What Makes Us Who We Are?

1 Corinthians 12:12-27
The Foundations of the Church
Elizabeth M. Deibert


Andrew and Rebecca have the same English teacher this year. She assigned all her classes the task of creating a poster with five images, representing the five major influences of their lives. Today we consider as a church, as a community of Christians named by our allegiance to Jesus Christ, and marked by our Presbyterian style of shared power, what makes us who we are. Obviously, being part of the body of Christ is the first answer to that question, but let’s go further and try to describe what it means to be part of the body of Christ. We will read Paul’s effort to explain to a divided Corinthian church that every part of the body is valuable for the role it plays.

1 Corinthians 12:12-27

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.

13 For in the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body-- Jews or Greeks,

slaves or free-- and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.

14 Indeed, the body does not consist of one member but of many.

15 If the foot would say, "Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,"

that would not make it any less a part of the body.

16 And if the ear would say, "Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,"

that would not make it any less a part of the body.

17 If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be?

If the whole body were hearing, where would the sense of smell be?

18 But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose.

19 If all were a single member, where would the body be?

20 As it is, there are many members, yet one body.

21 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."

22 On the contrary, the members of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable,

23 and those members of the body that we think less honorable we clothe

with greater honor, and our less respectable members are treated with greater respect;

24 whereas our more respectable members do not need this.

But God has so arranged the body, giving the greater honor to the inferior member,

25 that there may be no dissension within the body,

but the members may have the same care for one another.

26 If one member suffers, all suffer together with it;

if one member is honored, all rejoice together with it.

27 Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.

(NRSV)

We need to remember the value of every leg and arm of the church. The weaker parts are given more respect. If one member suffers, all suffer with it, and if one is honored, all rejoice. We need to remember that within our particular congregation and as churches united in the Universal Church.

Please join me in a reflection on what it means to be the body of Christ, reading by the four sections, right, left, mid right, mid left. We are a community of faith, hope, love and witness. But that’s not the only right answer to the question. There is a more historic answer to the question.

In 325 Constantine convened a council in Nicaea, to resolve the conflict over the nature of Jesus Christ. That council group wrote a creed which is still the most ecumenical of all, accepted by Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox Christians, and by most Protestants for 17 hundred years. In it are the “Marks of the Church” which are the defining character traits of the church. You might say, these are what make us, the Church, the Universal Christian Church, who we are. We will reflect on these marks of the church, through a variety of voices, who are reading what we, the collective we in the Presbyterian Church have said about these four marks of the church – one, holy, catholic, and apostolic. After each of the four, we will sing a related hymn. You could call this a sermon by the people.

And as the first two readers are coming forward, let me remind you that every time today when you hear the word catholic, please remember that we mean universal church, not the particular Roman Catholic Church, which is a very valuable part of the body of Christ.

All: The Church is “one, holy, catholic, and apostolic.”

a. The Unity of the Church

Sue: Unity is God’s gift to the Church in Jesus Christ. Just as God is one God
and Jesus
Christ is our one Savior, so the Church is one because it belongs
to its one Lord, Jesus Christ. The Church seeks to include all people and
is never content to enjoy the benefits of Christian community for itself alone.
There is one Church, for there is one Spirit, one hope, “one Lord,
one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all and
through all and in all”

Bill: Because in Christ the Church is one, it strives to be one. To be one with Christ
is to
be joined with all those whom Christ calls into relationship with him.
To be thus joined with one another is to become priests for one another,
praying for the world and for one another and sharing the various gifts
God has given to each Christian for the benefit of the whole community.
Division into different denominations obscures but does not destroy unity
in Christ. The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), affirming its historical
continuity with the whole Church of Jesus Christ, is committed to the
reduction of that obscurity, and is willing to seek and to deepen communion
with all other churches within the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church.

Hymn sung by the people

All: The Church is “one, holy, catholic, and apostolic.”

b. The Holiness of the Church

Drew: Holiness is God’s gift to the Church in Jesus Christ. Through the love
of Christ, by
the power of the Spirit, God takes away the sin of the world.
The holiness of the Church comes from Christ who sets it apart to bear
witness to his love, and not from the purity of its doctrine or the righteousness
of its actions.

Jane: Because in Christ the Church is holy, the Church, its members, and those in its ordered ministries strive to lead lives worthy of the Gospel we proclaim. In gratitude for Christ’s work of redemption, we rely upon the work of God’s Spirit through Scripture and the means of grace to form every believer and every community for this holy living. We confess the persistence of sin in our corporate and individual lives. At the same time, we also confess that we are forgiven by Christ and called again and yet again to strive for the purity, righteousness, and truth revealed to us in Jesus Christ and promised to all people in God’s new creation.

Hymn sung by the people

All: The Church is “one, holy, catholic, and apostolic.”

c. The Catholicity of the Church

Elizabeth: Catholicity is God’s gift to the Church in Jesus Christ. In the life, death, and resurrection of Christ, by the power of the Spirit, God overcomes our alienation
and repairs
our division.

Peter: Because in Christ the Church is catholic, it strives everywhere to testify
to Christ’s
embrace of men, women, and children of all times, places, races,
nations, ages, conditions, and stations in life. The catholicity of the Church
summons the Church to a deeper faith, a larger hope, and a more complete
love as it bears witness to God’s grace.

Hymn sung by the people

All: The Church is “one, holy, catholic, and apostolic.”

d. The Apostolicity of the Church

Richard: Apostolicity is God’s gift to the Church in Jesus Christ. In Christ, by
the power of
the Spirit, God sends the Church into the world to share the gospel of God’s redemption of all things and people.

Tricia: Because in Christ the Church is apostolic, it strives to proclaim this gospel
faithfully. The Church receives the good news of salvation in Jesus Christ through
the testimony of those whom Christ sent, both those whom we call apostles and
those whom Christ has called throughout the long history of the Church. The
Church has been and is even now sent into the world by Jesus Christ to bear that testimony to others.

The Church bears witness in word and work that in Christ the new creation has
begun, and that God who creates life also frees those in bondage, forgives sin,
reconciles brokenness, makes all
things new, and is still at work in the world.
To be members of the body of Christ is to be sent out to pursue the mission
of God and to participate in God’s new creation, God’s kingdom drawing the
present into itself. The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) affirms the Gospel of
Jesus Christ as received from the prophets and apostles, and stands in
continuity with God’s mission through the ages.

The Church strives to be faithful to the good news it has received and
accountable to
the standards of the confessions. The Church seeks to
present the claims of Jesus Christ, leading persons to repentance, acceptance
of Christ alone as Savior and Lord, and new life as his disciples. The Church
is sent to be Christ’s faithful evangelist:
making disciples of all nations in
the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit; sharing with others
a deep life of worship, prayer, fellowship, and service; and participating in
God’s mission to care for the needs of the sick, poor, and lonely;to free people
from sin, suffering, and oppression; and to establish Christ’s just,loving, and
peaceable rule in the world. Hymn sung by the people