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Body of Christ: Embodied

Epiphany +7, Common Lectionary Year C

I Corinthians 12: 13-27

©2019 Rev. Dr. Elisabeth Jones

Scripture reading audio

Sermon audio file

The human body has 206 bones, 639 muscles,
and about 3 kilos of skin,
5 litres of blood coursing through
about 210,000 km of veins, arteries, capillaries.
You have about 31 ft (7.5 m) of digestive tract
busy nourishing your body and clearing out the junk;
and who knows how many ligaments,
tendons, were working with your bones and muscles
and your eyes, brain and inner ear vestibular system
to help you get through the ice to be here today.
…. you get my drift!

The human body is a miracle of interconnectedness
beyond our imagining!
No engineer has come up with an artificial mechanical form
that comes close to this organic complexity of the human body.
We are, each unique body, a universe of belonging.

So, when Paul was watching his little community in Corinth
limping, and barging, pulling itself in opposing directions
as it tried to figure out how to be together
as the People of the Way of Jesus Christ,
the body was the metaphor he reached for
to capture their attention and their spiritual imagination,
and their sense of being caught up in a miracle of God’s doing,
to be the embodiment of God’s Christ on earth.

It’s no wonder that Paul gets a bit carried away with the metaphor.
Emmi, Marc and I simplified it quite a bit,
but without losing the almost giddy humour of Paul
as he has various parts of his ‘body of Christ’ life-form
jostling for position and value.
“We don’t need you..” etc.

But underneath the humour
are some very deep implications for every church,
and for ours,
of this notion that we – [1]together-
embody God’s Christ in the world.

Among the many implications,
the one I’d like us to dwell on today is this:
we belong to one another.

If we take Paul’s metaphor seriously,
we aren’t a collection of strangers
who happen to like showing up together sometimes;
we are God-made embodied souls
with unique traits, characteristics,
talents, teloi,
brought together by God to be Cedar Park United,
for the sake of God’s redeeming love for the world.

We belong… there’s Gospel to that…
Belonging means that we matter to each other,
we enrich the life of each other,
we are interdependent with one another.
It means that we hurt alongside,
and we celebrate alongside,
we lament and we care, we laugh,
we play and we pray,
we love each other.
We get to be real, honest, broken with one another,
and we get to heal together.

There’s also Gospel challenge to belonging
in this Christ body;
we depend on each member, each body part,
being its unique self and doing its part
for the common good of the body as a whole.

I get to be the ‘pastor/minister’ part of this body,
which means I get to listen to many of you:

  • Those who are feeling the decades; you look back on halcyon days of yore when your energies were less limited, when you ran the Sunday School and Bazaars, chaired the Board or a committee, and now, feeling age, you wonder if you matter anymore. If you belong.
  • Others among us are running from hockey, to swim meets, to overtime, you’re between jobs and mortgage payments, between kids and aging parents, and you feel like the only seconds you can spare to be embodied in this place are your last dregs of energy when you come to be fed more than to feed, and you wonder, do you matter. Do you belong?
  • You’re a teenager, or a young adult, where futures are fuzzy and fearful, the world feels unrelenting and unforgiving, you don’t trust that this muddling middling place, this embodied Christ space is one to risk belonging in, you wonder if you dare to belong.
  • You’re a kid, and you wonder too if you are here to keep the adults entertained, or if your innocence, your youth, your closeness to the rawness of happy and sad actually count for something and make any difference. Do you matter now, or only when you’re old enough. Do you belong?
  • You’re gay, or a family member is in jail, or you find yourself struggling with a hidden addiction, or living with a difference of mind or body; and the rest of the world tells you you’re ‘less than’; you rightly wonder if any human community is capable of making room for you to truly belong as you are, if you are truly valuable, and valued.

These very real questions are where Paul’s metaphor holds.
He takes a long time to focus our attention on the hidden,
and the humble parts of the human body
(rather like Jesus focussed on mustard seeds,
and widow’s coins,
and lost sheep and outcast lepers).
We know there’s a human tendency
to only notice the big muscles,
the shiny hair, the spectacular voice,
without realizing how much those tiny body parts
like intestinal villi, or pinky finger sinews
are required to make any of these spectacular features
work at all.
The same can happen with the Church too
when we focus on the big;
the big givers, the big doers,
we run the risk of undermining Paul’s point; the Gospel point:
we all matter, we belong.
We all contribute our unique, God-given part
to the vitality of this particular body.

I can tell you, from experience,
that it all counts:

the whispered encouragement at the door,
the sight of 7 year old Maia in her hairnet, feeding a multitude;
the folded bulletin under my door,
the peonies from a garden taken to homebound Seniors,
the muffins in the comfort food freezer,
the stocking of the house for the Mohammads,
the FB “like” from our far flung ‘members’ in the English Midlands,

these are the Gospel writ large
in tiny acts of care, courage,
compassion, commitment,
and love.

You matter, you belong,
whatever it is you do in this body,
because what we do as the Body of Christ in the world matters.
It matters to God, whose infinite love for Creation,
every sub-atomic whatnot of it,
that we embody that God-love,
in the only way we can.

[1] The others I could have easily preached on are; b) discernment of unique gifts (teloi), working not to false homogenizing unity, but to a collaboration of purposeful uniqueness; c)embodiment within the global church; c) Church within the planetary unity of creation; d) spiritual and organic unity that makes “Church” like no other human institution – the presence of miracles of belonging.

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