The passage that we are going to use is from 1 Corinthians 12:12-31. This is the passage that looks at the gathering of believers as a body, specifically the Body of Christ. This was the first passage I ever preached on back when I was in college, so it holds a special place in my heart. It has also been a formative passage in my ministry, because it serves as a reminder that we all have a certain role to play and witness to give.
The image of the body is central in the later writing of Paul. This seems to come from the experience of the issues that the local congregations are having. Essentially a fight to see who would be the head, who would be in charge. Within the fight, the message of Christ would get lost to power plays and mortal decisions. Another problem the churches faced was the lack of recognition for gifts of the people assembled, making the congregations weak and unable to connect with other new converts.
This is true even in the church today. While it is unfortunate, we also have a tendency to let the fight over who is “right” or in charge, take over the message from faithfulness to Christ.
When we do this and we step back, we often find that the problem lies in an understanding that there is a singular way that we could or should come to faith. Moreover, there is also an understanding that parallels that, in that everyone should have the same experience.
While this particular approach is very successful for some churches growing in membership and finances, historically, ministry models that force people to ascribe to “fundamentals” or “core values” are often short-lived because they are not able to sustain faith through life’s problems as they arise. This is the reason that most of those traditions last only one-two generations, and why every time the Roman Church cracked down on “orthodoxy” we see a rebellion or split.
The problem lies within the fact that the answers often given are devoid of the reality of individual expression. They also allow for little to no room to question and grow.
By accepting others and being the body we have to humble ourselves. When we do this we begin to realize new realities. We also begin the process of understanding theology that is vastly different than our own. While we may never adopt those theologies, the exploration of them helps us to see and grow in our understanding of God and subsequently our faith.
The problem that we have as people is learning to accept that we are all different from one another. Once we do that, we can begin to build the body to be fully representative of Christ, recognizing the need and diversity of all who are called to be faithful. Looking to those who are gathered to accentuate the gifts they bring rather than working to fit them into a mold of what we expect.
To embody this, we are going to change up the service a little. I am asking that everyone bring a slice or piece of Bread that represents you. To help with understanding what I mean by bread, here is the definition to work from:
A kind of food made of flour or meal that has been mixed with milk or water, made into a dough or batter, with or without yeast or other leavening agent —From dictionary.com
I really want you to think hard about this because we are going to do something really special with all of the bread we receive.
Rev. Dr. Bryan James Franzen