1 Corinthians 12:12-14, 18-20 (NRSV)
For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and we were all made to drink of one Spirit. Indeed, the body does not consist of one member but of many…. God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many members, yet one body.
The Holy Spirit is the real extension of the Incarnation; but I also see that he cannot be separated from the life of the Church … He is the Spirit of the continued Incarnation; the Church is the body of it. But the Church dare not claim to be the extension of the Incarnation, except as she is infused and indwelt by the Holy Spirit. Without this, the body is dead; and no dead body, however once alive, can be an extension of the life of Christ in the world. – Sam Shoemaker, With the Holy Spirit and With Fire
Insulated from the lives, loves, and losses of those unlike us, unaware of the hopes and dreams, challenges and struggles of others, we miss a multitude of opportunities to be the one body of Christ. What can you do to reach out, in mutual ministry, to those most unlike yourself? – Marian Wright Edelman, The Upper Room Disciplines 2010
When we say that the Church is a body, we refer not only to the holy and faultless body made Christ-like through baptism and Eucharist but also to the broken bodies of all the people who are its members. Only when we keep both these ways of thinking and speaking together can we live in the Church as true followers of Jesus.
– Henri Nouwen
We have not come to compete with one another.
We have come to complete one another. – Bill McCartney
Paul says we’re all parts of one body. Somehow, even without our knowing, when one suffers we all suffer. When one rejoices we all rejoice. Our sadness and gladness mingle together into one joy. In prayer we enter a deeper consciousness, even if it’s beyond our knowing: the reality that we belong, that we are all one living being. We enter into the suffering, and the joy, of the world. We become one with all our body. Our joy is there for others, and our pain is not ours alone. We receive the gift of their happiness, and help them bear the weight of their sorrows. Our souls are woven with theirs. In this way, even sitting in our room in silence, by the mystery of God’s grace in us, we become part of the mending of the world. – Steve Garnaas-Holmes, Extremes
Extended quote by Richard Rohr from Falling Into Life
We are not seeking uniformity, but rather unity, which implies differences. Unity created by the Spirit can only be had among people who are different! We are not talking about conformity, which is low level religion. “Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of working, but it is the same God who inspires them all in every one. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good” (1 Corinthians 12:4-7). Our word for this is a “charism,” a gift that is given to you not for your own self, but to build up the community, to build up the whole Body of Christ.
In 1 Corinthians 12:27-30, Paul explains that you in your togetherness are Christ’s Body, but each of you is a different part of it, with different gifts. Then in chapter 13 he says that love is the greatest gift. When you live in love, in that “vibrational state,” if you will, when you live at that level of communion where you let the life get in and let the life flow out of you to other people, you are living a transformed life. Up to then, it is all play. This alone is what it means to be “in Christ.”
1 Corinthians 12:22-26 (NRSV)
On the contrary, the members of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and those members of the body that we think less honorable we clothe with greater honor, and our less respectable members are treated with greater respect; whereas our more respectable members do not need this. But God has so arranged the body, giving the greater honor to the inferior member, that there may be no dissension within the body, but the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honored, all rejoice together with it.
The most honored parts of the body are not the head or the hands, which lead and control. The most important parts are the least presentable parts. That’s the mystery of the Church. As a people called out of oppression to freedom, we must recognize that it is the weakest among us – the elderly, the small children, the handicapped, the mentally ill, the hungry and sick – who form the real center. Paul says, “It is the parts of the body which we consider least dignified, that we surround with the greatest dignity” (1 Corinthians 12:23). The Church as the people of God can truly embody the living Christ among us only when the poor remain its most treasured part. Care for the poor, therefore, is much more than Christian charity. It is the essence of being the body of Christ. – Henri Nouwen
The Rev. Claire Wimbush was born with spastic cerebral palsy. Click here for her moving discussion of faith, perfection, brokenness, and the body of Christ.
If we are not interested in the minds, the feelings, the hopes, fears, sorrows and joys of everyone with whom we come in contact, we are not interested in Christ. Whatever we do to anyone, we do to him. If we are impatient with the mental suffering, the doubting, the questioning, and the wrestling with the angel of the more sensitive minds, then we are impatient with the mind of Christ bleeding under the crown of thorns. If we shrink from the broken lives of sinners, then we draw away from Christ fallen and crushed under his cross. If we will not go to the sick and the poor to help them, we will not help Christ. -Caryll Houselander, The Comforting of Christ
I know there is strength in the differences between us.
I know there is comfort, where we overlap.
– Ani DiFranco
I used to call myself a Jesus-follower, unable to identify with all these Christians. I wanted to rid myself of my affiliation with the Church, emphasize Christ as the centre of my faith without the baggage of the Church. But I couldn’t be a Christian by myself, and I am the Church, too, and here I am, there you are, there’s room for all of us. Part of what restored me to the Church was this: learning that the Body of Christ is bigger, wilder, far more glorious, than my own narrow ideas and personal experiences with her. – Sarah Bessey, In defense of the cafeteria
Reconciliation, then, is not an agenda item. It’s not something we can save until next year’s budget like renovations to the fellowship hall. It must be more than another serving on the buffet of conversations at the next conference or workshop. Reconciliation is the physical demonstration that God is at work in the world. Any fool can put people at odds. Only God – one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all – can bring those opposed to one another together as sisters and brother. When we lose reconciliation, we lose the purposes of Jesus. If your church is all one thing – white, black, Hispanic, gay, straight, Democrat, Republican, whatever – then you may have failed at joining God in loving the world. – Sean Palmer, Missing the Point
Ephesians 4:11-13 (NRSV)
The gifts he gave were that some would be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until all of us come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to maturity, to the measure of the full stature of Christ.
Varieties of Gifts by Steve Garnaas Holmes
To one God has given the gift of good humor,
to another the gift of resilience, to another courage,
to another the appreciation of beauty,
to another truth-telling, to another soft-heartedness,
to another the ache for justice,
to another quiet presence, to another exuberance.
What gifts live in you? What passions and callings,
what energies consistently rise up in you,
leave people blessed in your wake,
lean toward the healing of the world around you?
They may seem small, odd or ordinary,
but they are the bricks with which God builds
the Realm of Joy and Justice.
God gives to each of us gifts of God’s choosing.
What gifts does the Spirit of love activate in you?
Name them, give thanks, and devote them this day
to the Great Work of the mending of the world.
Extended Quote by Nadia Bolz-Webber
Sermon on Spiritual Gifts (which, unfairly, doesn’t include snarkyness)
This ended up being one of my more difficult weeks in recent memory and I found myself having no choice but to rely on the prayers and faith and wisdom and compassion of those brothers and sisters in Christ whom God has put in my life – because frankly I was tapped out. Which is hard because I’d so rather have all the gifts myself and not have to rely on others. But when it feels like a failure on my part that I don’t have the faith or compassion or prayer life or wisdom that I need, I just have to remember that the only real failure is when I fail to recognize that I do actually have all the faith and compassion and prayer and wisdom I need – it’s just that someone else in my life is holding it for me. See, I believe that it is God’s intention that we need each other. Not in a creepy co-dependant having no bounderies type of way. But in a bearing the face of Christ kind of way because when I can not see goodness. When I can not see hope or beauty or the face of Christ in my own heart in my own life and through my own eyes I need you to do it for me.
Help me, dear God,
to see my brother with the eyes of Christ,
to hear my sister with the ears of Christ,
to taste my neighbor’s hunger with the mouth of Christ,
to smell creation’s beauty with the nose of Christ,
to touch the world’s pain with the hands of Christ
and to love life, each life, every life,
with the heart of Christ.
– Sam Hamilton-Poore, Earth Gospel: A Guide to Prayer for God’s Creation
Click Here for Steve Harper’s discussion as to why ‘churchless Christianity’ will never work, even though some of the concerns it carries are valid.
For more information on the scripture translation, art and the use of this devotional in other settings, please refer to the copyright information page.