Rejoicing Together – September 8, 2019
I Corinthians 12:12-31
September 8, 2019
Today we celebrate Leadership. We have Ordained and Installed our next class of Elders, Deacons, and Trustees. And as a congregation we have pledged to follow them, to encourage them, and perhaps most importantly, to pray for them.
If you think about it, what we do today has it’s roots far back in the history of God’s people. You can go to the book of Acts and read where they first chose leaders. You can even go to some of Paul’s letters and read the requirements for those leaders – you can see the kind of people they were expected to be. (Maybe some of you want to reconsider!) And you can go back in the Old Testament and read how they chose their priests and elders.
Today we’ve had our version of that. And this is important for us Presbyterians. Because, in our tradition the clergy and the laity share leadership. Those who are ordained as pastors and those ordained as elders have a co-leadership role in our churches. There is no “hierarchy” in the Presbyterian Church. We are more like a “Representative Democracy.”
So, as we “Celebrate Leadership,” I’ve read for you today this passage from First Corinthians. This is one of the passages we used at Kirkwood this Summer. We were trying to get the kids to see and understand the “worth,” the “value,” of every person. That’s not an easy message to get across to young people. And sometimes it’s not an easy message to get across to older people, ether. But that has been the message of the Christian Church from it’s very beginning.
This Summer, we’ve been talking about the early church, and how, among other things, they had do deal with the question, “Who’s included?” “Who will be part of this thing called ‘The Church?’” Would it mainly be the Jews? That’s what they thought at first. But, what about the Gentiles? What about the Greeks and the Samaritans? I’m sure Paul struggled with that, having been changed only recently from his former life as Saul – the Pharisee.
Well, here in this passage, Paul uses the human body as an analogy for the Body of Christ – the Church. Here hs is telling the people that the body is created in such a way that all of the parts are necessary. And so it is with the “Body of Christ.” He writes, “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.’” All are important, all have value. Just as all the people have value in the kingdom of God.
Then he takes it even further. He says, “But God has so composed the body, giving the greater honor to the ‘inferior parts.’” That sounds like Jesus’ words, “Whoever would be great among you must be your servant.” I often wonder which of Jesus’ teachings Saul the Pharisee heard first hand, and which he learned from others.
Either way, Paul understood God’s vision of Leadership. He goes on to say, “God has so composed the body, giving the greater honor to the inferior part, so 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.”
That’s where he’s leading us. Peace and harmony within the Church are important to Paul. They are so important to our witness to the world – which we’ve talked about recently! The way we treat one another is what the world sees! So peace and harmony are important. But, so is rejoicing! And I’m glad he added those words “all rejoice together” to the end of that sentence! “Rejoicing together” is an important part of God’s kingdom. Because God’s kingdom is not just a kingdom full of saved people, or of believing people, or even just of loving people. Gods kingdom is a kingdom that is full of rejoicing people!
You know what it’s like when you’re at a reunion. Maybe it’s a High School – which we’re big on – or a College reunion, or maybe its’ a family reunion. Maybe it’s a time when you see people that you haven’t seen in years. Think about what that’s like. There’s joy there, isn’t there? There’s excitement. And I think that’s just a tiny hint of what God’s kingdom will be like! Getting into God’s kingdom, that is, getting into Heaven, is not a matter of “Phew, I made it.” It’s “Wow! I’m here!” It’s about great rejoicing!
A very important word in the lexicon of C. S. Lewis was the word “Joy.” And I’ve always love his definition of that word. His definition comes from the Greek roots of the word. Literally “Joy” in Greek is “The Good Surprise.” In joy, there is an element of surprise. So in a sense, the joy of God’s kingdom is not just a celebration, it’s not just a party. It’s a “surprise party!”
I also believe that Paul wasn’t just talking about God’s Heavenly Kingdom – something that’s coming down the road. I believe he was echoing the words of Jesus, who said that “The kingdom of God is (where?) among you!” This is the kingdom – here and now! You need to realized the joys of being God’s people here in this life! For God’s people, life is not just a matter of “eeking out an existence” here, hoping for Joy in the coming kingdom. That’s not what God wants for his beloved people! He wants us to rejoice together in this life!
So then, ask yourself, do you know the Joy of God’s kingdom? Do you seek that joy – again, despite the circumstances? And do you strive to help others to see that joy? That’s the upbuilding, encouraging, “balcony people” God wants us to be.
“God has so composed the body, giving the greater honor to the inferior part, so 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.”
Eternal God, help us to know the joy of your kingdom. Give us glimpses into your heavenly kingdom, as we share this life together. May we be people who love and honor all people so we all rejoice together. We pray this in Jesus’ name, and for the sake of his kingdom – the kingdom in our midst, Amen