January 27, 2019 Speaker: Pastor Braun Campbell Series: Being SJLC 2019: Consecrated, Lord, to Thee - Part 2
Topic: Biblical Verse: 1 Corinthians 12:12–31
Third Sunday after the Epiphany[i]
St. John's Lutheran Church, Alexandria, VA
1 Corinthians 12:12-31a
“Being SJLC 2019: Parts, Together”
It’s dangerous to go alone.
Back in the early days of Nintendo video games, The Legend of Zelda was one of the biggest titles around. It started a legacy of adventure gaming that exists to this day. Towards the start of the game, you guide your character into a cave, where you discover a mysterious old man who proclaims, “It’s dangerous to go alone! Take this.” He then equips you with a sword to aid you in your battle against the evil that has overtaken the land.
That mysterious old man was right. It’s dangerous to go alone. It’s deadly, even. And while that can be true when you’re looking to liberate a fantastic kingdom from the forces of evil, it’s especially true when you’re considering what it means to stand against the forces that have overtaken our world, everything that would separate you from God and keep you as a captive.
It’s dangerous to go alone. But you don’t have to. The same God who created you and dearly loves you has seen to it that you have a place with Him. Jesus, the Son of God, came to defeat those forces of evil singlehandedly, making the victory of his cross your victory. He fulfilled Isaiah’s prophecy: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” Jesus is the light who overcomes the darkness, even the darkness of death, so that you would never be alone in the dark.
Back in the early days of the Christian Church, St. Paul wrote to his fellow believers in the city of Corinth to speak to issues that had overtaken their fellowship. One of the big issues, one which Paul addresses in our Epistle reading today, is the jealousy or resentment that some of the Corinthian Christians were harboring against their fellow believers. So Paul lays out a concept that contrasts with the individualistic, self-important view that promoted the “me-versus-you” mentality that seems to have taken root in the congregation there. The Church is the body of Christ.
While the Church may be composed of a multitude of different people, we are one body in Christ, in whom you and I have victory over the forces of evil that have tried to keep us captive. Set free and redeemed in Jesus, the Holy Spirit unites us into something greater than any of us could be alone. Through Baptism, we’re joined together in “one holy catholic and apostolic Church,” as we confess in the Nicene Creed, a new creation that spans space and time even as it is present here, today.
You and I are each parts of Christ’s body, joined together. You’re individually gifted, equipped by God with a unique set of skills and abilities that are yours. These skills and abilities are meant for use, to be put to service in caring for the people around you. Sometimes, the recipients of your service are family and friends, people close to you. Other times, the recipients might be souls on the other side of the world who you’ll never meet this side of heaven. But you are the particular person who God equips for the time and the place where you’ll have a neighbor to serve.
God gives these gifts, and He doesn’t give them in a vacuum. You and I, members of the body of Christ, we’re meant to work together in unity. We might do different things, but we can do those things together to accomplish more than any of us could apart from one another. Consider the weekly worship service. It’s not just the pastor doing everything – and am I glad for that! We have musicians and ushers and altar care workers and nursery staff and acolytes all serving, using what they’ve been given – along with all the people who take care of tasks during the week to support this high time of worship. As it is with the body, if one of these parts isn’t working right or is missing, it impacts the rest of the organism. We need these many parts working together.
Though we might be individual parts in the body of Christ, you and I are all called to follow Jesus together. That’s the central point of our Being SJLC (Serving Jesus +Living in Community) emphasis each Epiphany season – and especially this year as we consider how we have been set apart as stewards of God’s gifts in our talents, time, and skills. Jesus is the one who leads us in sacrificial service. Indeed, he’s the one who makes our service possible. As we go out to be the body of Christ in our community and in the world at large, you and I must heed his direction to serve together selflessly, rather than getting caught up in self-importance or resentment.
It’s dangerous to go alone. Sometimes, we become disconnected and fail to work together as the body of Christ. That doesn’t always happen for the reasons that St. Paul outlines in 1 Corinthians. It’s entirely possible that someone gets caught up in work or personal commitments that see them spending more time away from life with the community of the congregation. Someone might not have considered that they can be of service in our life together – or that there’s even an opportunity for them to serve! But the truth is that you have a vital role to play in the healthy functioning of the whole as a member of the body of Christ. As we continue through our Consecrated, Lord, to Thee – Part 2 stewardship focus, remember that role isn’t limited to financial contributions. Being a part of a congregation isn’t the same as paying dues to a club to maintain your membership. As the baptized people of God, you and I are called to engage in the active use of our works and wisdom in service to each other and to our neighbors.
What can we do together? Acts both amazing and ordinary! For the past two years, many here at St. John’s have worked to welcome in and support the Aljamous family. They came to us as a refugee family from Syria and are now moving in to the next chapter of their life in the United States. None of us knew what all would be involved in following Jesus through these past two years with them, but he has consistently done great things – both through the Church and through people, including doctors and other professionals who had no previous contact with our congregation. Similarly, the servant projects that we’re undertaking during our Being SJLC emphasis, including the hypothermia shelter at St. Mark’s Lutheran and the Rise Against Hunger meal packaging event bring together members of the body of Christ of all ages and abilities, for service in Christ’s name – even across the wider body of Christ outside our congregation. As you live out your identity as a member of the body of Christ in service, you witness to who Jesus is and what he does for all people.
It’s dangerous to go alone. Let’s not forget that we’re called to care for each other in the body of Christ. As St. Paul writes, “If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.” (1 Cor. 12:26) The body hurts together. Reach out to others in the congregation who are mourning. Be present for them. Let them know that you stand ready to help, to listen, to care. Provide practical support to your fellow members of Christ’s body. If a family has a new baby, offer to bring them a meal. If someone’s in the hospital, go visit them. About a decade ago, we established a Helping Hands Fund here at St. John’s to provide financial support to households in our congregation should they face emergency needs or require other support. If you’re feeling the impact of going without pay due to the government shutdown, let us know. If not, consider supporting the Helping Hands Funs through your regular offerings as a way of caring for others in the body of Christ right here.
It’s dangerous to go alone. But in the Church, Christ’s body by the working of the Spirit, you won’t.
[i] Passage for memory:
For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ.
– 1 Cor. 12:12