Like Peas In A Pod
1 Corinthians 12:12-31
I would like to take a survey this morning. If you have heard at least one sermon on this scripture passage before, please raise your hand. Thank you. You may put your hands down. Let me tell you, it was worse than I. expected--almost every last one of you has heard a sermon on this text. Not that it surprises me, the Body of Christ metaphor has been a favorite of preachers for hundreds of years.
Now I have a job for each of you that raised your hand. Forget everything you know about this passage. Forget the sermons. Forget the Sunday School lessons. Forget the Bible Studies. If you are finished, we can take a fresh look at these verses written by the apostle Paul to the church at Corinth.
Let me tell you a story:
Long ago, in a garden far away, there lived some peas. These peas lived in pods, three peas in each pod. They hung in their pods from the vines of the pea plants in the garden.
Because they were hanging down from the vines, one of the peas was always on top. One of the peas was always in the middle. And one of the peas was always on the bottom of the pod. It was the same in all the pods ... on all. the pea plants ... all over the garden.
And all over the garden in all the pea pods, the peas would talk down to one another. The top pea would say, "Look at. me! It must have been the Gardener's plan for me to be on top. Since I am on top, all of you peas underneath me must give me the
respect that is due me for I have the place of honor."
The middle pea was a little ashamed to be beneath the top pea; but was unable to argue with this line of reasoning. (You see, this is how it was in all the pods in the garden and it had always been this way.) The middle pea said, "Yes, you have the place of honor in this pod, but I also have a place of honor. I may be underneath you, but at least I am not on the bottom. The bottom pea must give me the respect that I must give the respect that I must give the top pea."
The bottom pea could fell nothing but shame at hearing the middle pea talk this way. There was no other- pea who could honor the bottom pea. All over the garden, all the bottom peas were ashamed because of their positions in their pods, but they could do nothing to change the situation.
This was pretty much the situation in the world in which Paul lived. The Corinthians gave some in the Church great honor, just as in the larger society. If you wanted honor, you only had to acquire the gifts of the Spirit that put you above others. Those without gifts, or with inferior gifts, you would have felt ashamed. Honor and shame were the categories that placed a person or thing in a hierarchical list. You knew your place by knowing who was above you and who was below you. Perhaps our world and our Church are much the same today.
Paul uses these categories of honor and shame when he compares the Church to a human body. The parts of the body that are left uncovered, the eyes and the head, are warned not to speak down to the lower parts of the body that are covered for fear of shame.
Well, back to the story:
Then one day, a bottom pea had an idea and tried to share it with the middle pea in the pod.
"Hey, middle pea, can we talk?" he asked.
The middle pea looked around. This pea was quite since bottom peas never talked to the peas further up in the pod. "What ever you want, make it quick before any of the other peas see me talking to you," the middle pea replied.
The bottom pea spoke up, "I was thinking, maybe the Gardener put each of us where we are for a reason. Maybe we all have a role to play here in the garden. Maybe I am just as important as the other peas in this pod."
Shock and indignation swept over the middle pea. What the bottom pea had said was unthinkable. It was tantamount to anarchy. It the other pods heard such talk, it could change things in the garden forever.
The middle pea called up to the top pea, "Did you hear what the bottom pea said?"
The top pea replied, "Yes, and it is already causing trouble in our pod. You have never had the nerve to speak up to me before. This is very bad."
The top pea decided that the best thing would be to talk to all the other top peas in all the pods in the garden so they could take precautions. It was too late. The word had spread from all the bottom peas to all the middle peas and finally to all the top peas. It was decided that the only thing to do was to have all the top and middle peas push downward, thus forcing all. the bottom peas out of their pods. It was done and all the bottom peas fell to the ground.
That is what was happening in the Corinthian church. That is also what happens in our churches today. We give the important people places of honor and simply push all the others aside. Then we do not feel so bad when we go out and do the same thing in our daily lives. We who are white and live comfortable lives push those on the margins of society further and further away.
God, though, seems to take a different view of who is to be honored and who is to be ashamed.
Our story continues:
Everything in the garden returned to the way it had always been, or so they thought.
Upon seeing the pods burst open at the bottom, the Gardener decided it was time to harvest the peas. The Gardener went-, to the vines and pulled all the pods.
The peas who remained in the pods were excited. They felt sure that they would finally receive the honor due them. They also felt that it must have been the right thing to push all. the bottom peas from their pods since this seems to have brought them the honor of being taken from the vines and being removed their pods. They were so proud of themselves, that is, until they all were placed in a pot of boiling water.
The Early Church relied on apostles to start new churches. They relied on prophets to interpret God's will for their lives. They relied on teachers to pass on the Gospel to new members. We may not use the same names today, but we need preachers. We need leaders and chairs of committees. We need teachers in our Sunday Schools. Not everyone is given the responsibility of preaching, or leading, or teaching; but we are all vital to the life and growth of the Church. In our present situation at this church, which seems to shrink with each death, all of us might find ourselves depending on those who are crazy enough to ask a friend to come and visit on Sunday morning. What a lowly gift compared with all the others; but so very important.
It is time to finish our story:
You may be wondering what happened to all the bottom peas. Each one sprouted a new pea plant with tall vines and many pea pods. Yet, they never forgot their idea of each pea having a different, but equal, function. So even to this day, all the peas, top, middle, and bottom, live together "like peas in a pod."
The end. Amen.
John A. Bright
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