Summary: St Paul makes it clear that in the Body of Christ all have a role to play and we need each other, without exception.
1 Corinthians 12: 12-27
At the Carpenter’s tools annual meeting Brother Hammer was in the chair but some suggested he should leave as he was too noisy. Hammer replied, “If I leave then Brother Screw must also go. You have to turn him around again, and again and again to get him to accomplish anything.” Brother Screw spoke up: “If you wish I’ll leave, but Brother Plane should also leave. His work is all on the surface. His efforts have no depth.” Brother Plane responded, “Then Brother Rule must withdraw. He measures others as if he is the only one who is right!” Brother Rule complained about Brother Sandpaper, “You ought to leave. You’re just so rough and rubbing people the wrong way.”
In the midst of their discussion the carpenter from Nazareth began to make a pulpit from which to proclaim the Gospel. He employed the hammer, screw, plane, rule, sandpaper and all his other tools. Brother Saw marvelled, “I see now that we’re all workers together with the Lord.”
Last Sunday I spoke about the Trinity – our belief that God is Father, Son and Holy Spirit, one God, one essence, three in one and one in three.
I finished by saying that God as trinity exists in a perfect community of love, and that fact must challenge and shape our love for one another.
We worship a God in whom there is unity, and diversity, all within a loving community; and that is how God would have us be in his Church: unity and diversity, within a loving community.
At the start of today’s Bible reading we read this: ‘The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ. For we were all baptised by one Spirit into one body – whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free – and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.’
The Bible describes unity in diversity in the body of Christ and uses the most extreme contrasts of the day to make the point: Jews and Greeks; slaves and free.
Jews and Greeks is most likely a phrase that really means Jews and non-Jews; and in an age of growing anti-Semitism it’s good to be reminded that Jesus was a Jew, and his disciples were Jews.
But when we receive baptism in the name of Jesus the Messiah – the Christ – our diverse backgrounds find unity, even though we may come from wildly different religious backgrounds, and even though our experience of the world may be vastly different. Slaves experienced a very different life to freemen in the time of Jesus, but they all found unity as believers. They were different in culture, background, education, employment prospects and language – but they were all part of the body of Christ.
We are part of the Body of Christ in Billericay, which itself is part of the worldwide Body of Christ. And just as God is both unity and diversity, so too is the Church – the Body of Christ. Verse 14: ‘Now the body is not made up of one part but of many.’ One body, one church, with many parts – and what variety!
In verse 15 to 19 St. Paul, the author addresses people in the church who feel unworthy of their place within the fellowship of believers, for whatever reason.
Perhaps there were tensions between those brought up as Jews, and those who’d been brought up as pagans but were now all together in the Church.
Perhaps there were tensions between slaves in the Church and freemen. Did some feel less worthy?
The message was clear. If my foot could speak and say, “I don’t belong to the body because I’m not a hand. Hands are far more important and desirable than feet” – that would not mean that the foot is not an important part of the body! And so too with us.
Verse 17: ‘If the whole body were an ear where would the sense of smell be?’ Verse 20: ‘As it is, there are many parts but one body.’
Have you ever said, or thought anything along the lines of, “I don’t really feel part of the Church because …”? Fill in the blank!
I’m just a no-body. I’m just a mere unimportant toe!
God says, “You are not a no-body. You are important to me and important to my Church. Now believe it and get on and do what you were made to do!
Oh, but I’m new in Billericay. I wasn’t brought up in the Church of England. I live in the poorest part of town. I failed my exams at school. I don’t speak like other people do round here. Everyone else seems to express their faith differently to me. I’m just a scabby old athlete’s foot. I’m not really part of this body.