ever thought about what first brought you to the Church? I grew up in the church, but at some point we all make decisions that either bring us to the Church for the first time, or keep us in the Church if we are already there. Why are you here at Grace United Methodist Church? Was it the outstanding sermons? Are you here because the building is pretty or because of the body of believers that surround you? That is the members; those folks who have allowed the call of Christ to be lived out through their lives. One of the big questions in church circles today is, “What brings people to the church; particularly young people?” I was reading several articles this week about Generation X and Generation Y and the Church. “Gen Xers” are considered those born from 1961 to 1981, while “Gen Y” consists of those born from 1982 to 1995. One of the defining marks of these two generations is a philanthropic desire; a passion to be involved in affecting positive change in the world. A lot of the reason that there are a decreasing number of young adults to be found in churches is because when these “Gen Xers and Yers” look at churches, what they see is a bunch of people who are just pew warmers, when what they want to see is people fully living out the values of Christ and Christianity in the world. A United Methodist Bishop recently put it this way, these young persons want to see “people who are living Christianity not [just] practicing Christianity.”
If we look at it from Paul’s perspective heard just moments ago, we would say that young adults are hungry to see the body of Christ at work and to get involved themselves. We should all be hungry to see the body of Christ at work; but even more than that, we should be anxious to be at work ourselves, to put our God-given gifts to work in our community and world. The Church is to be the place where, together, we learn how to be God’s genuinely human beings, worshipping God and serving him by reflecting God’s image in the world.
The Bible uses many analogies for the Church, and even Paul himself refers to the Church in many different ways: building, temple, or field to name a few. But in this passage from Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians, we hear what is perhaps Paul’s most famous analogy for the church; the body. Certainly, the Church is more than what is alluded to through the images of the body, but it is nevertheless an extremely important thought that Paul has put before us, especially when we consider that Paul used this analogy only when there were problems of disunity in the Church.
So, the Church is called the body of Christ. Bodies can be united and strong, or they can be broken and weak. Have you ever thought about what it would be like if the members of our physical bodies behaved like the members of the spiritual body sometimes do?
HEART: "You know, I’m just stuck in a rut. For the last 45 years all I do is beat and beat. Ba, dum…ba, dum….ba, dum. I’m tired of it. It’s time for someone else to step up and do this job. Okay, feet, it’s up to you. You pump the blood.”
LUNGS: “We are so under-appreciated around here. I don’t think the other organs realize that they couldn’t do their jobs without us. If we quit doing our job for a few minutes, everyone will finally see how valuable we are to this place. The brain thinks he’s big stuff. Humph! Let him do without some oxygen for a while and we’ll see how important he is!”
LIVER: "Why do I get all the dirty work? You think it’s fun making bile? I’ve been in this body for 45 years now and do you think anyone has ever asked me to make any decisions, pump any blood, or perform any functions that are noticeable outside the body? Sometimes I wonder why I bother."
APPENDIX: "Ha! Just watch the rest of those organs work. Day after day, hour after hour, they work themselves do death. I’m just along for the ride. Why contribute when I can just sit here and get the same nutrients and oxygen that they get? Why get involved?"
You get the idea. The point is that the individual parts that make up our bodies were created specifically for certain tasks within the body as a whole. The body works as a finely tuned machine when all the parts do what they were uniquely gifted to do. The parts of the body are not jealous of each other and do not covet each other’s functions. There are no unimportant parts -- except the appendix. Of course, we all have weaknesses that (like the appendix) can be a real pain when inflamed, which is why it is all the more important that we cultivate our spiritual gifts and serve according to the blessings of God. The gifts we each possess are not just for us; they are God’s gift to the whole church through us. I don’t think any of us want to be like the appendix; just along for the ride. And it’s detrimental to the church and the church’s work in the world when that is the case. It’s great for us to have God-given gifts, but those gifts are absolutely meaningless unless we put them to use in the context of the whole body that is the Church.