August 27, 2019 To A More Excellent Way-1 Corinthians 12:12-31

thebodyofchrist-u

(The apostle Paul writes:) 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 one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.

For the body does not consist of one member but of many. If the foot should 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. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, yet one body.

The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.

Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, helping, administrating, and various kinds of tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? Do all possess gifts of healing? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret? But earnestly desire the higher gifts.

And I will show you a still more excellent way. 1 Corinthians 12:12-31 (ESV) 
The apostle Paul advocated the value of the individual believer based upon the worth we are given as children of God in Christ. In a world where value is found in a person’s financial worth or in what a person can do, our value in the body of Christ comes from the fact that Jesus loved us enough to come to earth- to live with us, and to give Himself as a sacrifice for us, to pay the penalty for our sins that we cannot pay, and that we neither earn or deserve.

Just as we have social strata today – the wealthy vs. the poor, the educated vs. the unlearned, the privileged vs. the disadvantaged, and so on, there were definite social stations in Paul’s times. Many people were slaves and didn’t even own their own bodies. Women were considered little more than livestock. Yet in Christ, each believer is a valued child of God and an integral part of the Body of Christ, both in Paul’s day and today. When Jesus died on the cross His sacrifice was given for every person who ever lived, no matter how we would look at them or their contribution to society.

Each person has been created by God with certain gifts and abilities with which to serve each other. Some have much to offer in material gifts. Some are great encouragers. Others are artistically gifted or have musical talent. Still others serve in the background with organizational skills or an ability to do building maintenance. Some have a heart for meeting the needs of children.

On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor…

Paul reminds us that it is important to take special care of the weak- those who are elderly or infirm who may not appear to be “gifted” or to bring much to the community on the surface, but who bring us the great gift of the opportunity to serve and share with them.

There is a disturbing tendency in human nature (both in Paul’s day and today) to value people with a view to their “usefulness.”

How do we value the child with Down’s Syndrome who may have limited cognitive function and may never be able to live independently? Is he or she just as much a child of God, for whom Jesus died to save, as the child with the standard number of chromosomes?

How do we value the elderly man with dementia who can remember storming the beach at Normandy in 1944 as if it were happening now, but who is also bedridden, incontinent, and can’t remember his wife’s name? Is he just as much a loved child of God as the paramedic or the preschool teacher who bakes cookies and teaches Sunday School?

In today’s society we can see the devaluing of human life in many ways- through abortion on demand, where a perfectly healthy child can be killed and thrown away like just a piece of medical waste simply for being “inconvenient” or “unwanted.” In some countries and even in some places in the United States assisted suicide is permissible- and often encouraged as an option for the chronically ill and the dying.

What kind of value do we place on the most vulnerable among us- the unborn, the disabled, the dying?

How can we help someone in a crisis pregnancy choose life? How can we bring joy to the disabled? How can we comfort the dying? They too are those for whom Jesus bled and died.

The way of Jesus is the way of the cross. We are not called to be comfortable, but to bring comfort to others in the name of Christ. In this world there will be sorrow and suffering. We are called to endure sorrow and suffering because we have the great promise and hope of life in Christ. We are called to share the hope we have in Christ as we embrace those who are weak and hold them up. Some of us are strong in some areas but weak in others, but each of us is a part of the Body of Christ.

There is a place in the church for everyone- weak, strong, young, or old. Each of us brings unique gifts and strengths. We have life in Christ not because of anything we can do, earn or deserve, but because we have been named and claimed and marked with the cross of Christ in baptism. Our value and our worth is given to us as a gift of God. Each of us is made in the image of God. Every person is someone of value, someone for whom our Lord bled and died to save.

May we as Jesus’ church cherish and defend the weaker members of our body, and by the grace of God come to appreciate each other and all of our varied weaknesses as well as our gifts.

February 15, 2019- Jesus is God, The Only Way to Life- John 5:19-29

only way

So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise.  For the Father loves the Son and shows him all that he himself is doing. And greater works than these will he show him, so that you may marvel. For as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whom he will. For the Father judges no one, but has given all judgment to the Son, that all may honor the Son, just as they honor the Father. Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him.  Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.

 “Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live.  For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself. And he has given him authority to execute judgment, because he is the Son of Man.  Do not marvel at this, for an hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment. John 5:19-29 (ESV)

There is no mistaking Jesus for a mere prophet, or simply as a good teacher. Jesus is God Himself as he clearly attests here and at other points in the Gospels.  The Son and the Father, and the Holy Spirit are one.  Rejecting Jesus- or any of the Persons of the Trinity- is saying no to God.

It can be difficult for some to accept, but the truth is that there is only one way to God. There is salvation in one name alone, and that is in the name of Jesus.

When the apostle Thomas asked Jesus the way to the Father’s House, Jesus answered that He alone is the Way, the Truth and the Life, and that no one comes to the Father except through Him. (John 14:1-7)

How is it that we can “do good” and come out of the curse of death to the resurrection of life? Jesus says:

Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.

The wisdom of the world says that all paths lead to God, or that a good God would not pass judgment on His creation. We learn otherwise in the Bible.  There will be judgment, and we cannot stand up to God’s standard of perfection apart from Jesus. We are saved by faith in Jesus- in trusting that we are justified by His death on the cross to save us from our sins.

We are called to hear God’s Word, speak God’s Word and teach God’s Word. The Holy Spirit works faith in Jesus for others through us when we hear, study, and teach His Word.  Through His means of grace- hearing the Gospel, being washed in the waters of Baptism, and in taking and eating the elements of bread and wine in Holy Communion, we are brought to saving faith in Jesus Christ, our Lord.

October 3, 2017- Baptized Into God-Life- Romans 6:1-11

abundant life.jpgWhat then are we to say? Should we continue in sin in order that grace may abound?   By no means! How can we who died to sin go on living in it?  Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?  Therefore we have been buried with him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.

For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.  We know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be destroyed, and we might no longer be enslaved to sin.  For whoever has died is freed from sin.   But if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him.  We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him.  The death he died, he died to sin, once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God.  So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. Romans 6:1-11 (NRSV)

The apostle Paul had a difficult audience in the Romans. Roman culture and religion glorified consumption, violence, excess and certain forms of immoral behavior.  So Paul had his work cut out for him explaining to the Romans why it is necessary for us to die to our old sinful selves so that we can be free to live with Christ.

50-Bucks-And-A-Pack-Of-Cigarettes

Our culture today is very similar to the Romans’. We watch the news and all we seem to hear is death, destruction and debauchery.  Violence and sex sell. Evil is very prevalent in the world as we see all around us, but Baptism is God’s promise to us that His life isn’t what the media portrays. There is more to life than the Jerry Springer show and the sad dramas we see played out in the tabloids- and in our neighborhoods. God-life is a far better way for us to live.  It is the life God designed for us.

In Baptism we die to the “old Adam.” Our sins are crucified on the  Cross with Jesus, and we are set free to live God’s way.

Therefore every Christian has enough in Baptism to learn and to practice all his life; for he has always enough to do to believe firmly what it promises and brings: victory over death and the devil, forgiveness of sin, the grace of God, the entire Christ, and the Holy Ghost with His gifts. In short, it is so transcendent that if timid nature could realize it, it might well doubt whether it could be true. For consider, if there were somewhere a physician who understood the art of saving men from dying, or, even though they died, of restoring them speedily to life, so that they would thereafter live forever, how the world would pour in money like snow and rain, so that because of the throng of the rich no one could find access! But here in Baptism there is brought free to every one’s door such a treasure and medicine as utterly destroys death and preserves all men alive.

Thus we must regard Baptism and make it profitable to ourselves, that when our sins and conscience oppress us, we strengthen ourselves and take comfort and say: Nevertheless I am baptized; but if I am baptized, it is promised me that I shall be saved and have eternal life, both in soul and body. For that is the reason why these two things are done in Baptism namely, that the body, which can apprehend nothing but the water, is sprinkled, and, in addition, the word is spoken for the soul to apprehend. Now, since both, the water and the Word, are one Baptism, therefore body and soul must be saved and live forever: the soul through the Word which it believes, but the body because it is united with the soul and also apprehends Baptism as it is able to apprehend it. We have, therefore, no greater jewel in body and soul, for by it we are made holy and are saved, which no other kind of life, no work upon earth, can attain.- from the explanation of Baptism, Luther’s Large Catechism

 In Baptism we are given the most precious of God’s gifts- we are made His own. We are given the means to participate in the life we were created for, to live in response to the grace of God- not just after our bodies die, but here and now.  We have the gift of abundant, meaningful life in Christ, because we are no longer prisoners to the old ways of sin and death.

How are we living the God-life today?