Let Us Worship Together!
Our Saviour is incredibly pleased to have you join us for live in-person worship inside the Nave and Sanctuary on Saturday, January 22 at 5:30 pm (casual with Voices of Praise), and Sunday, January 23 at 8:00 am (simple service) and 10:30 am (traditional with choir and/or organ music). The Saturday evening and Sunday 10:30 am services will will also be online via Facebook Livestream!
Join your prayers with the community! During the live stream of the service, you are invited to type into the Facebook chat any prayer requests for those you want included in the prayers of intercession. (As always, you may also send your prayer requests by Wednesday the week ahead to email@example.com.) Please do this at the beginning of the service so that we can write them up and hand them to the pastors before the prayers start.
Saturday 4:00 pm — High School Youth Group
Sunday 8:00 am — First Light Service
Sunday 8:45 am — Fellowship
Sunday 9:00 am — Sunday School for All Ages (including adults)
Readings and Psalms:
Nehemiah 8:1-3, 5-6, 8-10
1 Corinthians 12:12-31a
3rd Sunday after Epiphany, Year C
Sermon for the 3rd Sunday after the Epiphany, Year C. January 22-23, 2022
Nehemiah 8:1-3, 5-6, 8-10. Psalm 19. 1 Corinthians 12:12-31. Luke 4:14-21
Our Saviour Lutheran Church, Warrenton, VA.
The Reverend Terri Luper Church
Connected Tissues (who bring out the tissues when we need them)
Some of you know I played some volleyball, which I got into because someone invited me to play wallyball. Most of you know that I enjoy joining the youth to play games like gagaball or spike ball, and I hope you all know that I love a sport called pickleball. (I really do! Learned it here at church. Join us sometime!) Well, as someone who waited until I hit middle age to discover a love of these weirdly named sports, all those games make me think of one thing that connects them all: injuries! You ever sprained your ankle, jammed your finger on a basketball, or even without sports, have you had some sort of injury to a part of your body? Then are all set for what I’m talking about today.
As I was reading this passage from 1st Corinthians, where Saint Paul compares the church to a bunch of interconnected parts of a human body, I noticed the bit about how when one part hurts, we all hurt. Just as your body reacts to an injury to one of its members, so also our church reacts when one of our members is hurting. Put a pin in that concept. We’ll come back to it. First, how do our bodies react when one part is injured? I wasn’t sure, so I looked it up.
Let’s say you sprain your ankle playing volleyball or hit your thumb with a hammer on the Habitat work site, your body, all on its own, responds. First, it sends in emergency healing support to the injured body part: it clots the blood, inflames the surrounding tissues, sends in white blood cells, and calls for protective swelling and warmth. It also calls 911, as local nerve cells get the message to the spinal cord and brain, saying, “Ouch! Stop what you’re doing so we can get to work!” This allows the rest of our body to react and protect, to rest, compress, and elevate. “Can someone get me some ice, please?” (That also triggers outside help, by the way, expanding our bodies to include other bodies in the community. Foreshadowing much? Hmmm.)
After that emergency intervention, the body continues to help heal its parts. Chemicals move in like a construction crew setting up scaffolding, barriers, and support structures in the form of thickened tissue, scars, and scabs. Then, the long-term healing can set in, as the body’s remodeling crew arrives when we set about doing physical therapy, strength training, stretching, and more. While all that “outside” work is happening, the body is doing its own care for the injured member, physically rearranging some cells in the tissue fibers to provide ongoing support until that part is fully healed, and then moving cells again as we move towards complete healing.
I’m sorry for the long description, but I wanted to emphasize how a body’s connected parts care for a body part that is hurting. In this passage, our Bibles say “member” for the word for body part, which is sort of old-fashioned, so the metaphor can be lost on people who know that we call people who belong to the church “members.” That said, the message of parts caring for the whole does remind me so much of the various levels of care for the parts, or members, of the church: one of us hurts, so the prayer chain emails go out, cards are sent, rides, food, childcare—whatever forms of loving care we can offer, we offer. But I think I’m getting ahead of myself. Back to Saint Paul now, and this church in Corinth.
When we are baptized, the Holy Spirit fills us with power and gives us gifts. These spiritual gifts often take the form of talents or abilities, sometimes almost supernatural to others, and he has spent the previous section of this chapter laying out different sorts of spiritual gifts we might have. However, as different as our various gifts and talents are, Paul wants to emphasize that those gifts all work together. Our individual gifts are only spiritual gifts in that they connect us to other parts of the Body of Christ—the church.
To get his point across, Paul almost sounds like a stand-up comedian on stage, describing the different parts of the body in one of the funniest passages in the Bible! It starts off nice enough, “For just as the body is one and has many members—that is, the human body is made up of different parts, organs, systems, limbs, and more—but those parts are all really one whole, that’s what the church is like.” We can all nod along at the nice tidy image that many of us are familiar with. However, Paul is writing to a community in crisis. They are no longer in that “new church phase,” where everything seems awesome, and they have started running into the problems any group of people have over time together. They are fighting, and complaining, and generally not working well together. Mainly, some of them are saying certain gifts are better than others, or one of them is more important than another, and others don’t matter at all. Needless to say, Paul wants it to stop. And here comes the comedy:
He says, Take your foot, for instance. Does it say “Well, shoot, those hands are great They can grasp things and point and all. But I’m just a stinky foot! I guess I don’t belong to this body after all”? Of course, it doesn’t! No matter how it (or the hand) feels that foot is just as much a part of the body as the hand (thinks it is so special, that hand!).
“If the ear says, ‘Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body” does that make it true? Nope! I mean, think about it. [Paul is on a roll!] If the eye is so important, imagine, just for a moment, that the entire body was just one big EYE! My question to that is, How does it hear? And don’t forget the poor nose. What the if whole body were an ear? How would it know which food was tasty and which was spoilt? (For that matter, how would it eat?!) The eye can’t say to the hand, “You aren’t connected to the brain, so you mustn’t be as special as I am, so get lost,” can it? No! And those “less-respectable parts”? We treat them the best, clothing them with the finest garments! Yup, that body is one whole, no matter which part seems the most important at the moment. Each and every member part matters.”
And then, Paul sets aside the comedy routine and cuts right to the heart: “If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honored, all rejoice together with it. For God connected our parts in our bodies to work together, and to have the same care for one another.”
And that, my friends, is how the body of Christ works, this church you are a member of, whether you are in this room right now, or watching at home in Florida, or Colorado, or Wyoming, or Upstate New York. This is the body you belong to, even if you are listening to this later in the week on your commute to work or have never set foot inside this building. For the body of Christ is connected in ways we cannot understand, but the Spirit does. We are one.
And when one member of the body suffers, all suffer with it, and we all have the same care for one another. (As I was writing this I had to stop and call one of our members who lost a loved one recently, for I could not help but want to care for her when I read that.) We are compelled to help each other!
Also, don’t forget that just as every part of our bodies is unique and special, so all people of the church are unique and special. You are truly unique! What God has given you sets you apart from what God instills in others. Individually special, but communally connected—that is the church.
Do you know how unique and special you are? You are! Do you know how much you matter to Christ, and therefore, to us as a community? You do! The body of Christ is bigger and better than our human brains can comprehend, because Christ is our center, our connecting tissue, our healing blood cells and miracle strength. Our Saviour Lutheran Church is a unique part of the whole church, just like that church at Corinth was. Can you help me with something? I’ll say “1, 2, 3” and you say “Our Saviour Lutheran Church” and I’ll finish the sentence. Okay? 1,2, 3 Our Saviour Lutheran Church! _______ is special. 123 OSLC _____ is the body of Christ. 123 OSLC is filled with gifted and talented people—like you! Now I want you to think or say your name. Ready? 123: _______________ matter. Do it again: 123 __________ belong. Again: 123 _______________ make an impact, just as you are.
We are the Body of Christ. And all of us special, unique, gifted individuals are called to care for each other special, unique, individuals, as members together of the body of Jesus. And no, we don’t always get the caring right, any more than that original church Paul was writing to in Corinth. Just as our human bodies can be injured, where sometimes there is no path to healing on this earth, our church bodies don’t always heal like they are supposed to. We don’t always suffer together. And for that, we need to repent and forgive, and ask God to help us make it right.
But, when the church does catch it, when we get it right, we can be like no other group of people out there, because somehow, the Spirit gives us the gifts we need to care for each other, bringing the good news of Jesus, right where it is needed most, to a hurting world in which we live. We belong together, which sometimes means we sing in a choir or teach a Bible study or figure out all the business details that help keep the lights on and the internet flowing. We belong together, made up of connected tissues, and that sometimes reminds us to bring out the tissues, as we cry along in a connected pain.
My friends, we are connected tissues, filled with the gifts of the Holy Spirit, that tie us together through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
 Apparently, our word that means “a person who belongs to an organization,” like a member of a church or Lion’s Club, sports team, or homeowners’ association, may have started with this passage from the Bible. (See https://www.etymonline.com/word/member) We don’t really even use “member” like it was when Paul used the word most of the time, which may cloud our ability to see the humor in it or truly catch the metaphor.
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