1 Corinthians 12:12-26
The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body-whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free-and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. Now the body is not made up of one part but of many. If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? But in fact God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has combined the members of the body and has given greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.
I should begin this post by saying that my “church” story has not always been a happy one. Like many of us 20-something Christians out there, I have had my fair share of anger, bitterness, and sorrow rooted in my local congregation. Christians are flawed, and the Church is broken. I am fully aware of this, and one day, maybe I’ll write more about that season of my life. There is a story there, and like all stories, it is worth telling in it’s way.
But for now, I simply want to celebrate the beauty of the bride of Christ.
The worldwide Church is made up of all Christians- through time and space- and identifies us in both our individuality and our communion. It is the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, the bride and the body of Christ, the children of God. It isn’t simply one congregation or one denomination, or even those who agree with each other on every point. It is mysterious and sweeping and invisible and simply incredible.
But also, my interactions in the Church are marked by the small things. In my experience, some of the most powerful and lasting images are memories of gestures, words, actions, and smiles. I love the singing and shaking hands and sharing coffee that comes with being part of this community. There is something about that shared belief, about having aligned experiences of faith, about knowing the same words, worshipping the same God, praying the same prayers that is incredibly moving. There is something so sweet, for example, about that moment in a worship service when the leader stops singing… and all you can hear are the voices around you. Or about reading Scripture out loud with other believers- either as part of a liturgy or simply in spontaneity- and hearing the Word of God spoken with power.
But my favorite, my truest celebration, is that of communion. The Eucharist, in its essence, is joining in the death of Jesus Christ… and when I take communion alongside other Christians, it is an incredible reminder that I joined into Christ’s death as a part of something bigger. It is a mark of community, of communal covenant, of partaking in something all together. For me, it is a promise that I will continue to live in the Church, continue to act in such a way that “If one part suffers”, then I suffer with it, or “if one part is honored”, then I rejoice with it… just as I join in the blood and the body of Christ.
And these moments build up into a shared life: one generation mentoring and teaching and discipling another. It means going to lunch together, or picking each others’ kids up from school, or celebrating birthdays and holidays and the victories of life with one another. It means mourning, too, and bringing meals and sending flowers and being there when someone else needs you. It is friendship with the spiritual bonds of family. And despite how flawed it is, how often I feel frustrated or disappointed with those who bear Christ’s name (myself, of course, included)…. I cannot help but see the Church’s beauty, and God’s grace, as more powerful than sin. It is good.