Sunday, August 25, 2013

Difference in Worship: Many Parts One Body Empowered by the One Spirit ( 1 Corinthians 12:12-34)... One: On The Road To Unity in 1 Corinthians (part

You'll notice that in this message from Sunday August 25th there are a lot of hyperlinks to sermon series from earlier in the year... AS I was preaching this message I felt the need to encourage the church about what God is calling us to this year... renewal... it has been the overarching theme for the year. Way back In January I posted on my blog where I was going in 2013. And also how that theme will carry on for the rest of the year to look at the renewal of care for creation, renewing our minds and renewing our understanding where Christmas fits in the big picture  of God's plans and purposes.
You walk into the worship area, a bit late as per usual (dig) and something just does not seem to be right. The place is full of these giant eye balls. You try and sneak in unnoticed, but they swivel to look at you. You can tell by the way they look that they are looking down at you. Even without the eyebrows and my kids will tell you that I should know about eye brows, you can tell the eye balls are not pleased with you being there.  You are not an eye ball you are different so you don’t belong.

I don’t want to give you nightmares, I wasn’t thinking in terms of Horror movies here rather trying to capture the almost Monty Python-esque absurdity and humour that Paul uses to teach the church at Corinth and us about being one body made up of many parts. That unity does not necessitate uniformity.  That diversity does not negate unity.  That church is a place where you belong and a place where you have a part to play. Paul uses, what NT Wright describes as, the “most spectacular and famous illustration” that of the human body, in the passage we are looking at today to make that point.

We are working our way through the book of 1 Corinthians to see how they and we as a diverse group of people from different cultural and socio-economic groupings, with different understandings expectations worldviews and with different talents insights and gifts, can come together and be one… and be the Body of Christ .


I’m not saying we are failing at being Church.  I am saying the Spirit of God is calling us to renewal,

It’s been the over arching theme for the whole year. God wants to breath renewal into our lives

God wants to renew us for mission, service and evangelism in this time and place

In this community and this world that he loves.


Ok back to our reading this morning. It’s actually really important for us.


Paul was dealing with issues to do with public worship. He had praised the Corinthians for the way in which they kept the tradition of equality between men and women in leading worship, and had encouraged them to viva la difference. He’d challenged them about the way that they had conformed to their social norms when it came to the way they treated the poor and slaves at the Lord ’s Table. Then as we saw last week he started to talk about the issue of the use of Tongues in public worship. The Corinthians had focused on Spiritual manifestations and particularly the gift of Tongues as a sign of having arrived spiritually, to the point that other gifts were not being acknowledged, worship as we’ll see in chapter 14 was chaotic and unintelligible. He stated dealing with this issue by going back to first principles that our God unlike the mute pagan idols that the Corinthians had worshipped before their conversion, was able to speak and move to and through his people in a variety of ways: Many gifts but one spirit, many services but one lord, many works but the one God. Now he goes on to talk about what is at the heart of our understanding of being God’s people.


Paul starts by saying just like a body, one body, is made up of many parts, so it is with Christ.  This image is not unique to Paul, Roman orators used this metaphor to talk about the body politic in their society. But Paul’s understanding of this as it applies to the kingdom of God, to us as the new people of God is totally radical. When the Roman orators used it, it was to reinforce that yes indeed everyone had a place in their society. At the head was Caesar, and then everyone fitted in and had a place, a status and a function, and the lower and lesser parts were looked down on. Paul has to combat that underlying understanding in the Church in Corinth.  In the Kingdom of God says Paul we cannot say because I’m not this or that I don’t belong nor can we say we don’t need each other. Paul says in the kingdom of God we are equal and interdependent.


He affirms our equality in saying we have all been baptized by the same spirit, we all drink of the same spirit, both Greek and Jew, salve or free. Now some people ask well what about the male female thing here and the answer is that the Corinthians didn’t seem to have a problem with that, sadly it was for the church later on.  


Also sadly this connection of spirit and baptism has been a source of tension and division in the Church. Some have seen baptism in the spirit as a separate second experience, it’s almost been used, totally contra to the context here, as a way of saying if you don’t experience things like me then, you are only a second class citizen. Others have focused on baptism. But the centre of our unity is that Jesus has sent his Holy Spirit to dwell with and in all who would come to know him. AS we have come to Christ we have been drenched in his spirit, we live and sustain our selves each day by the spirit of God in our lives. We are God’s spirited people. I’m always happy to pray for people to be filled with the Holy Spirit, because in Ephesians 5:18 Paul says be filled and keep on being filled with the Holy Spirit. I want people to know more and more of the spirit’s presence in their lives… and it’s open to and for all.


Paul likens what is happening in the church at Corinth to the crazy notion that eyes and ears and noses would say to each other because I’m not like you I don’t belong to the body. Paul brings that home in a series of rhetorical questions in verse 17. The emphasis is we are all one body, made up of different parts. Just because you are different you are still part of the body, because God’s spirit dwells in you.


Then he flips it on its head and says that no part can say that unless you are like me you can’t be part of the body. He is getting to the crux of things here, particularly with the ‘spiritual ones’ at Corinth who were fixating on the gift of tongues as a badge that they were spiritual. No says Paul we all have a part to play and we are all interdependent on each other. We need eyes and ears and hands and feet to see and hear and go and care. In fact says Paul often the weaker parts, and here Paul maybe using the Spiritual one’s own language, as he did in when he was talking about food sacrificed to idols, are indispensable, and the less honourable parts  are treated with special honour. Foot washing may be a great example of this. When a guest or a traveller would come to a meal they would have their feet washed, and Jesus showed us about love for each other by washing the feet of his disciples, again in ancient near eastern society a job that was left for the less important, not so in the Kingdom of God.


 In the end says Paul, it was God who put all these different things together to work as they do, so it is with the church. The result of this is that instead of wanting to do away with this bit or that bit we are to have equal concern for each part. We enter into the joys and sorrows of each part.  Just like injury can affects the whole body and the whole body is needed to heal it. If one part is given honour the whole body rejoices.  When I tell Kris things like that I love her beautiful eyes,  it’s not only her eyes that sparkle her checks blush, her lips curl…upwards in a smile. Her heart may beat a little faster. Her brain probably says what he after.  So with the body of Christ we share each other’s joys and sorrows.


Having established this principle Paul again gives a list of Spiritual gifts, one that is slightly different than the one earlier in this chapter. Some have seen a sort of hierarchy in the way Paul lists these gifts firstly, secondly etc. But that is not the case that goes against the teaching Paul has just given.  Neither is this list about offices or positions within the church. The first three are surprisingly people but this may mean that they are people that God has given a gift who will exercise it on a regular basis rather than being a position or office. The rest of the gifts listed are more ministries with in the church.


The use of the numeracy for the first three may be that they talk of order rather than importan Paul had said he as an apostle had laid the foundation that other built on. And as we looked at last week there is some debate over whether we still have people with an apostolic ministry. Secondly prophets, again are people who make the timeless word of God timely. The Old Testament Prophets were not innovators, rather they took the Sinai covenant and applied it to the situations Israel faced in their times. Just like a new testament prophet would take the gospel and apply it to where the church and society is at. Teachers in the Old Testament were always there… but they come to the fore in the return from the exile where they teach people who do not know God's law what it is. teaching is the on-going ministry of explaining and help people understand and apply the word of God.

Paul then moves on to talk of other gifts healings, and miracles are mentioned, without faith this time and in opposite order to the previous list, so there isn’t any sense of hierarchy here. I actual wonder if these two being together doesn’t also allow for a diversity of what healings means. That it incorporates both people who are gifted at medicine and are able to use the physical realm to heal  but  those who pray and see God move in the miraculous.


Helping, is often seen as people who can do odd jobs round the place or don’t mind doing the dishes after an event. But the idea in the passage is of helping another person. Sometimes I think we can get service which we all called to do, and helping others mixed up.


The NIV translates the next gift as Guidance; in other translations it’s called administration. The NIV want to pick up the idea in the Greek word of seeing the way forward. We might think of administration as keeping things going but here the idea is working ones way forward. It’s about leadership.


Then Paul puts in different types of tongues, with this coming last people have often said Paul is down playing this gift. But he is in actual fact putting it last because here it was the trouble gift, and he wants to balance the emphasis that some were putting on it. All the way through Paul acknowledges it as a genuine gift and that it should be used. It’s usefulness to the whole body, not just the individual,  comes about when what is said is interpreted.


Paul ties this all together to show that there is unity in diversity by asking if everyone does all these things. To which we should answer no, affirming that we need each other and everyone has a valuable part to play.


How does this apply to the here and now?


Firstly that as the new people of God we are one people, that just like in creation with the wonderful abundance of the diversity of life, so it is in God’s new creation, God is wanting his people to be teaming with an diverse abundance of spirit given gifts and talents. In the new people of God it’s not about status or having arrived but it’s about humble service and caring for each other.  In fact the church should be a beacon of light about treating people equally in the world.


Secondly Paul’s metaphor points to the church as organic,  not an organisation.  We spend a lot of time and energy keeping the institution and the organisation, buildings and beaurocracy of what we perceive as ‘being church” going. I do not want to lessen the work and sacrifice that has gone into what we have here.  I am concerned that maintaining it is often seen as a priority over  ministering and caring for each other and the people God calls us to. We are the church, you and I, we embody Christ in the world.


Finally Paul finishes his argument here by telling people two things the first is to seek the greater gifts. We can think of church as a consumer product or a spectator sport. But it’s about being a functioning body where we all play our part. Gordon Fee says that in some churches the focus is on the cerebral gifts, like teaching etc and other focus on the more ‘Charismatic” gifts, but we need both in fact they are all charismatic, they are all gracious gifts.  Paul encourages us all to seek gifts that can be used, to seek ways to serve and care and build up the Church. Again greater does not mean status or superior, but as in the Kingdom of God if you want to be great learn to be the servant of all, seek to be the most use to building up the church. Its not as the "spiritual Ones" at Corinth were doing as a sign of spirituality, but because of the better way Paul now turns to talk of… love.

No comments:

Post a Comment