by Hannah Molskness
1 Corinthians 12:4-7; 12-23
4 Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; 5 and there are varieties of services, but the same Lord; 6 and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone. 7 To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.
12 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. 13 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.
14 Indeed, the body does not consist of one member but of many. 15 If the foot would 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. 16 And if the ear would 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. 17 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? 18 But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. 19 If all were a single member, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many members, yet one body. 21 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.” 22 On the contrary, the members of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23 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;
What is the church? Is it the Lutheran Center building? The place where we worship? Is it our national church body, the ELCA? Is it all Christians around the world and over time? Or is it all of these things and even more? Throughout the Bible, many metaphors are used to describe the church. We read about a house made of living stones, a flock of sheep, and a grape branch. So, I’m sure there is no surprise that this text from Corinthians is also a metaphor.
Paul is writing to the Corinthians whose church, at the time, had a lot of division, hierarchy, and selfish motives. Paul uses the body as a metaphor for the church as a whole in order to help communicate the idea that each person has specific gifts they can utilize to serve the church and their neighbor.
Paul shares that each part of the body has unique functions and abilities. So while an ear specializes in hearing, a foot is essential for walking. Then, a head is compared to a foot stating that neither can say they have no need for the other because even the members that seem to be weaker are indispensable to the body. So, all members of the body are just as important as another. Lastly, it is clear that each part of the body could not function without the others. So, while each part has its own functions and skills, it is uniquely equipped and arranged so the needs of all are met.
Just as God gives each part of the body the skills to work as it should, God gives us each unique gifts that we can use to serve others.
In 2018, I went to the ELCA National Youth Gathering in Houston, TX. Our group consisted of over 40 people all having unique skill sets and abilities. On our service day, our group was assigned to paint a mural inside a church sanctuary as well as on their fence. This church was located in Bordersville, TX, which is right on the border of the Houston city limits and an unclaimed area, a home to fewer than 1,000 people.
While some people were super thrilled about being able to use their creativity and paint, others were not as excited because, though they wanted to do service, painting was not exactly up their alley. When we got to the church, many leaders of the church and town were there to greet us. As they showed us around their church, we could all see their love for their church and community. As the majority of the group was instructed on how to paint the murals, a few of the members of our group sat down and listened to the leaders share more about the community of Bordersville. They learned that there were many other ways we could help their church in addition to painting. By the end of the day, while working alongside the community members, we had some of the group painting the murals, but we also had people using their knowledge of technology to help figure out the church’s new sound system, others were using their strength to remove a large stump that obstructed part of the parking area, and some were using their love of cleaning to help organize and label the kitchen.
One of the things I love about this memory is that the members of our group listened to what the community needed before figuring out where their gifts could be used. If each of us individually had just walked into that church, we would have been unable to help our neighbor as much as we did as a group. Instead, each person found a way to use their unique gifts and talents to serve the church and community of Bordersville.
At the LC, on any given Sunday, so many people are using their unique gifts to serve the community. Some help with music, others cook food, some assist with worship through communion, ushering, and reading, and some welcome all who enter the building. This community would not function the same without each and every one using their unique gifts to serve.
God has designed each of us uniquely, given us particular gifts, and positioned us in the body where God wants us to be so that we can meet the needs of our neighbors. The gifts God gives us are so much more than the talents and abilities we have; they are the means for the Body of Christ to function. In this gift, God shows us that every individual gift, every individual function, is absolutely necessary and indispensable to the body of Christ.
Rest is also a gift that God gives us. Rest allows us to use our gifts to the best of our abilities. Just as our feet need rest after standing all day and our eyes need rest after reading for a long time, our gifts and talents need to rest. Because we are all part of the body of Christ, we do not have to be working and doing service at every single moment. We can rely on others when our gifts are exhausted. God loves us so much that God gives us the gifts to love and serve our neighbor but also provides the body, our support system, that will use their gifts to help us in our time of need.
You are known, loved, and uniquely equipped to be exactly where you are in the body of Christ and in the world. You are connected to your neighbors near and far in service. We are in this together – hands, feet, eyes, and ears – moving together, showing God’s love.