Tag Archives: Body of Christ

The Body is Basic

Reading
1 Corinthians 6.12–20

For it was you who formed my inward parts;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works; that I know very well.
My frame was not hidden from you,
when I was being made in secret,
intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes beheld my unformed substance.
In your book were written all the days that were formed for me,
when none of them as yet existed.

Psalm 139.13–16

____________________

I recall having a moment of conversion as a young man. Not conversion to Christ, that happened earlier when I was fourteen. This was another moment of conversion, one of several others.

This moment of conversion came about from reading the Bible. (If you want a safe, comfortable life, don’t read the Bible!). But it was too late for me. I was already reading it.

This moment of conversion was about what the word ‘you’ means.

You might wonder what I mean. You means you means you. But it doesn’t.

Sometimes, ‘you’ means one person. Sometimes, it means more than one person. Some Aussies say ‘youse’ when they mean more than one person. We say that it’s bad English. But it’s great communication. I wish it were good English—I’d love to use youse. So I think I shall. I hope youse won’t mind.

Let’s look at our 1 Corinthians reading with this in mind.

Someone will say, ‘I am allowed to do anything’. Yes; but not everything is good for you. I could say that I am allowed to do anything, but I am not going to let anything make me its slave.

Paul is setting up a kind of imaginary conversation here. It was a well-known way of discussing an issue. So:

I am allowed to do anything.

Interestingly, Paul says Yes but:

Yes; but not everything is good for you.

Paul might surprise us here.

I’m a Christian, and a Christian is free from all condemnation. I can do what I like.

Paul says Yes but.

I can smoke, I can drink to excess.

Paul says Yes but. And Paul says something we all know about: “I am not going to let anything make me its slave”. We all know the addictive power of so many things, from alcohol and cigarettes and gambling to smart phones and sex. Paul says

I am allowed to do anything, but I am not going to let anything make me its slave.

So we can do things because we are free, only to be enslaved or addicted.

There was an Exclusive Brethren leader who thought the men of the church should show their freedom by drinking a glass of whisky. So they did. Each evening. Whether they liked it or not. Because they were told they must. To show how free they were.

Let’s go to verse 13. I’m going to change where the quotation marks go here. It will make more sense:

Someone else will say, ‘Food is for the stomach, and the stomach is for food. … but God will put an end to both’.

Then Paul replies:

The body is not to be used for sexual immorality, but to serve the Lord; and the Lord provides for the body. God raised the Lord from death, and he will also raise us by his power.

The ancient world was a very different place. Men were able to satisfy their sexual urges outside of marriage without any criticism. They could go to a brothel, or proposition a slave who would have no choice but to comply.

When they became Christians, some of them thought that could continue in this way. And why not?—remember, ‘I am allowed to do anything’.

And anyway, they reasoned, the body was going to end one day. It didn’t matter all that much.

To which Paul says, the body is for the Lord and, more than that, God is going to raise us from death just as he raised the Lord Jesus. Bodies matter.

Later (chapter 15), Paul says that in the resurrection this body will become a spiritual body, a body which gives some kind of form to the spirit. It won’t be this body, just as the risen Jesus wasn’t just a corpse with the life pumped back in. Even so, the body is basic. Paul says it’s like a seed that will blossom into something beautiful. The body is important, and what we do with it matters.

Paul goes on:

You know that your bodies are parts of the Body of Christ.

Note the capital ‘B’. This is the letter, 1 Corinthians, in which Paul teaches about the Body of Christ.

The church—including me and youse—is the Body of Christ. That means we, youse and I, are intimately joined to Jesus—as closely knit to him as the parts of our own body are to us. I can’t detach my hand or my eye; they are part of me. And we are parts of Christ’s Body. So, our bodies are parts of the Body of Christ.

Paul is saying We can’t just do what we want, even if we are free to do what we want. Whatever we do affects the rest of the Body.

That is how truly we are connected in Christ. That is what it means to be the Body of Christ. We can’t follow Jesus and ignore the rest of his Body.

The body matters. Our bodies, and the Body of Christ.

In all of this, Paul is laying the groundwork for talking about the Body of Christ later in this letter. In chapter 11.12, he will say

Christ is like a single body, which has many parts; it is still one body, even though it is made up of different parts.

So we can’t make decisions about what we do as though we are isolated from other people.

And this Body of Christ is not just this congregation, not even the Uniting Church in Australia. It is the church everywhere. During the week, the President of the USA used derogatory language to describe where some immigrants come from. But their bodies matter. How should we treat them as part of the Body of Christ? The Body is so much more than just us!

Soon, we’ll be sharing the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper together. We shall do that as one Body in Christ. We’ll pass the Peace of Christ to one another in preparation for this sacred Meal. Christ will come to us in this Meal, and draw us deeper into his heart.

That’s what it means to share this Meal. It’s not just ‘you and Jesus’, it’s youse and Jesus. It is us in Christ. It’s all of us all over the world in Christ.

We are the Body of Christ. Let us remember this in our daily life in the body God has given us. Amen.

 

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The mind of Christ (Easter 2B, 12 April 2015)

Readings
Acts 4.32–35
Psalm 133
John 20.19–31

How very good and pleasant it is
when kindred live together in unity!            Psalm 133.1

This is a true story.

A young boy aged four I suppose, went to preschool for the first time. When he came out in the afternoon to greet his father, he had a huge smile and his eyes were shining. He was bursting excitedly with his news: ‘I made two enemies today!’

I’m not sure he knew what an enemy was, and since then this particular lad has gone on to make good friends and to be a good friend.

But isn’t that just like life? Aren’t we being told all the time who our enemies are? Our enemies are Muslims and asylum seekers, they are environmental greenies and gays who want to be married.

It’s important to know who your enemies are.

Isn’t it?

Sadly, sometimes it is necessary for us to know who our enemy is. There are circumstances where we must pay attention to this. But it’s not a way of life. It cannot be a way of life for the Christian who follows the crucified and risen Lord Jesus Christ. The Apostle Paul says

For the kingdom of God is not food and drink but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.

And in 1 John 4.18 we read:

There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear…

Our way of life is love, not fear. Continue reading

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The Holy Spirit *is* the Spirit of Christ (Pentecost, Year A, 8 June 2014)

Readings
Numbers 11.24–30
Acts 2.1–21
1 Corinthians 12.3–13
John 7.37–39a

 

Today is Pentecost, which means next week is Trinity Sunday. Preachers often feel the Trinity Sunday is a hard gig, but I really feel that Pentecost is the hardest day to preach and to do justice to the message.

How do we preach the Holy Spirit, whom we picture as wind, water and fire? How do we hold wind in our hands? We know the Spirit only by the effects she has in our lives. It’s like what John says (3.8),

The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes.

We only know the Spirit by what the Spirit does. We can’t pin the Spirit down. Ever. We can’t say

  • You have to believe the right doctrine to receive the Spirit;
  • A bishop must lay hands on you if you are to receive the Spirit;
  • The Spirit comes only as a second blessing to particular believers;
  • You don’t have the Spirit if you don’t speak in tongues.

We can never put the Spirit in a box or enclose her in any theological system.

With apologies to Donovan, we may as well try to catch the wind as speak of the Spirit.

One thing we do know: the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Jesus Christ. If we speak of Jesus Christ as we speak of the Spirit, we may say words that are true. Let’s try it with a few reflections. Continue reading

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Easter Evening (Year A, 24 April 2011)

Blessed and broken

Readings
Isaiah 25.6-9
Luke 24.13-49

I just love the story of the walk to Emmaus. Two disciples walk to Emmaus. They’re at their lowest ebb. (One is named, Cleopas; I suspect the other was his wife, Mary.) A third joins them, and draws them into conversation.

This stranger shows them from the scriptures that was inevitable that the Messiah should suffer; that a blameless life was bound to attract persecution, and even judicial murder.

As they draw near to their place, they invite the stranger in for a meal. Remember, these are two people whose hopes had been dashed; now, through the ministry of the Word offered by this complete stranger, they are able to offer hospitality rather than fall straight into bed and the oblivion of sleep. In fact, they want to hear more.

At the table, the undreamt-of happens. The stranger ‘took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them’. And they know. They begin to comprehend the incomprehensible. Before them is none other than the Lord, the Living One, who has won the victory over death itself. He is there, with them—and then he vanishes from their sight.

I never get tired of hearing this fabulous story. It shows us that even where we have lost all hope—when the absolute worst has happened, and we’ve given in to despair—Jesus Christ is there with us. We are never alone.

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16th Sunday of Ordinary Time, 18 July 2010

Broken to be a blessing

Reading
Colossians 1.15-28

Sometimes, you read a verse of scripture and you think, Whaaat? What on earth could that mean? There was one of those verses in today’s reading from Colossians chapter 1. It’s verse 24; perhaps it made you wonder too. Let’s hear it again. St Paul says:

I am now rejoicing in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am completing what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church.

Paul actually says, ‘in my flesh I am completing what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions…’

Hang on, I thought, the first time I read that years ago. Didn’t Jesus die for the whole world on the cross? Didn’t he bear our sins on the cross? Wasn’t it a ‘perfect sacrifice’ for sin? How could there be anything ‘lacking in his afflictions’? Has Paul gone nuts? Perhaps he has! Read a few verses earlier, and you’ll see that Paul says this:

through [Christ] God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross.

Here, Paul says that on the cross God reconciled all things everywhere to himself through Jesus. Because of Jesus, we are at peace with God. We’re not partly at peace, we’re not half-reconciled to God. We are wholly at peace with God, we are fully reconciled, we are God’s beloved sons and daughters, we have a place in God’s loving heart. We are fully alive, and why? Because we been drawn into the grace-full, eternal, loving dance of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

Notice that all these things are true whether or not we feel them to be true. So what on earth could possibly be ‘“lacking” in Christ’s afflictions’?

Let’s hold that question, while we look at something we’ll be doing soon.
Continue reading

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Third Sunday after Epiphany

Members of the Body


Let us pray:

God of justice,
the poor hear the good news, and rejoice;
help us to receive the grace of Christ
and leave the cages of injustice and sin,
to accept the freedom that you alone can give;
in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Readings
1 Corinthians 12:12-31a
Luke 4:14-21

‘When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, ‘it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less.’

‘The question is,’ said Alice, ‘whether you can make words mean so many different things.’

(Through the Looking Glass, by Lewis Carroll)

Words interest me a lot. One of the Christmas presents Karen gave me was a couple of books that explored the origins of certain expressions. For example, when a golfer sinks the ball one under par, it’s called a ‘birdie’. Did you know that in the 1800’s the word ‘bird’ was used rather like the way ‘cool’ is today. So a ‘birdie’ was a cool shot.

And if you’re ‘out for a duck’ in cricket you’re out for no runs. That comes from the way a duck’s egg resembles a zero.

And ‘Drongo’ was the name of a racehorse in the 1920s who was often tipped as a winner, but never managed to win a single race.

The way words change their meaning interests me, too. One of the prayers in the old 1611 Book of Common Prayer starts like this:

Prevent us, O Lord, in all our doings…

Prevent us, O Lord, in all our doings? What, does that mean prevent us from doing anything? No, it doesn’t. When this prayer was written in the 1500s, ‘prevent us’ meant ‘go before us’. So we might pray

‘Go ahead of us, Lord, in everything we do…’

And that makes so much more sense. To use ‘prevent us, O Lord’ in a prayer these days invites misunderstanding.

But did you notice a word in our reading today from 1 Corinthians that might cause some misunderstanding? It’s here, in 12.27:

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

Does anyone know which word I’m talking about?

It’s that seemingly-innocent little word ‘members’.

The dictionary says that a ‘member’ is a person belonging to a society or a team. You’re a member of a golf club or the bowls club. You’re a member of Probus or Rotary.

The dictionary also says that an ‘archaic’ meaning of the word ‘member’ is ‘any part or organ of the body’.

This older meaning is the meaning in today’s passage from 1 Corinthians. We are ‘members’ of the body of Christ. We are members in that we are organs, tissues, limbs of a body. We’re that kind of member. Continue reading

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Blessed and broken

Sermon for Easter 3

Luke 24.13-35

Two people walk to Emmaus, at their lowest ebb. (One, Cleopas, is named; I suspect the other was his wife, Mary.) A third joins them, and draws them into conversation.

This stranger shows them from the scriptures that was inevitable that the Messiah should suffer; that a blameless life was bound to attract persecution, and even judicial murder.

As they draw near to their place, they invite the stranger in for a meal. Remember, these are two people whose hopes had been dashed; now, through the ministry of the Word offered by this complete stranger, they are able to offer hospitality rather than fall straight into bed and the oblivion of sleep. In fact, they want to hear more. Continue reading

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