This past Sunday in worship we read from Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians. “…The body does not consist of one member but of many. 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…As it is, there are many members, yet one body” (1 Corinthians 12:14-15, 20).
Dr. Piermont preached about what it means to be a “member” of the church. We need the other members, and they need us, too. It’s a counter-cultural message, isn’t it? Especially here in the United States! Our culture focuses on independence—self-sufficiency. We prize NOT needing ANY help from ANYONE.
But the Apostle Paul describes the Church as the Body of Christ—made up of many “members” or “parts.” Each part is given a unique gift. Each part is needed, and each part needs the OTHER parts. (Paul asks: “If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be?”)
It reminds me of what one of my seminary professors used to say to us. He used to say, “OH, SO THE BODY OF CHRIST SHALL BE DENIED ONE OF ITS MEMBERS BECAUSE YOU DON’T FEEL LIKE GETTING OUT OF BED IN THE MORNING?!” (He had a way of being pretty blunt…) He was pointing to that miraculous, mystical, mysterious truth: When we come together on Sunday morning we are the Body of Christ gathered. Our voices are needed (no matter how well or how poorly we sing). Our hearts and prayers and ears are needed. Our hands are needed as we greet one another and care for one another. Our resources are needed. Together—with each of us doing our needed part—we lift up praise to God and we witness to the world.
There is another layer to this truth, though. We can talk and think about our individual congregation as the Body of Christ. But it is essential, too, to think of the worldwide Church (with a capital “C”) as the Body of Christ. The Bible describes the Church as the bride and Jesus Christ as the bridegroom. That’s why it is such a tragedy when we remember that by one count there are 38,000 Christian denominations in the world today. 38,000! The Church—the Body of Christ—is so divided!
When we think of how we need one another in the Body of Christ, that means we also need one another across the world-wide Church—all the denominations. We need to love one another, and respect one another, and seek greater unity.
After all, as Shane Claiborne quoted one old preacher as saying, “We gotta get it together, because Jesus is coming back, and he’s coming for a bride, not a harem” (Shane Claiborne, A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals, Zondervan: 2002). A very good point.