Last week we began this series called “Stained Glass.”
I talked about the beauty of stained glass windows and my wonder and amazement of how artists can bring together so many tiny pieces of glass to form a beautiful image. I began to break down how I see this as a metaphor for the church. We are a community of individuals who for a beautiful image when we embody that system of community despite our differences. This is when the Kingdom of God is at its best. This is also two-fold in that it pertains not just to Wood’s Church as a community but also the universal church and how we work with our brothers and sisters in Christ all over The World.
We examined the frame last week. We identified the frame as God’s working in the life of the church. The frame impacts the picture in that it sets the precedence for what the picture can look like. It lays the outline. From the frame, the pieces in the middle are provided the ability to form the picture, and without the frame, the pieces lose their meaning. So too we receive our spiritual gifts from God. We are given our nature as pieces of the window from God, and our gifts and abilities are offered by God as he seeks to direct our lives.
Today we are looking at the glass, we are looking at ourselves and our role in, as Paul identifies it, The Body of Christ (1 Cor. 12:27). This is important because Paul is attaching the nature of the church directly to Christ, a piece we may often forget about. Our nature as a community is tied to the nature in which we embody Christ. Therefore, when we talk about our roles as individuals within this community it is important to use the intentional language centered around Christ.
Biblical Scholar Richard Hays puts it, “The church is not merely a human organization; rather it is brought into being by the activity of the Holy Spirit, which binds believers into a living union with the crucified and risen Lord.”(Hays 213-214)
As we begin to unpack this in reference to Paul’s writings here in 1 Corinthians we begin to see how it is that we are called into this body by the working of God in our lives and our calling towards a meaningful community. Concerning those spiritual matters of gifts that we talked about last week (1 Cor 12:1-4). It is not enough to recognize how God is working in our lives individually, but we must reflect on what that means for us functioning in the midst of the community of Christ. Why? Because Christ calls us to be in community, and in the sense of how we are called to function as Christians we are stronger when we work together. We lift up those in our community and the communities around us that need help.
It is in our very nature to be communal. As you begin to understand what your spiritual gifts are you will notice that there are things that you are not so good at, and that is ok. There are things in the church that I am not good at. Just because I am a pastor doesn’t mean I can do everything in the church, and as members, you all can’t be expected to do everything either. We have to recognize the gifts we have and the gifts we don’t. We cannot expect to be whole as the body of Christ if we do not allow all the gifts to shine and allow everyone to claim their part of the body and do the work God has called them to do.
It is what unifies us.
Paul continues from last week saying, “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. 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.” (1 Cor 12:12-13)
Paul wants us to know that the church should be United. This does not mean uniform. Paul, in fact, celebrates diversity. Paul celebrates the Jews and the Greeks, the slave and the free. It is the nature that we allow our diversity to be a uniting factor rather than a dividing one. This is as much about who we are as humans as it is an acknowledgment of spiritual gifts. It answers the question of “What is the Church?”
The answer centers around Christ, and what Christ has brought together. I especially love Paul’s attention in verses 22-26, because it embodies community and what it means.
Paul writes, “On the contrary, the members of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 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; whereas our more respectable members do not need this. But God has so arranged the body, giving the greater honor to the inferior member, that there may be no dissension within the body, but the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honored, all rejoice together with it.” (1 Cor. 12:22-26)
If we are to truly be the body of Christ we must do the hard work of being there for one another, about lifting up those who are in trouble. Again this is not just for our community right here at Wood’s but when we see persons being oppressed all across creation we need to be the ones to stand up and speak against the oppression. We use those gifts that Paul addresses in the first part of this chapter and even those addressed in verses 28-30 and go and we do the work of building up the Kingdom of God.
Paul wants the spiritual elitists we talked about last week to understand that their gifts do not put them in a higher position than those who have different gifts. Just because I am your pastor does not make my gifts for ministry better than anyone else’s, but my gifts do give me the calling to do all that I can to build up this community and the greater Kingdom of God.
How do we do this?
It’s not that difficult actually. At least on the surface, but it does take a lot of work. It takes recognizing our gifts, recognizing how to use our gifts, and recognizing where to find those whose gifts can aid and help us. This is how our communities become diverse. When our communities look and act like us we get a community of eyes, and we limit the work we can do for the Kingdom. This Paul asks at the end of this passage, “Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? Do all possess gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret? But strive for the greater gifts. And I will show you a still more excellent way.” (1 Cor. 12:29-31)
The answer to each of these questions is no because the striving for greater gifts is not an individual endeavor but a communal one. It is saying that I need others around me to do the work that God is calling me to do, so I am seeking out those who can help me in that endeavor.
That is the more excellent way that Paul talks about. It is a community of wonderfully diverse individuals who gather together and use the gifts God has blessed them with to make the Kingdom of God the place God intends it to be.
I want you to continue this week to develop those spiritual gifts. Come and seek me out to find help if you need it. Then begin to examine how those gifts call you to contribute to the Kingdom of God. What is your role in the Body of Christ?