One Body, Many Members

Let me state something that may be easily misunderstood, but something I am increasingly convinced has to be said and said often: Jesus Christ left us ONE THING – The Church. The Church IS the Body of Christ and is the continued Physical Presence of Jesus Christ in the earth. God has no “Plan B.” His plan to redeem humanity and see the Kingdom of God among us is The Church. Period. Full stop. End of discussion.

OK, well, maybe not the actual end of the discussion. I want to say more about this because I’m convinced wrestling with a robust “ecclesiology” (the theology of just what is the Church) is absolutely necessary for me (and you) to understand the vital importance of community in God’s work to redeem us and make us like His Son. The Church is not just some club; it is the place where we become by grace what Christ is by nature. No one is “saved alone!”

Look at our lesson today in 1 Corinthians 12:12-26:

Brethren, 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 by 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. If the whole body were an eye, where would be the hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? But as it is, God arranged the organs in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single organ, 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 which seem to be weaker are indispensable, and those parts of the body which we think less honorable we invest with the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, which our presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving the greater honor to the inferior part, that there may be no discord 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.

First off, St. Paul is writing to a group of people who desperately need to contemplate what it means to “BE” church together. The Corinthians were an exciting group, but they had many challenges that actually worked against them in being The Church that forms Christ within them. The had a morality problem. They had a pride problem and a problem integrating the very poor members of their community with some very wealthy members of their community. They had a factions problem, to the point that St. Paul said he was glad there were divisions among them since this showed who was actually on the Lord’s side and who wasn’t. Strong words, Paul. You keep that up and you’re going to get in trouble with the language police!

St. Paul confronts them (and us) with the remedy to all these challenges: You people belong to, are responsible for, and ultimately need, each other. Because each member of the Body, The Church is a free, unique, and unrepeatable person gifted with the same Holy Spirit that has been given to each ember of the Church through Baptism and Chrismation and the Holy Eucharist. Each ember of The Body, The Church uniquely possesses “charisms” gifts that serve and assist the other members of The Body, The Church to be formed into being “like Christ.” When those members are absent from The Body, The Church, the whole community is affected. If one member is suffering, The Body, The Church suffers as a whole.

The powerful consequence of being a member of The Body, The Church is that you realize you are not being saved by yourself. When you neglect prayer, when you neglect gathering for liturgy, when you neglect the Fasting times of the Faith or the Feasting times of the Faith, when you reduce your church membership to a club membership that you treat as a decoration to your life, you harm the whole Body! AND you fail to appropriate for yourself and your family the saving wisdom of being a member of The Body, The Church.

Today, you will not be saved alone. But more importantly, someone else needs the gifts you have to become who they were meant to be in The Body, The Church. So, being Orthodox on Purpose, let’s actually live out the words we say in the Liturgy: “Let us commend ourselves, ONE ANOTHER, and OUR WHOLE LIFE to Christ, our God. Be The Church!

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