What’s Your Part? (A Sermon)

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 one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.

For the body does not consist of one member but of many. If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? But as it is, 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 parts, yet one body.

The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together. (1 Cor. 12:12-26)

Let me introduce myself: My name is Paul Dubuc and I am a type O-negative blood factory for the American Red Cross. On the day I become eligible to donate some more of my blood, I get a call from a Red Cross volunteer asking me to schedule another donation. The reason my blood type is so valuable to them is that the supply is fairly limited–only about 6% of the population has it–and it is in fairly high demand–nearly 100% of the population can use it in place of their own. I think Jesus must have had type O- blood; it’s the universal donor. Anyone can receive it. It’s too bad that it doesn’t work the other way around. O- donors can only receive O- blood. But I digress …

I have come to see my type of blood as a gift that I can give to help save the health and lives of other people. I have enough blood–most of us do–to give some up for other people once in a while and my body makes more. Because so many people who need blood can use my type of blood, I feel the necessity and respect the privilege of donating regularly. It’s a part I play in keeping others healthy and alive.

Thinking for a moment about the body of Christ, we, the church, and each of us individually members of it. What parts do each of us play in keeping the rest of the body healthy and alive? This metaphorical description of the church as the body of Christ is sandwiched between lists of the variety of gifts that God has given the members–you and I–of his body: Gifts of healing, miracles, prophecy, helps and administration. These are not meant to be all-inclusive lists. There are many others mentioned in other parts of scripture. Three important things to know are: 1) That God has given you gifts to perform a function in his body, 2) That you know what your function is, and 3) That you perform it for the building up of Christ’s body, the church.

Verses 4-7 of 1 Cor. 12 says that the varieties of gifts, services and working are inspired by God in every one of us and “To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good” (v. 7). So God has given each of us a function in the body of Christ–whether you know it or not, or whether you perform it or not–and he has given you that function for the benefit of the whole body, his church. For the church to be healthy all parts need to be functioning, and not every one can play the same part. The body needs all its different parts. Some of us may have a pretty good idea of what our part is, but if not how does one find out? I think there are a few things we can do that will help.

First, think about the things that you do regularly that meet a real need and bless others, enabling them to better perform their function in the body. Chances are that you are already doing things that serve the body in a unique way and you simply need to recognize them and put them to more effective and frequent use.

Second, think about things that you can give others or do for them that they can’t give or do for you. My blood type is something many others can receive even though they can’t give theirs to me. Just like the different organs and parts of the body that each perform a unique function for the benefit of the whole body, the gift you have to give to the body of Christ is most likely that which few others can give to you. They will have to bless you in other ways.

Third, don’t think that because your part of in the body of Christ isn’t the most visible or appreciated that it is not important. Paul says that some parts of the body that seem weaker are indispensable. Think of the internal organs of the body. They aren’t visible for others to see and notice their work, but when they aren’t functioning properly the body is sick indeed. I would much rather have a cut on my hand or foot than one on my heart or liver. Such “weaker parts” need more protection and care because their functions are so vital. Think about those around you in the body who perform such vital, invisible functions. Maybe your function is to help and protect them.

Finally, how do we know when the church is healthy and all its parts are functioning as they should? It is when each part shows such love and care for the others that–as Paul says–when one suffers all suffer and when one rejoices all rejoice. Then we are living and loving and functioning as one body of Christ with many members. My prayer this evening is that each of us may be filled with the love of Christ, know our part in his body, and live it to the glory of God. Amen.

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