Body Image

1 Corinthians 12:12-31
Ordination Sunday
Rev. Elizabeth M. Deibert
January, 27, 2013

The Corinthians had a body image problem.    They were looking in the mirror and despising their nose.   Their heart was fighting with their head.    Their eyes were thinking they needed no hands.   You see, there was division in the Corinthian church because they were trying to be super spiritual heroes, as if the real embodiment of faith did not matter.   From the beginning of the first letter Paul wrote to the Corinthians, he was challenging their division.    “I belong to Apollos, or to Paul or to Cephas.”   To those who thought their faith trumped everything, he says, “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit with you, which you have from God, and that you are not your own?”   From that verse we get a song, which today will be our prayer for illumination because illumination is not just about clearing our minds, but preparing our whole selves for the indwelling of God’s Spirit:  Lord, prepare me to be a sanctuary.   Pure and holy, tried and true.   With thanksgiving, I’ll be a living sanctuary for you.  (sing with me)

1 Corinthians 12:12-31

12 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?
8 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.  28 And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers; then deeds of power, then gifts of healing, forms of assistance, forms of leadership, various kinds of tongues.
29 Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles?   30 Do all possess gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret?   31 But strive for the greater gifts. And I will show you a still more excellent way….
And do you know what that more excellent way is?   It is the most read chapter in the whole New Testament.   Psalm 23 from the Old Testament is the most read at memorial services, but 1 Corinthians 13 most read at marriages.  After Paul spends a whole chapter talking about all the different gifts, all the different parts of the body, working together, he finishes by saying that apart from love, none of these gifts are worth anything.  If I give all I possess, even I can move mountains by my faith, if I give sacrifice my body, I am still nothing without love.   Nothing!

Ironically, the reason Peace has an opportunity to purchase a church is that love failed.   An illicit affair of a pastor with someone in the church wounded a marriage and a congregation.  
Now not all church close their doors after such terrible acts of unfaithfulness, but many churches have been wounded for a generation or two by this kind of disaster.   Many Christians lose hope in the church, because the body is broken.   Trust is gone.    You see, my faithfulness is inextricably tied to yours and yours to mine.   And faithfulness in all areas of life – not just fidelity in the covenant of marriage.   Are you praying daily?    Are you growing in faith through your study of scripture?   Are you serving others – not just yourself?    Your embodied life of faith is connected to mine.

You cannot say, “Because I am not a minister, not an elder, it doesn’t matter how I live.”   And the ministers and elders cannot behave as if they have more significance or deserve more respect or are excused for bad behavior.    We leaders in the church have a particular function to play, and yes, our faithfulness is crucial, but 1 Corinthians 12 reminds us that we clothe with greater honor, the person who walks in the door for the first time, the person who is not involved, the person who is struggling, the person who needs our help.    That’s the way the body functions.    If your foot hurts, you limp, so as not to put weight on that foot.    Your other foot bears more weight.   When people are hurting in the church, we provide another foot by offering a Stephen Minister as a sort of crutch to lean on.
At a time like this, when we are seeking gifts for a Building, we remember that Jesus drew attention to the widow who gave her last coin.   Even though it was tiny compared to offerings of the wealthy, Jesus said she gave more than they did.   So we value you, whether you give a dollar or a hundred dollars a week, whether you pledge a thousand or one hundred thousand. Paul says in his second letter to this church in Corinth, “If the eagerness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has, not according to what one doesn’t have.”  
Foster Williams was a tenant farmer – never married, finished 8th grade, lived in a tiny four room house with his brother.  When we built an education building at the Faison Presbyterian Church, Foster was dying of cancer.   He called me up one day and said, “I need to give you something.”    In the envelope was 1000 dollars in cash, which he had withdrawn from savings.   It was by far the largest gift Foster had ever given, and though some gave $50,000 or 25,000 to building fund, none gave more than Foster.   He said, “Teach the children to love Jesus.”    Foster never taught a class, never served on session, never had much to say besides “good morning” but he was in Sunday school and worship every Sunday.

Could Foster be at Peace?   Sure he could.   So it matters not how we seek to divide ourselves into separate camps, to say who is in and who is out, who is acceptable and who is not, Christ keeps reminding us that we are called by him to be One people.  All that matters is loving faithfully and being loved faithfully by God.   It does not matter how the world judges you.  Christ welcomes you - whether you are an arm or leg, or ear or eye, muscle or mind, armpit or bladder, heart or soul, appendix or toe nail, stomach or lung, vocal cord or umbilical cord.   You are all part of the body of Christ.   This notion of oneness in Paul’s writing is radical.   How could Greeks be one with Jews?   All of Paul’s Jewish hearers knew that Jews could not mix with Greeks.    Slaves and free -- impossible!  No way. But Paul has the audacity to say, “Yes, in Christ, One body.”

We cannot say of anyone, ANYONE, I have no need of you.   We NEED people who are different from us.  Our mission is to make God known.   To make God known we need to see the fullness of God in the whole body of Christ – all of us working together, all the ligaments and tendons, the neurons and nerve endings, all the breathing and beating, all the talking and the listening, all the feet and the hands, all the minds and the hearts coming together into a grand symphony chorus of praise to the one who made us.  That’s how we make God known.

Our mission is to make God known by growing as disciples of Jesus Christ.   When all of us are growing together, the body works better because each leg is equally strong, making it easier for the whole body to move.  The mouth and stomach take in just enough food to give the muscles energy, and not so much to make the body lethargic.   The mind gets exercised in Bible study, the body gets exercised in mission, the heart gets exercised in loving, and the soul in giving.
Our mission is to make God known by growing as disciples of Jesus Christ, building a community of peace.   Only in a community where all body parts, all gifts are recognized and appreciated is there peace.  

Only in a community where the weaker are given greater honor and the less respectable are given greater respect does peace come to the earth, as God intended.   God gives greater honor to the inferior member.   You can see that in the way Jesus lived. 
Our mission is to make God known by growing as disciples of Jesus Christ, building a community of peace, and caring for the needs of others.   Paul says, God has arranged the body in such a way that all members may care for one another.  If one members suffers, all suffer.   If your head hurts, all of you is miserable.   If an artery in your heart is significantly blocked, it challenges the health of your whole body.   If one of you is rejoicing, all are rejoicing, and if one is sad, all are sad.   

There is much to celebrate today at Peace.   We have eleven ministry teams that are stronger in body and mind and spirit than they have ever been.   Oh, sure there are so gaps, but we keep growing and adding wonderful new members who can fill those gaps and hold things together like a good tendon holds the bone to the muscle.    We have new elders, committed and talented, who have spent time in prayerful study and preparation since you elected them in October.   We have the first class of elders who served a full three year term who are rotating off and we celebrate the tremendous gifts they have shared with us.
There is much to celebrate today at Peace.   We have the opportunity to purchase a first permanent home for this body of ours, to give us a secure place to worship and carry out our mission.  And many people have already committed themselves to sacrificial giving to make this happen, pending an affirmative congregational vote today, pending the signing of a contract and the securing of a loan, both of which are close.  I trust many of you saw the property yesterday, and recognize that it is a good place, though not a perfect place.   As a fix-me-up church property, it gives us the body a chance to rally around, to use our bodies as well as our pocketbooks to make it a sanctuary pleasing to God and welcoming of others, even as we are sanctuaries, pure and holy, tried and true, by the grace of Jesus Christ.

None of us are perfect, like this building is not perfect, but working together, with all of our weaknesses and all of our strengths, we can be the joyful body of Christ, striving with all that we are to be faithful – together as one body.  We can be the image of Christ by living as sanctuaries of grace and truth, by being a community of peace and reconciliation, by welcoming all people in love and a spirit of openness, knowing that none of us would be here apart from the mercy of God.