How do you feel about your body? Strange question for a sermon, isn’t it? Most of us would rather not think about our bodies and if we do we probably don’t think of them very highly. It’s too fat or too skinny, too short or too tall. Bumpy, lumpy or just plain ugly -- kind of like the guy who was so ugly when he was a kid that his parents took him everywhere they went so they wouldn’t have to kiss him good bye. That’s how we think about it. So it’s pretty amazing that when Paul reached out to find a metaphor to adequately describe the church of Jesus Christ -- the one he came back to time and time again was that of the human body. He says in 1 Corinthians 12, "The human body has many parts, but the many parts make up only one body. So it is with the body of Christ....we have all been baptized into Christ’s body by one Spirit, and we have all received the same Spirit. Yes, there are many parts, but only one body," and in verse 27 he says, "Now all of you together are Christ’s body, and each one of you is a separate and necessary part of it." Look around you; each one of you makes up a part of the body of Christ. Just as God put together our physical bodies together in our mothers womb’s, so He put us together as the Body of Christ!
In the Epistles of the NT, Paul makes over 30 references to the body of Christ. What we do often is to skip over things like that without really taking the time to think about it. We all know what a body is, we all occupy one every day, but do we really take time to look at how these vessels of flesh and blood that we live in are a living illustration of what the Church is Jesus Christ is meant to be like?
According to the Bible, the church is not an organization or an institution, it’s an organism - ever growing and becoming. It’s not a community group -- It’s a whole new community, with a new order, with new values, very often in sharp conflict with the values of the surrounding society. By one and the same Spirit, God has called us to be "one body in Christ." Let’s look at SEVEN BLESSINGS in WHAT WE HAVE BEEN CALLED TO IN BELONGING TO THE BODY OF CHRIST:
As members of His body at Our Savior we have been called to... 1. Share in the promises in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 3:6) "..through the gospel...(we) are heirs...members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus." NIV Very often we go through life and we don’t even begin to realize the blessings that we have! It says in 2 Cor 1:20 "For no matter how many promises God has made, they are "Yes " in Christ." All of the promises of God are "yes" to us in Christ Jesus. God said His yes to us, when in love He sent His Son to be one of us -- and as our substitute to die our death with the wrath of God the Father heaped upon Him. And because the Father accepted His sacrifice for us, we know ourselves to be forgiven and redeemed -- bought back to Himself. We are made co-heirs together with Christ of God’s eternal kingdom. We are given a peace that passes all understanding. Because of the promises that come to me because of His resurrection, and if something happens to me today, I know that when my eyes close in death within the twinkling of an eye I’ll be in the presence of Jesus my Savior. Because of that promise I can have the courage to forget what is past, put my hands to the present, face the future because I trust in Jesus Christ who is the same yesterday, today and forever. I know His promise is that though whatever circumstances that come my way I’m in the Master’s hand who will not let me go and that He’ll use them to build my faith. He’s my strength and my shield, my mighty fortress in times of trouble. Through His Word and Sacraments, He promises to keep me in the one true faith. Wow!! Those are just some of the promises that cause us to come together not just for the weekend worship services – but throughout each week and to join in doing what God has called us to do together! We are sharer’s together in those promises and all of the other promises we have from God to us.
He’s called us to... 2. Hope (Ephesians 4:4) "...you were called to one hope when you were called" NIV What a hope we have! What is hope? The Bible says that "...faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see." In our language hope is a verb, but in Greek in this verse it’s a noun. Some people put their hope in their education. Some put hope in their health. Some put hope for security in wealth–that’s their anchor. But they may just have an experience similar to that of the ship, the Marine Electric, which sank off the coast of Virginia early in 1983, costing the lives of thirty-one sailors. The reason was this: the ship’s eight-ton anchor came loose and battered the hull of the ship until the ship went down. The vessel was destroyed by its own anchor. If wealth is your anchor, it may destroy you. If health is your anchor you may get sunk at your next doctor’s visit. Our hope in Christ is the only unfailing anchor for the soul. There is a natural hope and a spiritual hope. "Of that natural hope, Omar Khayyam said, "It is like snow in the desert." But of our spiritual hope, Hebrews 6:19 says it is "an anchor for the soul." As believers in Christ we’re called to the one hope of our calling -- that is, to eternal life in God’s kingdom. It’s the rock solid assurance of no matter what the future has in store for us and that God is the owner of all things, the Lord of history -- that God is in charge!
He’s called us to... 3. Belong (Romans 12:5) "...so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others." NIV When God calls you to salvation, He also calls you to a community. There is no such thing as Christianity in isolation. There are no "Lone Ranger" disciples. Solo fliers -- my life is my business! Within the community of believers? That’s baloney! When God calls us, He calls us together. We become members of the Body of Christ.
I don’t know how much of a scientific background Paul had, but he seems to have a great grasp of biology. Each cell of the human body has a specific function. However, its purpose is to help every other cell survive. That’s called homeostasis in biology. Each cell works for the good of all the others.
God keeps His promises to me by drawing me into the family of God called the church -- the body of Christ. There’s a closer union and connection between us than any physical bond we could ever have because we’re related to one another through the blood of Jesus Christ. We belong to Christ who bought us and we belong to one another. We are blood brothers and sisters in Christ. Belonging to the body of Christ we identify with Christ and His people. By identifying yourself as a member of Christ’s body through Our Savior, you make it clear who’s side your on. You’re part of God’s plan to reach people lost without Christ and to call people into fellowship with the body of believers. Together with the rest you demonstrate your commitment to the proper workings of the parts of the body of Christ.
On July 24, 2002 at the Quecreek Mine in Pennsylvania — nine miners were trapped for three days 240 feet underground in a water-filled mine shaft. They decided very early on that they were either going to live or die as a group. The 55 degree temperature of the water threatened to kill them slowly by hypothermia, so according to one news report, "When one would get cold, the other eight would huddle around the person and warmed them, and they returned the favor for each other." One of the miners said, "Everybody has strong moments, but any certain time maybe one guy got down, and the rest pulled together. And then that guy would get back up, and maybe someone else would feel a little weaker, but it was a team effort. That’s the only way it could have been." They faced incredibly hostile conditions together – and they all came out alive together. What a picture of the body of Christ!
Even if you have just a superficial grasp of this one body imagery, it demolishes most of the individualized religion of our day. Overemphasize personal opinion and you create a fragile unity. As sinners, we’re naturally divisive; so it’s only through the presence and work of Christ that we can stay together. Only in Christ is there basis for unity that transcends differences. Maybe more churches and relationships between believers would be preserved if we ended every disagreement with a genuine question, "Are we still together in Christ?", and "Are we focusing not on what we want but on what He, the Lord of the church wants us to do?"
We are called to... 4. Peace (Colossians 3:15) "Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace." NIV We’re called to give up our selfish mind-set and pursuits and hand ourselves over to the greater good of the Body. The way we relate to one another is supposed to be radically different from the way non-Christians treat one another. Humility, gentleness, patience, enduring one another’s faults, weaknesses, idiosyncrasies, should characterize our relationships. That demands a selfless attitude.
When Jesus stands among us and His presence and His words proclaim, "Peace be with you," that peace is our bond. We’re united by that peace. The peace comes through the grace of God -- a peace that passes all understanding, a peace that is our common joy. That peace frees us from competing against one another and comparing ourselves to one another. We are who we are in Christ, and with Christ as our peace, we share a common bond. You and I keep the unity of the Spirit by keeping Christ as our peace.
We are called to the 5. Truth (Ephesians 4:15-16) "Instead, we will hold to the truth in love, becoming more and more in every way like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church. Under his direction, the whole body is fitted together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love." NLT The truth that’s being talked about here is God’s unfailing Word. We’re in this together. The health of this local Body and your individual spiritual maturity is connected to each one. God’s intention is that we be united in building each other up in His Word of truth. If anyone’s not serious about God or his people it affects the entire church. The Bible speaks of spiritual maturity as a group issue. God takes our vows and commitments seriously. It means that we have a commitment to challenge those who are loosely connected and do everything in our power to draw them back to God and to His grace. If they put up a wall, then we have to speak the truth in love and ask them where they are in their relationship to Christ as Savior and Lord. How committed are you to be spiritually "healthy and growing and full of love?" The Body of Jesus Christ is only as strong as its weakest link!
God has called us to.. 6. Unity and Oneness Ephesians 4:3 "Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace." NIV And also, verse 13 says "So all of us together shall come to that oneness in our faith and in our knowledge of the Son of God; we shall become mature and complete people, becoming fully like Christ in all we think, say, and do." (KMM)
As Herman was driving down the freeway one day, his cell phone rang. Answering, he heard his wife’s voice urgently warning him, "Herman, I just heard on the news that there’s a car going the wrong way down the highway. Please be careful!" "It’s not just one car," said Herman. "It’s hundreds of them!" Just as one or several cars can create major problems on a one-way highway if they are not going in the same direction; so, too, in the Church, the body of Christ, major problems can occur if one or more members are not living in unity with the other members. Divisions within the church? Factions? The Bible makes very clear that God has no plan for that to be a part of His Church! Instead He says, (Phil 2:2) "...make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose."
Why should we as believers in Christ diligently maintain our unity? Because Jesus demands it! There is only one body and one Spirit. It takes one body to contain one spirit. Anything else is impossible! If you have one body, but more than one spirit, chaos reigns within that one body. If you need an example, I submit to you exhibit A—the United States Congress, primarily made up of two spirits, the spirit of the Democrats and the spirit of the Republicans. Now, because we are talking about sinful people trying to make the best of a chaotic world, it is perhaps good to have the checks and balances of two parties. But
when we are talking about the inner being of a living organism, it is not good to have competing spirits. That’s why God hates double-minded men! We cannot have one body and several spirits. We’re all pulling together for one thing: The Gospel of Jesus Christ – that we and others might come to know Him and the power of His resurrection!
We are called to... 7. Function (Romans 12:4-5) "Just as our bodies have many parts and each part has a special function, so it is with Christ’s body. We are all parts of his one body, and each of us has different work to do. And since we are all one body in Christ, we belong to each other, and each of us needs all the others." NLT
Muscular dystrophy is a terrible disease. The person with MD has all the right parts and equipment available -- brain cells, neurons, axons, dendrites, muscles -- but they don’t work properly. The problem isn’t in the brain. The brain sends the appropriate signals. The problem lies between the nerve and the muscle. The nerve conveys the brain’s message, such as move, turn, lift, etc., but the muscle does not respond. The body is essentially non-responsive to the brain’s commands. Ephesians 4 tells us that there is one body and one Lord over the body -- Jesus. What happens when we don’t obey his commands, follow his lead? We have a sick body. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work. "Muscles that are not used will atrophy" How healthy a part of the body are you?
Did you notice that your body doesn’t exist for your hand. Your body doesn’t exist for your
feet! Your hands and feet exist to help the body function! There’s no room for selfishness. Don’t do anything that tears it down. The church begins to be what God intended it to be when people stop sitting in the pew saying, ’They’re not meeting my needs’ and start saying, ’Whose needs can I meet?’ Then needs will be met. The Church doesn’t exist to
meet our needs. We exist and are a part of it to carry out the work of the Body and in doing so our own needs are met. When the servant spirit flourishes in our congregation, then we’ll minister to each other as Christ has intended.
Heb. 10:24-25 "Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another — and all the more as you see the Day approaching. NIV
Why Does All This Matter?
John 17:21-23 Because Jesus, just before He went to the cross He prayed for all of us: "My prayer for all of them is that they will be one, just as you and I are one, Father — that just as you are in me and I am in you, so they will be in us, and the world will believe you sent me. I have given them the glory you gave me, so that they may be one, as we are — I in them and you in me, all being perfected into one. Then the world will know that you sent me and will understand that you love them as much as you love me." NLT
After Jesus ascended into heaven, He called us to work that needed to be done. If He wants something done within the world, He chooses us to do it. If He wants a child taught, he finds a teacher to teach the child. If He wants a sick person cured, He finds a physician to do his work. If He wants his story told, He finds a person to tell it. Literally, we are the body of Christ, hands to do his work, feet to run his errands, voice to speak for him. Did you know that Michelangelo started forty-four statues but completed only fourteen. In a museum in Italy you can see his thirty unfinished works. There are huge blocks of marble with only a hand or a foot completed. The question is: Are our lives like those unfinished statues? Is our potential for service still locked up within us?
Friends, we are ambassadors for Christ. We represent Him -- and it’s Him whom we want the world to know. We’re here for a purpose -- working cooperatively with one another to let the world and people around us know that in Jesus Christ, people can find hope, healing and new life! May the Holy Spirit breathe upon us the grace of unity in Christ, so that in our multi-faceted diversity of gifts, we might willingly serve our God and accomplish His purposes -- that people might come to know Him and Jesus Christ whom He has sent. Amen.