Sermon Ideas For 1 Corinthians 12:12-30 Part 2
Doing counseling on a regular basis, I am very much aware of the sensitivity people have for their bodies. Repeatedly I hear words like overweight, fat, ugly, short, bald, wrinkled, flabby, and falling apart. In this age of sexuality, we are taught to focus more on how we look as opposed to concentrating on who we are. The result of this preoccupation is to develop a view of ourselves that is often inferior. We simply cannot measure up to the billboards and advertisements of gorgeous women and muscular men. We see the frailty of our human nature and know that we are far from perfect.
Amazingly we can be very strong in body, mind and spirit. God created us that way. But we can also be very weak in both our bodies and in how we view ourselves. Being able to carry a feeling of strength is a wonderful gift. People often comment on how they feel "strong" when things are going well, when life is headed in an upward direction. It is good to have those days when we feel almost invincible, when the world seems to be at our fingertips. These kinds of strong and healthy feelings can happen to people of any age, not just young adults.
One of the congregations I served was made up primarily of older people. Many of them were in good health and had no serious limitations. However, they were weak in their spirit, creating the impression of almost being helpless, stagnant and subject to a limited amount of activity. Yet there were other senior citizens who were very active and refused to "act their age". Some even had physical limitations, but were not held back from having a zest for life. Their energy was infectious in the life of the church.
In the text for today the Apostle writes, "Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it". All are members of the fellowship. It is easy to forget the importance of the elderly in our churches. We hear over and over that the future of the church is in the young people. That is certainly true. But that reality can cause us to overlook the contributions of senior citizens who have a lot to share, both in wisdom and experience. I remember being told by an elderly woman that I had been ignoring the older people in the church. She said, "Who do you think pays most of the bills and was the heart and soul of that church years ago. We need a minister too". She was right. Her willingness to share became a new source of strength for me, as I began reaching out to those I had neglected.
As the Apostle reminds us, all people in the church are members of it. The fellowship of Christ exists for the young and the old, the sick and healthy, the rich and poor, and the lonely and discouraged, those who sorrow and those who celebrate the blessings of life.
In a previous church I served there was a woman who suffered from an emotional disorder. Her functioning level varied from the moment to moment as her mood swings dictated. Many people ignored her because they did not want to understand her problem. One day she came to me after worship and wanted to know if there was a task she could do for the church. I remember dismissing her request because I thought she had little to offer. The next day I wokeup feeling guilty for my uncaring response. I phoned her and asked if she would be willing to do the ordering of paper products for the church--towels, toilet paper, cups, napkins and plates. In a small church it was a simple task. But to her it became a very important responsibility. I can assure you that we never ran out of paper products again!
In the lectionary reading from Nehemiah, we are told that "All the people gathered as one man into the square before the Water Gate. And Ezra the priest brought the law before the assembly, both men and women and all who could hear with understanding". It was there before the gate that Ezra read from the law to the people. The beauty of the passage is that they "gathered as one", to hear the reading. They became one, just as the Apostle spoke of being members of one body. Those who heard the witness of Ezra the Scribe stood together as the people of God, hearing the law, knowing its instruction and blessing. Certainly one of the reasons people join the church is to feel a part of the body of Christ. People have a need not just to join an organization, but to relate in some way to their God and their Lord. Christ founded the church in part for that reason. The word of the Lord is for all to hear. The church is a place where those wanting to understand the truth of God may hear that truth.
One of my fondest memories of growing up in the church was the time I spent helping the custodian. I would assist him in his duties, both after school and on the weekends. We also shared many lunches in his little office. Somehow I felt very important when I was with hi, and gave no thought to the fact that he was "only the custodian". Why did I feel so good when I was around him? Because he accepted me as I was and made me feel a part of the church. He let me be his friend and made the fellowship of Christ a special place for me. Those days still carry many fond memories. Through his love, God became more real. People in our churches want to experience this feeling of belonging to Christ and to one another. They come to listen to the word of God, as the people gathered " as one " to receive the reading of the law.
During my years as a youth minister, I faithfully attended the annual Youth Worker's Convention. Each year it was held in a different part of the country. Being fresh out of the seminary it gave me a chance to learn ways in which youth ministry was taking place by leaders of various denominations and theological expressions. I came away from each convention more aware of the common struggles faced by young people. I was reminded that the biggest trouble maker in my senior high group came from a home where he didn't get enough attention. In his own way he was asking to be part of the church family. He wanted to belong. I was reminded that those trying to fill their lives with alcohol were searching for answers, but looking in the wrong direction. They needed my love, patience and understanding. I would leave each convention asking myself, " what do the young people need most from the church"? The answer was simple, a sense of belonging, a chance to be part of a spiritual fellowship. When I followed these realizations, the groups grew stronger. When I didn't put into practice what I had learned, the groups became more chaotic.
In the text from 1 Corinthians we are given a very important passage regarding those who are a part of the church: " The parts of the body which seem to be weaker are indispensable". Is that how we feel about all the people we serve? Indispensable, needing to belong, an important part of the greater fellowship? Do we give attention to the weak and those who are not popular or special in some way?
We are to speak like Ezra, " For all to hear ". The people gather each Sunday " as one "; to listen, to understand and to know that individually, they are members of one body, the church of Jesus Christ.
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