January-February 2016 – Body Language

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.   1 Corinthians 12:12

On his last night before his death on the cross Jesus prayed that all his followers would be one (John 17:20-24). Jesus’ prayer has been answered affirmatively. Though not yet in fullness. Together we are all one in the body of Christ. Even though our unity is not yet fully evident…

I write during this year’s Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. Members from both of our churches have just worshiped with members of St John the Evangelist parish in Pocasset, in observance of this theme of Christian unity. Members of our choirs joined together in song. A member of one of our churches and a member of their church read scripture. Fr David Frederici and I gave brief homilies. The Holy Spirit’s presence was felt from first exchanges of warm greetings to shared farewells, with many of us saying to each other, “we need to do this more often.”

We do; and with God’s help, we will. I’ve also been part of a prayer group made up of Protestant pastors in Bourne in recent months. As we’ve shared joys and concerns together in prayer I’ve felt the Holy Spirit leading. Again, I hope and believe we will find ways to worship and share fellowship this year with the churches of Jesus Christ around us, with whom we share identity and purpose in the one body of Christ.

We ourselves of course are a parish made up of two churches, so the theme of Christian unity is ever before us. In recent years we’ve been doing many more things together, including our joint Pumpkin Patch for the Bourne Food Pantry, our Thanksgiving community meal, our joint Outreach Committee meetings, regular check-in meetings of our Finance Committees, coordinated benefit dinners for Imagine No Malaria, our annual hymn sing gathering, shared worship for Ash Wednesday, Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter Sunrise services. Recently Kari, our choir director, has been bringing members of both of our choirs together, adding voices in each church. Last September we worshiped together on the day pumpkins were scheduled to arrive. We’re now planning to worship together again February 14 (first Sunday of Lent), and May 15 (Pentecost).

Worship, prayer, fellowship, service, outreach to the community – sharing more often in these basic ministries is a blessing for both our churches and our wider community. Because, as scripture tells us, we are one body – and the health of the whole body depends on the health of all its members.

The church is the body of Christ, and all believers in Christ are members of this one body. The apostle Paul uses this ‘body language’ more than 40 times – in Romans 12, in each of the first five chapters of Ephesians, in the first three chapters of Colossians, and especially in 1st Corinthians 12, where the apostle tells us all members of the body of Christ – eyes, ears, hands, feet – serve the common needs of the one body. No member can function properly on its own.

Bible scholar Brian Peterson notes “The image of the body as a communal reality is not unique to Paul… Other writers in the Roman world… used the same image… to support the social hierarchy. The point was that every body needs a head – and in society that was provided by the wealthy, the rulers, and the elite. Every body needs hands and feet to do the hard and dirty work – and that was provided in society by just about everyone else…”

St. Paul uses body language very differently – telling us (in Ephesians and Colossians) Christ alone is head of the body. In each of his letters reminding us all parts of the body belong to one another, and none are to be regarded above the other. “If one member suffers, all suffer with it; if one member is honored, all together rejoice with it (1 Cor 12:26).” No minister and no ministry is to be exalted over another; all are to serve our one Lord in harmony and unity.

Which is still a counter-cultural message. Alongside every inspiring message we hear about team work, cooperation, community, and unity – we hear many more messages that overtly and/or subliminally tell us ‘look out for number one.’ Put our own self-interest first. And of course there’s a place for enlightened self-interest, and for gentle competition in serving the common good. But as Jesus tells us, the love of God and neighbor requires loving others as much as we love and value ourselves. So –

My prayer is that all of us will commit to pray every day for what Jesus says to pray for: God’s kingdom to come, on earth as it is in heaven. Grace, peace, mutual love and compassionate caring to flourish among all believers in Christ. The love we have for God and one another overflowing to extend God’s healing, saving grace to all the world around us…

Please join me in this prayer in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord…

May His grace and peace be ever with you,

Pastor Tim