The Body of Christ

Sermon preached at the opening worship of the Synod of the Atlantic Provinces – October 18, 2016 – Stellarton, NS

 

I count Psalm one-hundred and thirty nine among my favourite Scripture.  The suggestion that there is nothing in me (or of me) that is beyond God’s knowledge was strangely comforting to me long before I set out on my present vocational path.  In that, I was not alone, for this principle of God’s intimate knowledge of all Creation is a general comfort to most in the church. What really turned the world on its head for me was the theological presumption that we are formed “in[God’s] image, according to [God’s] likeness…” (Genesis 1:26.  NRSV) – that not only does God know, as the Psalmist suggests, but within each of us is some measure of the divine.  I couldn’t have articulated that at the time, but I’m sure that was the “feeling” that convinced me a vocation in the church was something to pursue.  I had heard often enough that we were “God’s people” – that I was a “child of God”, and the Church was the “Body of Christ” – but to think that there was something “OF GOD” in each of us and all of us that made those statements more than dogma…that was mind altering, life changing stuff for me.

“Now – you are the body of Christ…and individually members of it.”  Paul is crafting a metaphor for the ages here in chapter 12 – all wrapped up in the notion of spiritual giftedness, and the imperative to caritas (car-ee-tahz) in the next chapter.  And in that metaphor, he directs us to something we know intimately – the human form; an interesting container for intuition, emotion, and other sorts of higher thinking.  Each model similar in design, yet infinitely unique; each and every one a marvel, in and of itself.  And under the right conditions, after a ritual ‘washing’ accompanied by particular words and music, collectively these bodies become the body of Christ.  What an idea!  What a miracle!  What and incredibly challenging reality.

Now…we ARE the body of Christ.  And whether you are Presbyterian by accident of birth or conviction of conscience, it doesn’t matter – and whether you were born in the Maritimes or are the gift of another region – it doesn’t matter – for we imagine ourselves to be distinct from others who also lay claim to that incarnational notion.  A body, similar in design, yet imaginatively unique, and bound to the one whose body anchors this marvellous metaphor…and therein lies the challenge.

The body OF Christ – captive to all ordinary human need; hunger & thirst; relationship & compassion; frustration & fatigue; betrayal & injury; pain & death.  The accuracy of this metaphor cuts both ways – obvious our ordinary lives and also in Jesus’ extraordinary example.  Each enjoys the benefits of the other; each suffers the humiliation of the other.  It’s not perfect, but it is appropriate.

So when Paul reminds us of the body’s inability to deny its own complexity, or to dismiss its “less honourable’ parts – that too cuts both ways.  The metaphor remains apt, if not perfect.

THIS is the body of Christ – or so we ay every time we approach the Lord’s table – and in those intimate moments when the bread is shared, person to person, many will offer the element accompanied by the words “the body of Christ, broken for YOU.”

When last I celebrated communion in this manner – all coming forward to share from a common loaf and common cup – I was struck by the repetition of that phrase, that began to sound like a chant as each received the bread; “the body of Christ…the body of Christ…the body of Christ…”  and I was reminded again that this was not just the bread being described; those awkward hands, mouths eager to taste; the shuffling feet; the reverent faces – they ARE the body of Christ.

Every one similar in design; each one distractingly unique.  Old and young; hopeful and defeated; gay and straight; faithful and fearful – THIS is what Paul was talking about – these are they whom Jesus calls us to love ‘as ourselves – even though some will deny and some will betray; some will challenge and some will acquiesce; some will resist (or resent) progress and some will dare to imagine the world might be changed by the love that blazes a trail from the foot of the cross to the door of an empty tomb.

THIS IS the body of Christ; afraid FOR the future, but not afraid OF the future.  Similar in design to those who first recognized the love of God in an empty grave; utterly unique in our approach to that love two thousand-some years removed.  So much has changed in us, yet nothing has changed for us.  We would still deny those members whose utility we do not understand – we dare to shame those whose design defies our understanding – but we are each the subject of the Psalmist’s revelation; we are all caught in the wonderful captivity of God’s completeness.

None can hide from God’s choosing – God’s discovery is inevitable.   God’s design is evident in everyone, and still we imagine that our cautious classifications of one another have any meaning…

Paul again –

28There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus. “

Such is the body of CHRIST: a collection of misfits bound together by nothing less than the glorious, creative mystery of God. No decision of ours can change that; no appeal to a particular approach to righteousness – Scripturally based or not – can disturb the challenging mystery of Paul’s assertion.

It is a body bound for conflict, built to be broken and shared, but It is also a body sure to be redeemed; not by any act of self-preservation, but by the unfathomable love of God.  Our arguments of redefinition are futile.  Our pathetic attempts to ‘define perfection’ in this body are beneath contempt, yet our redemption, thanks be to God, is inevitable for WE ARE THE BODY OF CHRIST.  Amen

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One Response to “The Body of Christ”

  1. High time to show the way to peace | From guestwriters Says:

    […] The Body of Christ […]

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