May 22, 2018 Synergy in the Body of Christ- 1 Corinthians 12:12-27

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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. 1 Corinthians 12:12-27 (ESV)

When the members of a body function as they are intended they work in synergy:

synergy: a mutually advantageous conjunction or compatibility of distinct business participants or elements such as resources or efforts – (as defined by the Merriam-Webster online dictionary)

It’s very clear even on casual observation that God has created us all with different gifts and placed us in different roles. Not everyone is an eloquent speaker or a talented dancer.  Some of us are gifted with the ability to encourage others and to anticipate others’ needs.  Others of us can sing or write or have a love for mentoring children.  Still others are gifted in carpentry or plumbing or in repairing mechanical things.

There is a reason why the Body of Christ has so much diversity in its members- because no one person can do everything, or wants to do everything! Some are physically stronger than others, while others have different gifts to bring to the table. The idea is that we work together as one to serve God and each other.  It is easier said than done.

Vocation is more than simply what one does for a living. It is operating as part of the greater body of Christ for everyone’s good, while still retaining the unique separate humanity that God created us with.

It’s been said that marriage relationships should be “fifty-fifty,” but that’s almost never how relationships work. There are times when it’s more like twenty-eighty or sixty-forty- or even ninety-ten.  Sometimes one must have compassion and completely carry the other in his or her weakness.  It is also true in any community or relationship that sometimes the stronger members need to carry the weaker- and over time the roles change.  The helpless infant  who is carried to the baptismal font- where he or she is named and claimed by God and welcomed into the faith- becomes the toddler in the nursery. Soon enough that toddler is the teen who helps watch the toddlers.  The teen then becomes a young adult, and then he or she becomes a parent. Then parents become grandparents, and grandparents, become the elderly who are again in need of special care.  Yet we are all brought into one body, named, claimed and loved by God, through our baptism.

Sometimes we find it difficult to accept the role that we are currently occupy- sometimes we hold the role of being the one being able to offer help, and other times we are the one in need. Yet the apostle Paul reminds us that each of us are essential to the greater Body, that the eye is as honored as the hand or the ear or the mouth.  The greater Body needs each specific and individual part.  The weaker among us are to be held especially carefully and honorably as- “the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable.”

Our society isn’t very good at valuing the weak or the seemingly insignificant, such as the very young, the physically or mentally ill, the disabled and the elderly. Yet even in their weakness, or precisely because of it, they are precious members of the Body of Christ and need to be treated with special care.

We look to Jesus to help us live and work and love in synergy and right relationship within our families, communities and in the greater Body of Christ. We ask Jesus to forgive us when we don’t love our neighbor as ourselves and when we want to be something that we are not. We pray for Jesus to give us the courage and strength to live out our various vocations together with others, in our family, workplaces and church to the glory of God.

March 1, 2018 God is a Jealous God- Exodus 20:1-11

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Then God spoke all these words:

I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery; you shall have no other gods before me.

You shall not make for yourself an idol, whether in the form of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, punishing children for the iniquity of parents, to the third and the fourth generation of those who reject me, but showing steadfast love to the thousandth generation of those who love me and keep my commandments.

You shall not make wrongful use of the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not acquit anyone who misuses his name. Remember the sabbath day, and keep it holy.  Six days you shall labor and do all your work.  But the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God; you shall not do any work—you, your son or your daughter, your male or female slave, your livestock, or the alien resident in your towns. For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but rested the seventh day; therefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day and consecrated it. Exodus 20:1-11 (NRSV)

The first three of the Ten Commandments deal with our relationship with God. Four points stand out in these passages:

You shall have no other gods before me.

You shall not make for yourself an idol.

I the Lord your God am a jealous God.

You shall not make wrongful use of the name of the Lord your God.

Most of us are probably not into making golden calves, Baal worship, or sacrificing things to other assorted ancient demons. The bad news is we have modern idols to who we gladly sacrifice our attention and resources.  Do we indulge in anything to excess? Are there things that we put at a higher priority than God?

We all do this at times. Whether we put good things on a pedestal higher than they should be, or put good things in improper balance, or we indulge in things that just plain aren’t healthy for us and the greater community, we are all guilty of getting caught up in things. We make gods out of things that were never meant to be gods, things that have no intrinsic power.

God warns us about idolatry because He knows it’s not healthy for us. It’s easy to look at the Law as a buzz kill- ruining our fun so to speak- but in reality the Law serves two purposes. One is that the Law is a protective boundary.  When we chase idols we harm ourselves and others, and separate ourselves from God. The other purpose of the Law is to lead us to Jesus and show us our desperate need for Him.  None of us can completely obey the Law 100%.  Only Jesus was capable of living by the Law 100%.

The practical application of these first few Commandments is to underscore God is a jealous God. He made us for His good purpose and we belong to Him. He doesn’t want just a little bit of us on Sunday mornings- if we bother to drag ourselves out of bed and away from the TV for an hour or two to come to church to sing a few songs and (hopefully) pay attention to a 20 minute sermon.  He doesn’t just want a little bit of us when we are hurting and need comfort.  Yes, God does want us to come to church because we need each other as the Body of Christ, and we need Word and Sacrament to sustain us- but He wants us the rest of the time too.

He wants all of us, all of the time, even when we are running kicking and screaming from Him.

God has given us His name to call on Him- in praise and worship and thanks, to bless others, and in times of trouble. It is a privilege to be able to call upon Him, and a terrible insult to use His name as a curse.

Worship and prayer are regular spiritual disciplines that remind us that God is the One in charge.

Worship is not just going to church on Sunday- though Sunday worship at church with other believers and staying in community is important- so important that God commands to dedicate a day out of our week to worship. Worship is actively acknowledging that God is Who God says He is- the Creator, the I AM God of the universe.  The concept of worship actually covers a LOT of ground.  Thanking God for the gift of breath, for the beauty of creation, for the privilege of being able to come to Him anytime with anything, these are all part of worship.  Prayer is simply talking with God about anything.

Of course if we examine ourselves against the first three Commandments we discover we are not so hot at upholding our end of our relationship with God. We are all law breakers. We all fall short of God’s ideal for us.

Worship and prayer are regular spiritual disciplines that remind us that God is the One in charge.

Brother Lawrence, a 17th century monk, wrote a short but insightful book called Practicing the Presence of God.  He models a way of living our daily lives in prayer and worship- in how we work and in how we serve others.

Everything we do should be an act of worship, and we should always walk with God in prayer. The Law reminds us that we fall short of that goal, but the Good News is that in our Baptism we put on Christ.  In Christ God does not see our imperfections, but only the sacrifice of His perfect Son.

 

 

January 19, 2018- A Fortress of Love- Psalm 62:5-8, 1 John 4:7-12

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Yes, my soul, find rest in God; my hope comes from him. Truly he is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will not be shaken. My salvation and my honor depend on God; he is my mighty rock, my refuge. Trust in him at all times, you people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge. Psalm 62:5-8 (NIV)

Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.  This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us. 1 John 4:7-12 (NIV)

One of the greatest proofs for God in the world can be found in our families, friends and communities. We find support, accountability and strength in community. Sometimes we as Americans want to follow Jesus with a sort of “me-n-Jesus” loner mentality, but living in God’s kingdom means that we live in the context of community- even when there are disagreements and hardships and in those times when being part of a community isn’t easy.  Jesus said, “I am the Vine, you are the branches.” (John 15:5)  A vine has many more than just one branch.  As Jesus followers we need each other.  The Body of Christ necessarily has many parts that need to work together as a whole.

It is important for us to have a one on one relationship with God that we tend in prayer, study, meditation and in cultivating spiritual disciplines, but it is equally important that our relationship with God is also lived out in our community and in the world at large.

We should find joy and strength and support in our fellow Jesus followers. Because of Jesus we have the capacity to love one another and to live in a way that shows the world Who we belong to.

We as God’s people, God’s community, are meant to be a refuge for each other, not because we are such fantastic people, (we aren’t) but because God loves us. He loved us first. This is an important point.  On our own we aren’t always all that lovable. We can be downright ugly at times.

Forgiveness is a big hallmark of Christian community. All of us are saints and sinners at the same time.  None of us can live up to God’s ideal, but we all have been given the gift of God-with-us as our refuge. We have been given the privilege to experience the presence of God in community.  We pray that we would have the eyes to see others the way God sees them.  We can pray to see others with eyes of love, and to respond to them accordingly.