Skin and Bones and Pinky Toes
“Skin, Bones and Pinky Toes”
January 23, 2022
1 Corinthians 12:12-31a
Third Sunday of Epiphany
1 Corinthians 12:12-31a
One Body with Many Members
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.
Indeed, the body does not consist of one member but of many. If the foot were to 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 were to 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 the hearing be? If the whole body were hearing, where would the sense of smell be? 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 members, 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 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.
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 deeds of power, then gifts of healing, forms of assistance, forms of leadership, 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 in tongues? Do all interpret? But strive for the greater gifts. And I will show you a still more excellent way.
I’m so glad you’ve joined us for the second week in our series on being together in the midst of isolation. We are studying the letters of Paul to the church at Corinth that make up the book of 1 Corinthians. Last week we set the stage by talking about the variety of pressure in our world right now that is pushing us toward isolation and individualism. How some of it is necessary in the wake of Covid-19 and how some of it is an extreme response and individualistic reaction to collective care for the common good.
And we also talked about Corinth, a city that was full of individuals out for their own success and superiority, even in the brand new Christian church that had been planted there. Our primary message last week was that every person has been given a gift by God and that those gifts are designed to be used in community, to bring us together from our separateness. And no gift that any one person has been given is any better than any other person’s. But, if we choose to keep our gifts to ourselves, they will have no impact on the common good to which Jesus taught us to desire. So we must share them. Thank you to many of you who filled out Time and Talent cards with gifts that you’re willing to offer the greater good through our church.
This week we pick up right where we left off in the scripture, hearing one of the more memorable writings Paul gave us in which he takes the idea of community and togetherness one step further by using the metaphor of a body to describe a body of people.
Listen to this again: “Indeed, the body does not consist of one member but of many. If the foot were to 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 were to 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 the hearing be? If the whole body were hearing, where would the sense of smell be? 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 members, yet one body.”
When I was the pastor at Warnerville we made banners one year where we each put our handprint on the fabric and then we wrote “Christ has no hands, but our hands.” A beautiful sentiment, but it doesn’t stop there does it? Some of us will be his hands, and others of us will be called to be the heart, or the head, or the feet or the bones. You have to admit, it’s a fascinating metaphor. The church, a group of individuals, making up a body with many different parts, each with their own job and character, yet somehow working together for one common purpose.
Essentially, the message this week is about how you can be uniquely who you are called to be while also staying in connection with me while I am uniquely who I am called to be. Community isn’t about uniformity; community is about diversity working together. Or as the recently departed Thich Nhat Hanh has said,
“We are here to awaken from our illusion of separateness.”
When we use this metaphor of the body to help understand our life as a community, it teaches us about empathy and compassion as we begin to understand that our actions have impact on other people. If one part of the body suffers, the whole of the body suffers. Again, the metaphor of the human body teaches us here. Injuries more than anything else teach us about this concept the hard way. When one part of your body gets injured, the other parts of the body, though not injured, still very much feel the pain as they work harder to compensate for what’s missing. Sometimes the doctors call this referred pain, when, for example, you hurt your left arm, but your right shoulder starts to hurt. It’s the result of a network of connecting tissue responding and reacting (empathizing?) to the hurt. And so it is with groups of people that are connected “bodies.”
I know there are apparently important football games happening at this time of year, but in my life there is really only one sport and one sports team, and that’s the university basketball team from my home state of Kentucky. They’re really good this year, but yesterday they played a tough match-up against a top ranked Auburn team at Auburn. Things were going pretty well until our point guard, the guy who handles the ball and passes it where it needs to be passed fell to the court with an injury. The team tried to compensate, but ultimately it was too difficult to play as a cohesive whole while missing one of the key positions on the quart. We lost that game, but Auburn better watch out next time when the body’s got all its parts working.
Togetherness, whether it’s on a sports team where the players work together like clockwork, or in a body where the flesh and bones learn to give and take, or in a church where different individuals work together for a greater good… Togetherness is not just a sum of the individual parts, it’s the exponential quality of different gifts unifying to make a complete picture.
I still remember the days and weeks after Margaret Karker passed away, a beloved and integral member of this body of Christ. Without any advance warning of her departure, she passed away suddenly leaving us with grief and confusion about how to be a body without her. As treasurer of the trustees and manager of the food pantry she filled roles that weren’t often noticed on Sunday mornings. Yet the work she did behind the scenes to keep our church investments recorded and our food pantry stocked filled a critical role. When she was gone, it threw us all off balance. Kind of like the pinky toe, I suppose. It’s out of sight most of the time, but the body depends on this tiny appendage to help with its balance and stability. So it was with Margaret. She kept us in balance (by keeping us in line) and it took losing her to realize just what an impact one person behind the scenes of this church can have.
Margaret’s story should not leave us feeling sad, though. It should leave us feeling thankful. Because just like there was Margaret, there are dozens more stories from these pews that tell of how behind-the-scenes contributions make this body of Christ stronger and, in turn, the world a better place.
We have Pat Rickard who comes early and stays late to make sure our offering is dutifully counted with Ruth. We have Bruce Wright, who among other things, is something of a thermostat whisperer and shows up just as soon as there’s a problem. We have John Jarvis who came down to clean every time a hard rain passed leaving a puddle in our fellowship hall. We have Amy Kennedy and Suzanne Mazoff who bring Bible stories alive for our children every Sunday before church. We have people like Loren Schaff and Patty Miller who will be the last ones to leave today so they can make sure every single light in this place is turned off. We have Sandy Gilmore and all the other thrift store volunteers who sort through other people’s discards, one small piece at a time, and turn them into someone else’s treasure and in the process raise thousands of dollars that our church is able to give away. We have Jack Gosselink who had an idea that we could save Styrofoam from going to the landfill and so he started a collection at the church and now, with help from others, drives piles of your styrofoam to a recycling center in Albany. We have Natasha Foote who volunteers each Sunday as a virtual greeter on our live-stream. We have Carl Stoner who will custom make anything the church could possibly need from a piece of wood. We have Denise Smith who bakes delicious gluten free communion bread every month for us. Folks, I could go on and on and on. So many of you have found your calling in this body of Christ-- a unique way to contribute to the bigger picture. And we would not be who we are with you.
Last week I encouraged you to watch a new movie that Disney has recently put out called Encanto. The movie is about a Columbian family that has been blessed with many different gifts that help the town…except for Mirabel, the main character of the movie and one of the grandchildren who apparently didn’t get a gift at all. The movie is about her figuring out how she fits into a traditional family without a traditional gift. Turns out, she does have a gift but instead of it being obvious and out in front, her gift is much more about holding the foundation of the family together from within. She looks into individual members of her family and sees the whole person, not just their gift. It wasn’t a flashy or super-natural gift that Mirabel got, but it was exactly what that family needed.
And so it is with us. Real community, community that is strong and enduring, celebrates a diversity of gifts recognizing that it takes all kinds to make the body work. It takes the kinds of people who stand out in front and hold things together, it takes people who keep the structure together from within, and it takes people who help keep things in line by creating balance and stability. In other words, the skin, the bones and the pinky toes, every body needs every part. You matter because the body wouldn’t be the body without you, without the gift that you bring, without the person that you are. So I hope you keep praying about what gift you have to bring to bear for the greater good.
In the United Methodist Church we have a saying…“For God so loved the world that God formed a committee.” This is funny because committees can be bureaucratic and boring (but certainly not at Cobleskill UMC!). We believe committees give us an opportunity to bring together many different gifts into the same room and get them working together for good of the whole. And as we begin a new year, I thought this would be a great opportunity to introduce to you some of the people who have offered to serve in various ways this year
(invite committees up in groupings)
Blessing of the Committees
Dear friends, you have been called by God and chosen by the people of God for ministry in the church. This ministry is a blessing and a serious responsibility. It recognizes your special gifts and calls you to work among us and for us. In love we thank you for accepting your calling and challenge you to offer your best to the Lord, to this people, and to our ministry in the world. Live a life in Christ and make him known in your witness and your work.
Grace and Peace,