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The Body of Christ

January 23, 2022 Speaker: Rev. Jack Meehan Series: Being SJLC 2022

Topic: Biblical Verse: 1 Corinthians 12:12–31a

The Third Sunday after Epiphany

Serving Jesus – Living in Community 2022: Week 1

January 23, 2022

1 Corinthians 12:12-31a

 “The Body of Christ”

The human body is an amazing thing; everything is interconnected and interrelated. What happens in one part of the body affects what happens in other parts of the body. We know this to be true from our own experience with our own body. The different systems of our body – the circulatory, skeletal, nervous, respiratory, and digestive systems – all support and work in tandem with one another. All of this is no accident, but is by God’s gracious design. The words of the psalmist speak to us just as clearly today as when they first penned thousands of years ago. In reflecting on the amazing intricacy of this body and life, the psalmist speaks to God: “… you formed my inward parts;  you knitted me together in my mother's womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 138:13-14a). That image of a body working together with all its parts is what Paul the apostle uses as his launch pad for teaching about the Body of Christ in today’s Epistle lesson (1 Corinthians 12:12-31a). We spoke together our Scripture memory verse for this week from that lesson: “Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it” (1 Corinthians 12:27). We are members of the Body of Christ only by the amazing grace of God in Jesus Christ. Whether that amazing grace came to us first through the Word of God which called out to us, or whether this came to us through the cleansing waters of holy Baptism, it is all God’s amazing grace. It is pure gift that brings us into the Body of Christ. As we have done for a number of years, today we begin a 4-week Epiphany series called Serving Jesus – Living in Community, or for short, “Being SJLC.” SJLC stands for more than just St. John’s Lutheran Church! Our Being SJLC series for this year is entitled, “Be the Church,” and it begins with this description of what the church is as the Body of Christ. Based on today’s Epistle lesson from Paul the apostle, that is the theme for today’s message: “The Body of Christ.” May the Lord’s rich and abundant blessing rest upon the preaching, the hearing, and the living of his Word for Jesus’ sake.

It’s interesting in what Paul writes here to the church in the ancient city of Corinth. Paul’s Spirit-given message and vision involves both unity (“one body”) and diversity (“many members”). It’s not either/or, but both/and. Unity and harmony within the Body of Christ are essential. Why? So that the mission of Christ to restore and redeem all things in Christ can move forward. Have you ever been part of a congregation where unity and harmony are absent? What is that like? There is disunity and disharmony, and it is a painful thing to experience because there is division within the body. The body is literally fighting against itself. Jesus did not come into the world to suffer and die on the cross so that the members of his own body would degenerate into this kind of destructive behavior. Help is needed to heal what is sick and repair what is broken, and that help must come from the Lord himself who loves us and laid down his life for us. Although unity and harmony are desired and needed within the Body of Christ, each member of that Body, like our own physical body, is unique. “The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you,’ nor again the head to the feet, ‘I have no need of you’” (1 Corinthians 12:21). The truth is we need each and every unique member of the Body. We are and remain individual members of the Body of Christ who are called to work together for the common good. As the very name of our church body reminds us, The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, the word “synod” means walking together. We are not automatons who are in robot-like locked step with one another. Rather, we walk together as the Body of Christ for mutual care, support, and encouragement.

If we are going to be the church, it comes down this: If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together” (1 Corinthians 12:26). It’s not just about you or me as individuals; it’s about each one of us united in Christ-like love-in-action for our fellow members. What this member experiences and undergoes, all the other members experience and undergo. There is a sharing and caring that truly is koinonia. We are used to hearing about Koinonia, the local community service agency that gives hope and help to people in need. But the very name of this agency is taken from a very important word in the New Testament (κοινωνία), and the root word of this means “common.” Because we who are the Body of Christ are united with Christ who is the Head of his Body, the Church, we are also united with one another as fellow members of that one Body. To have one is to have the other. There is a mutual fellowship, a common sharing of life in Christ, that members of the Body share with one another. That mutual fellowship, that sharing of life in Christ, is seen especially here in the Lord’s Supper. Here we receive by faith all that Jesus has done for us: his life and ministry, his suffering, death and resurrection. All that Jesus has won for us – forgiveness of sins, life and salvation – are given to us in this holy meal. In, with, and under the bread and wine, Christ the Head of the Body, feeds the members of his Body. And being thus fed, we go forth to be the Church; to live as members of Christ’s Body; to bless and encourage one another in our koinonia.

Not every member of Christ’s Body does the same thing. Paul writes about this, identifying different members of the Body: apostles, prophets, teachers, those gifted in healing, helping, administration and more. Bottom line: we need each other. This side of heaven, there is no perfect body – not just a physical body, but a body of believers. There is no perfect church because it is made up of imperfect people – imperfect, but redeemed by the blood of Jesus. Despite all the flaws, shortcomings and imperfections of his children, Jesus chooses to work through the members of his Body, the Church, to expand and grow his kingdom. The different vocations and talents of every member of the Body are needed to work for the well-being of the whole. Flowing out of our Baptismal identity and calling in Christ, we are called to be the Church, not just here at church, within these walls, but just as importantly, outside these walls in the communities and neighborhoods where we live, work, and go to school. All of this “in here” is for all of that “out there.”

“Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it” (1 Corinthians 12:27). Go with God’s grace and blessing to be the Church. Amen.

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