Sermon; Epiphany 3C; 1 Cor. 12:12-31a
I'm going to depart from the gospel today. Even though we are in the Epiphany season, even though we are looking for those revealings, those manifestations, those God-moments when Jesus is made known, and even though we have one of those today when Jesus proclaims he is the fulfillment of a prophetic reading, I want to skip over to the reading from 1st Corinthians.
The reason for Paul's first letter to the Corinthians was because he has been made aware of a variety of issues and conflicts within that church. Rival groups are vying for control, there's an indifference to immoral behavior, and a marginalizing of the less fortunate are just a few of the issues Paul needs to address. I can't say the church is in total disarray, but there are a variety of issues that certainly need to be addressed.
Paul tackles these problems one-by-one through the letter. The issue this section addresses was that of which gift is more important. In other words, the people of Corinth were trying to one-up each other in an effort to claim primacy within the church. It would be like today if we began fighting about whether the choir, acolytes, vestry, etc. were the most important people in our parish. Today's passage is part of Paul's response to this bit of parish infighting.
Remember, we are all members of one body. We were all baptized into the one body of Christ Jesus. But just because we are one body does not mean that we are all the same. The foot can't say, “Because I am not a hand, I am not part of the body.” An ear can't say, “Because I am not an eye, I don't belong.”
Likewise, the eye can't say to the ear, “I have no need of you.” Nor can the hand say to the foot, “I have no need of you.”
So it is with the church. We are all members of this one body, but with varying gifts, talents, and skills. If we were all good at repairing the building, where would our choir be? If we were all good with finances, who would staff Community Cafe? All of us together make up this particular incarnation of the body of Christ as reflected in St. John's. It takes all of us to be who we are; therefore none of us can say, “I don't belong,” and none of us can say, “I don't need you.”
Because the truth is that we are one body. Like the hand and foot need each other and belong together, we also need each other and belong together.
Why bring this up now? Well, for starters, it's always good to be reminded that we are in this together. But probably more importantly, because today is our annual meeting. After service today we will gather downstairs in Trimble Hall for a potluck meal and then begin the business of the church. We will elect four new Vestry members. We will review the budget (which is in better shape than you might think). We will review services conducted. And we will hear from and read multiple reports from our various commissions.
What all of this reminds us of is this section from Paul's letter to the Corinthians – though we are many members, there is but one body in Christ Jesus. It takes all of us, in our many and varied talents and skills, to allow St. John's to be the dynamic and vital image of Christ that it is.
And lest we leave it at that, let us also pay attention to the end of this section in the letter:
May we have the same care for one another. If one suffers, we all suffer; if one is honored, we all rejoice.
We are one body. But we are not all preachers. We are not all financial wizards. We are not all cooks. We are not all choristers. So while we are not all one thing but many things, we are all members of the one body. And as members of the one body, may we continually strive for the greater gift, which is love.
As we prepare to do the business of the parish, let us remember that we who are many are one body; and let us strive to do the work of the church in love.