Community: Connections!

Community: Connections!
1 Corinthians 12:12-27
January 22, 2017

This past Thursday night we were watching something on television, I have no clue what it was.  I’m not sure if it was a sporting event, a reality show, or what – but I heard this quote and liked it and thought it was a good way to start today’s message ~

Imagine what you could get done in this world if you don’t worry who gets the credit

I really like that.  Especially as someone who coaches team sports, basketball and football.  You can’t worry about who gets the credit, because we’re all one team.  Imagine if the church worked the same way.  We don’t care who gets the credit, who’s name is highlighted, we don’t care about our place in the list of credits . . . why?  Because we’re are all team players!

We have a mission and that’s our only concern.  Now, I thought of a companion quote, which is a little bit harsher.  It relates to the church world, as well as any other sphere you might find people . . .

Imagine what we could get done if we would get over ourselves.

In other words, we need to think a little less about ourselves, not put ourselves on a pedestal, practice more of what we spoke about last week . . . humility, as we place others as more significant than ourselves.  As we’ve been talking about community, the goal is to emulate the early church we read about in Acts 2 and 4.

It’s a goal to have all things in common, not to worry about who gets what, to be together, to eat together, pray together, worship together, share life together.  I get the sense the early church people were real.  When they had a need they shared that need with one another.  There was no hiding behind some macho facade saying ‘life is good, when it really wasn’t.’  When life wasn’t good, they reached out to one another.  Too often we don’t reach out and that doesn’t help the church.

We have opportunities to support one another, and we can’t support or help one another because nobody wants to admit they have a need.  We want to believe we are self-sufficient.  I get it.  I do too.  I don’t like to admit I don’t know how to do lots of things.  But if we don’t share, we miss out on the joy of helping one another and growing in that community.

And my friends, that’s part of the beauty of the church.  We are all different.  We come at life differently.  We were raised differently.  We come from different places, with different ways of looking at life.  We have different views on politics, religion, Christianity, Baptists and Jesus.

That’s great!  That’s part of the beauty of the church.  It’s part of the beauty Paul saw when he wrote about the church in 1 Corinthians 12.  Listen to what he said ~

12 Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ.

Before we move on with more of what Paul said in this passage, we need to stop and digest what he’s saying.  If we miss this, we miss the rest of the passage.

Verse 12 reminds us there are many parts to the church, which is the body of Christ, and these many parts form 1 body!  That’s it, all of us together, as many as we are, as similar as we are AND as different as we are, we form this 1 body.

Now, Paul narrows it down a little for us in verse 13.  He continues ~
13 For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body — whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free — and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.

He tells us we were baptized by ONE SPIRIT, so we could form this 1 body.  If there were other spirits or multiple spirits, then we could say we’re part of a different body.  But we aren’t.  Our faith, our salvation, our eternity is wrapped up by 1 Spirit, which brings us into this 1 body.

It does not matter if you say we are part of the 1 body which is First Baptist Church, or any other church in Alexandria.  It does not matter what denomination you are.  It does not matter if you believe in church membership or the universal church membership.

It does not matter if you believe in closed communion or open communion, if you agree with Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump.  It does not matter if you’re a Calvinist or Arminian in your faith, of if you believe in predestination or once saved always saved.  NONE OF IT MATTERS!

None of it matters, because when you say Jesus is my Lord and Savior, He came into this world, leaving the joy of heaven, lived and suffered and died, rose again, and ascended to heaven.  That Jesus did all of this for me, to forgive me of my sins – –  As long as you say and believe that in your heart, spirit and mind . . . then you and I, WE are part of this huge, huge family.

Paul said – – it didn’t matter if you were Jew or Greek.  That really means Jew or non-Jew.  Because to the Jew, there were only 2 religions, Jews and those who are not Jews.  Paul wanted to make it clear there are no lines of distinction.  As well as to say it didn’t matter if you were free or a slave.  We all become the same under the Lordship and Leadership of Jesus Christ.

Paul wants us to get that and it is so vitally important for us to understand.  Especially in the world we live in.

Last Friday one of my friends attempted to be sarcastic on Facebook.  That can be dangerous, especially when making sarcastic political comments.  It was a high school friend, who is politically conservative.  I’m going to read in part what she said.  Again, I’m not endorsing her thoughts, but remember, sarcasm usually includes truth + humor.  She wrote – – –

I will be gone for the next 10 days.  I am donating a week of my time to American and Delta Air Lines at LAX to help load the luggage of all the celebrities who promised to leave the country if Trump won.

I have also volunteered some time to work with the college students who are “hurting so badly” over the Trump win.  I am donating crayons for those students to let them learn how to connect the dots in their “Fantasy Life” coloring books.

Now, we would all say that was pretty sarcastic and a low blow.  In the politically charged world we live in, you know one if not many will react to that post ~

Well, someone who is supposed to be her friend on facebook responded – saying this – – So you obviously support a greedy, pathological lying, blankety-blank, thin skinned egomaniac, racist, world class narcissist, Russia loving traitor and all around con man because he will “make America great again”? You’re an ignorant racist.

That’s what makes America great, right?  Nope!  Remember, the first amendment gives us freedom of religion before it gave us freedom of speech.  And we have freedom of speech, we can say what and do what we want, and get away with it.

My question, and my concern, is this – – – can this happen or even be happening in the church.  Because, when people come together, we have all different views and sometimes don’t realize what we are saying is hurting another person.

Can it be some people want only their way, and if they can’t get it, they make sure others know about it.  They play the game and help others to move their way.  They ask leading questions like – – – “YOU REALLY DIDN’T LIKE THAT DID YOU?”  It puts a person in a bind when answering the question.

Nope, we’re not all going to like things, that’s normal and natural, but it’s not about you, it’s about the community which comes together to worship Jesus.  More about that in a bit.

Remember, Paul is telling us we are ONE BODY, because we were given the same drink, the literal and metaphorical blood of Christ, poured out for you and I for the forgiveness of sins.  When Paul wrote we were all given the ONE SPIRIT to drink.  That literally means we were filled and saturated with the One Spirit.  It wasn’t a little sip of water, it wasn’t this little communion cup.  It was a cup filled to capacity which fills us to capacity.  That’s the ONENESS we are to have.

Now . . . Paul continues, by saying ~

14 Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many.

15 Now if the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body.

16 And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body.

17 If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be?

18 But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be.

19 If they were all one part, where would the body be?

20 As it is, there are many parts, but one body.

21 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!”

22 On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable,

23 and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty,

24 while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it,

25 so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other.

26 If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.

27 Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. – 1 Corinthians 12:12-27

Many people think to themselves, I love to coming to church, but I can’t contribute, because I don’t have any abilities.  Others are so much more talented or knowledgeable than I am.

Paul wants us to understand and believe – – every person is significant and needed.  If you are a believer and you think you are insignificant just because you can’t preach, lead worship or teach, you are deceiving yourself.  Whether you feel qualified or not, you’re still part of the body.  AND you have shut your eyes to truth.  You need to open your eyes and your heart and see the role God has called you to play.  There are no insignificant members of the body.

The reason so many people consider themselves insignificant is that we often have the wrong idea of what the work of the church is.  People believe the reason the church exists is to come together for Sunday morning worship.  People who lead services have the necessary gifts; the rest of the congregation looks on and thinks, That’s the work of the church, and I can’t do that.  Therefore, I have no part to play in the church.

Worship is just one aspect of the church.  The work of the church is to bring healing to the hurting, to bring those who don’t know Jesus into a relationship with Him, it’s to preach the good news wherever you are.  The work of the church is to encourage and strengthen and deliver people.  And that work doesn’t necessarily take place inside the church building; it goes on out in the world.  What happens inside the church building is just part of the training program.  We come here to worship, to be equipped, to learn and then to do the work outside of these walls.

There is a role for every single Christ follower, without exception.  What if your girlfriend was nothing but one large eye?  Imagine you took her out for a milkshake, propped her up opposite you, and tried to carry on a conversation while all she could do was stare at you with this one, big, unblinking eye.  Ooh, that’s pretty creepy, huh?  Similarly, if the work of the church consisted only of Sunday morning, it would be as though you had a body that performed only one function.

There are many jobs to be done in the work of the church.  Some are to be done on Sunday morning, but the majority of the work is to be done right where you live. That’s where the work of the church goes on.  We need to recapture the power and passion and excitement of Jesus Christ.  The church is Christ at work in the world.  Doing this work requires everyone doing the job they’ve been called to do.

We cannot consider ourselves independent.  Again, we’re back to the personal and private we’ve talked about each week.

Paul says, “The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you;’ nor, the head to the feet, ‘I have no need of you.'”  It’s amazing how many people believe they don’t need the rest of the body.  They are confident in their own abilities and their own ministries.  This attitude of independence always creates a sense of rivalry.

As I thought about this, think about the church this way.  A golfer is independent.  It is one against everyone.  It’s a game of skill and ego against skill and ego.  It’s very different from a football game, in which each person plays a role, working together with the rest of the team to accomplish a goal.  I think in the church world, more and more congregations have become golfers.  Everybody goes out on his or her own and pays little attention to what others are doing.  (Ray Stedman)

In that sense, we don’t worry about others, in fact, we don’t care about others.  Our only concern is our self-satisfaction, our comfort, our wants being taken care of.  That’s not the church, that’s not what the church is called to be.  We are to be a place of refuge.  A place of healing and wholeness for all people.  A place where the power and strength of Christ is made real and visible.

Paul points out that this attitude leaves the church in deep trouble.  What if the eye said, “I don’t need the rest of the body; I’ll just roll around seeing things and let the rest of the body go?”  If that happened, the rest of the body would stumble into everything and the eye would lose its ability to see.  We need one another, no matter how impressive and important we think we are.  Paul reminds us that in our physical body the parts that seem to be weaker are actually indispensable.

Just think about how important your big toe is.  The big toe senses when your body begins to lean or shift or get out of balance, and it immediately strengthens so that you can keep your balance.  Without your big toe, you’d always be off  balance.

There are people in the church who are just as essential to its work as the big toe is to being balanced.

When you begin to see the church as God sees it, you’ll see that God works the whole body together in one beautifully orchestrated and coordinated movement. The human body is the most amazingly balanced and delicately tuned instrument the world has ever seen.  In the same way, there’s nothing more beautiful or powerful or effective, nothing more exquisitely balanced and impactful, than the church of Jesus Christ.  God has crafted the church with perfection, care and precision.  Therefore we ought to show great care for one another.

Paul says, “If one member suffers, all suffer with it.”  It’s also true that “If one is honored, all are honored with them.”  So the responsibility for the reputation of the body rests with every one of us.  How we act is going to govern how other people see the body of Christ at work in the world today.  That ought to take care of the problem of independence.

In a markedly divided country . . . . with a church which can easily be divided, God’s call is for each of us to be viewed as significantly important . . . yet at the same time . . . as we read last week from Philippians 2 ~ to count others as more significant than yourselves.

UGH!  What a conundrum!

Be significant!  BUT count others as more significant than yourself!

Be confident!  But have a strong faith!

Have pride in yourself!  But be HUMBLE!

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