Sunday, September 21, 2008

The Church - The Body

1 Corinthians 12:12-26
“12 For even as the body is one and yet has many members, and all the members of the body, though they are many, are one body, so also is Christ. 13 For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit. 14 For the body is not one member, but many. 15 If the foot says, "Because I am not a hand, I am not a part of the body," it is not for this reason any the less a part of the body. 16 And if the ear says, "Because I am not an eye, I am not a part of the body," it is not for this reason any the less a part of the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole were hearing, where would the sense of smell be? 18 But now God has placed the members, each one of them, in the body, just as He desired. 19 If they were all one member, where would the body be? 20 But now there are many members, but one body. 21 And the eye cannot say to the hand, "I have no need of you"; or again the head to the feet, "I have no need of you." 22 On the contrary, it is much truer that the members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary; 23 and those members of the body which we deem less honorable, on these we bestow more abundant honor, and our less presentable members become much more presentable, 24 whereas our more presentable members have no need of it. But God has so composed the body, giving more abundant honor to that member which lacked, 25 so that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. 26 And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it.

They say a picture is worth a 1,000 words. When 1 Corinthians was written, the analogy of society compared to the body was common. It was used to argue for the classes of society. It is easy to see how one could be labelled an armpit and so be relegated to rise no higher than what was deemed worthy of that position. In places around the world to day we can see societies with distinct classes and prejudices. Even in our enlightened and multicultural Canadian mosaic, people have biases and senses of place based on ethnic origins. Paul takes this analogy, this wall that so often divided, and used it to unite. The theme of our 100th denominational anniversary is “Out of many, one; out of one, many!” Let’s look at this analogy as found in 1 Corinthians 12.

Many Members (verses 14-17):
Diversity is not about comparison (15)
–One of the biggest mistakes we make in life is to live by comparison. The phrase “keeping up with the Joneses” has been around for a long time. We tend to base our success or failure by comparing ourselves with someone else we have picked arbitrarily. How many times have you heard someone say, “It’s not fair!” or even said it yourself. What is fair? Is it fair that our neighbour or friend has a better job than us? Is it fair that we live in Canada and untold millions live in subsistence in Africa and Asia, or even in the downtown core of our cities? We like to focus on looking at the people around us or the ones on magazine covers? What we should be doing is looking to God. God made you unique. You have had stuff happen in life, good or bad, that makes you who you are today. The question is not whether it is fair where you are at; the question is what you are going to do with it. Many people rise up of their own will and volition and struggle and strive until they get to a better place. How much better would it be to understand God is doing something in and through you and to strive and struggle with His strength at your disposal? Maybe we need to understand it is not about getting more or being different or somehow more of something, but that it is about pursuing for the things God has called us for; to find His purpose for who we are. Don’t compare yourself with anyone but God, and then recognize His grace in your life.
Diversity is about finding your worth in something bigger than yourself (16) – Another big mistake in life is thinking that success in life is about us, about what we do, about where we go. We are the center of our existence. If that is how you approach life, understand you have a small, small grasp of the world around you. There are many things you can plug into that are good and great. Don’t under estimate the power of a small community of believers who are following God with all their heart, soul and mind. The church community is what Jesus established to accomplish His purposes after He left earth for heaven. He has something unique for you to do as part of this group. Maybe it is helping here on a Sunday. Maybe it is connected to a small group. Maybe it is about encourage a specific person or two in their ministry. Maybe it is to reach your neighbours with the support and prayers of this group. God is doing more than just trying to make you happy. He is using you to build His kingdom. What a privilege, considering he could use anybody or even an animal like Balaam’s donkey. He chooses you.
Diversity is necessary for greater function (17) – The best way to understand this is to think about a rope. A single strand is easy to break. 2 strands get a bit harder, and 3 are quite hard to break. This is because the sum of the group is exponentially greater than the sum of each individual part. We can do more together as a group than as individuals, and it is because we are all unique. The differences between us can cause us to fight and separate, or they can be used to work together. We need your differences. Out of Many…

One Body (verses 21-25):
Unity is about working together (21)
– in order to accomplish something bigger than ourselves, we have to focus on what we are doing, our task. In order to read a book, we need our arms and hands and fingers to pick up and hold the book at the right distance from our eyes. Our back and frame has to support the body in order for this to happen. Our eyes have to focus, and using nerves and muscles the image goes to the brain where it is turned into thought and understood. There are some 212,000 people in this city to reach with the love of Jesus. I can’t do it alone. Our church cannot do it alone. We have to work together both in this body and in this community of churches to get the job done.
Unity is about encouragement (22-23) – Team is not about focus on self. Remember the Canadian who came in second in the triathlon at Beijing? Remember the Canadian who came last? The triathlon was a team event for these guys. The guy who came last had the job of keeping the first guy near the front for the first 2 legs of the event. He expended all his energy to take the brunt of the wind on the bike, and to encourage during the swim. When the running part was on, he was spent, but because of his encouragement and coming alongside, he allowed his compatriot to get a silver medal. Unity is about encouragement.
Unity is about others (24-25) – God made the body like this so that we all are working together. As we look out for others, others are looking out for us. We can all do great things knowing someone has our back, is watching out for us. If you are feeling out of the loop, it could be because you have opted out of the race early. You have opted out to pursue other things. It is never too late to join and get involved, and understand what fellowship is truly about.

Take it with you:
Know yourself
– Not just your favourite colours or choice of music. What are your strengths? What buttons do you have that can get pushed? Knowing yourself is foundational to being part of the Body, of something bigger than yourself. Pat of this is to be honest with yourself. So, who are you?
Make the choice to include – Include others outside of your normal routine. Allow yourself to be included as well.
Seek the bigger picture—God’s perspective. Understand that there is more to this church thing than this building, than meeting every Sunday morning. God is moving in this province and this city. Do you want to be part of that? Find a way, your way, to tap in to the kingdom of God. It is a wonderful thing. That is the Body of Christ. “Out of many, one; out of one, many!”

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