I Corinthians 12:12-31, Philippians 2:1-11
September 7, 2008
“One body, one mind.” That’s the theme I’m using today for this service in which we Ordain and Install our officers. I think it’s helpful sometimes to have just a few words to take with us when we go. Sometimes those kinds of short phrases will “stick in the back or our minds” – in the front of our minds, actually. Sometimes it’s the brief – bumper sticker kinds of thoughts that stay with us longer. So I’m giving you this one. “One Body, One Mind.”
That’s what I want you to think about today. We are one body. Paul explains that in the 12th chapter of I Corinthians. “We are the body of Christ and individually members of it.” (I Corinthians 12:27) That’s us, the Body of Christ. In that chapter, he uses this metaphor of the human body to explain how the various parts of the body – the Church – are all needed in order for the body to function properly, though all the parts are different. “And,” he told them, “there should be no discord in the body!” (Boy is that a great message to a country in the midst of an election year!?!)
Well, those were very important things for him to be telling that young church, too. Because you may recall how he started this book – this letter, really. He told them how he had heard that they had become a church of “factions.” They were anything but united! Some said they belonged to Paul, some to Apollos, some to Peter, and some to Christ, himself. That’s how this letter started. He was very worried about them, and he pleaded with them to be united and “free of discord.” Now, twelve chapters later, he has gotten to the point that he is telling them that they are all “one body.”
I think this is a wonderful passage for this occasion today! Actually, the part just prior to this one could also have been our scripture. In the first part of this chapter, Paul talks about the various gifts there are for ministry and leadership, and how they are all given by the same spirit. That also fits well with this Ordination and Installation service. I’ll tell you what. I’ll leave that for you to read later. Take it as your assignment to reread this chapter, chapter 12. And then let that flow into the 13th chapter, the chapter where Paul tells them of a “still more excellent way.” At that point, he gives them that great chapter on Love.
In the meantime, let’s think about this chapter 12. I hope we all get what Paul is saying here. (He’s a pretty brainy guy!!!) To risk using a double negative, I’ll state that I agree wholeheartedly with Paul. None of us is unimportant! All of our gifts and talents are given us to be used for the good of the body of Christ here in this place. All of us are crucial to the proper functioning of the body. God has ordered things that way. (And if you know anything about us Presbyterians, we are always interested in “order!”) I hope that each one of us will think of our gifts and our function in this body, as we start the new “church year.” (By the way, when does the actual “church year” start? The first Sunday of Advent!)
As we think about our own role in the body of Christ, I hope we will keep in mind that, as Paul has said, it is often the “lesser parts” of the body (or those parts people usually think of as “lesser”) that are the most important. Yes, it’s important to have and to ordain those among us for special ministries, and God bless you all! But the rest of us have just as an important a part in what happens in the Church! We can not simply say, “Yes. We pledge to pray for these leaders and support them and follow their decisions.” We must do that, of course! And we have! But we cannot just do that and leave all the work and effort to them. For we are all the body of Christ. These people merely lead the rest of us in being the body of Christ. Each one of us is to strive to find our place and our job as we are the body of Jesus Christ here on earth. Each one of us, needs to see ourselves as part of his ministry, two thousand and a handful of years later!
As we do that, I would have us consider the second part of this title I’m using here today. “One Body, One Mind.” That’s important, because if you think about it, the body goes where the mind leads. And if the mind is in discord, if the mind is in conflict, then the body will suffer right along with it.
We know that’s the case when we think of the human body. When we are troubled in our minds, when our minds are stressed, it does harmful things to our bodies. Remember what I said are the three most prescribed medications in this country? Anti-depressants, stomach acid blockers, and sleep aids! So many people in our world have that kind of trouble and stress in their minds, and that affects those areas of their physical beings. (And of course there are drug companies who are glad to make money from those who are needy in that way!)
So why should we think it’s any different with a body of believers? When there is discord in the corporate body of believers, can we not expect that there will be physical and social affects of that discord? That’s just logical. That’s a main reason why Paul wrote a lot of this letter. And I think it’s a good “reality check” to look at ourselves and see where we too might be suffering from those same things. The simple fact is that we cannot be One Body, if we aren’t of One Mind. If we are going to be followers if Jesus Christ, we need to strive to be of one mind.
Paul wrote helpful words to that affect to yet another church, the church in Philippi. That was perhaps his most beloved congregation! And to them he wrote, “So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any incentive of love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, being in full accord and of one mind.”
Now, let me say this right away. That doesn’t mean we are all to agree on everything! It doesn’t mean that we are to be little clones, little copies of one another, all thinking and believing everything exactly the same. That’s actually kind of silly if you really think about it! What it does mean is that we are to be agreeable. We are to love each other in a way that is encouraging, and upbuilding, and edifying, and all those other wonderful New Testament words, despite the fact that we may not always agree!
My friends, this is a tough sermon to preach in the height of a political election season. And actually, it couldn’t be more appropriate! Every day of this political campaign people in this country are losing more and more of the ability to love and uphold one other with whom they do not agree. It’s disgraceful! And I select that word very carefully! It means, “not-having-grace-towards” – dis-grace- ful. We need to learn as a country to love and respect those who think differently about things than we do. And we certainly need to do that as a Church!! I wish I could wave a magic wand over this nation and take away all that discord between people and parties that makes me so sad! Maybe I can’t. But I can certainly from this pulpit call this congregation to graceful living with one another! And I will not cease to do so! You have my word on that!
Actually, I feel kind of like Paul here. I love you all – no matter how you worship! And this is my impassioned plea to “complete my joy” by being of one mind. As I said before, nothing can stop a congregation united in Christ, seeking to be his people, seeking to live as he would have us live, living together in the Joy of his kingdom! When that Spirit grows among us, then we will know that rock upon which Christ has built his Church, and truly the gates of Hell will not be able to prevail against us!! (Boy that felt good! It feels so good to say “hell” every once in a while in a sermon! If I were a pulpit pounder, that would have been a great place to pound away!)
But really, my friends, we can talk about a lot of things here today. We can dig into these texts and let the spirit flow that way. We can take apart Paul’s thoughts and his theology and his Biblical understanding. They taught us to do that in seminary! But I don’t want us to do that today. I want us just to see him as pouring out his heart to these people! I want us to see him pleading for them to have unity in Christ. I want us to see that, and I want us to do that ourselves! I want us to be one in Christ Jesus! For that we are! Christ has called us, Christ has bought us, Christ has freed us from the things with which this world would bind us. For freedom Christ has set us free.
Let’s be people who live gracious, loving, spirit-filled lives. In fact, as Paul said at the end of this letter, “Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think on these things” And may God richly bless us as we serve him together. As officers and parishioners alike, may we strive to be “One Body, One Mind.”
Eternal and ever gracious God, we are yours. You have called us to live this life with each other in your body, the Church. Teach us the way of victorious living. Help us to be set apart from this world. Help us to be that “city set on a hill.” But most of all show us your love – the love you want us to have within this body, and for all people. For this we pray in Jesus’ name, and for his sake, and for the sake of his kingdom, Amen.