A Sermon from the 1st Congregational Church, UCC, North Yarmouth, Maine
A sermon offered by the Rev. Nancy J. White in the public worship of the 1st Congregational Church, United Church of Christ, North Yarmouth, Maine on January 24, 2016.
Scripture 1 Corinthians 12: 12-27
This scripture is a letter from the apostle Paul to the people of the church in a place called Corinth. The apostle Paul was a disciple, a follower, of Jesus. He traveled all over the world telling everyone he met about Jesus and how much God loves them.
The people of Corinth were not getting along with each other. Some people thought they were better than other people because they had money or because they were educated. Healthy people thought they were better than sick people. People thought widows were not important. Older people thought children were not important and men thought women were not important. This story of Paul’s tells us about how we are all important and it doesn’t matter if we are poor or dirty or sick or a widow or a child.
Paul uses the image of our human bodies and how they work to help us understand how the Body of Christ, the Church should work. He is telling us that in God’s eyes we are all necessary for the Church to be alive and healthy. Paul says that each part of the human body has a purpose, has a function and that all parts of the body work together to make the whole person.
So without our feet, the body wouldn’t be able to stand or walk and without our mouths the body could not eat and without the ears the body would not be able to hear and even the parts that we can’t see are important – our stomach and intestines process the food we eat so that our bodies may be nourished.
Every part of the human body is important and necessary with a few exceptions which have outlived their evolutionary usefulness. According to research I have read on the internet, our ancestors needed tailbones because they had tails to aid in balance before humankind walked on two feet; and the appendix no longer aids in digestion and is not missed by those who have had it removed and goose bumps originally were a means of making body hair stand out so that one could appear larger and threatening in times of jeopardy. All good and necessary in their day.
Just as God created the human body and all of its parts to work well together, God created each one of us to work together as the Church, as the Body of Christ. Some of us can teach, some can sing, some can cook, some can take care of others, some can show compassion, some can heal, some can grow food, some can cook food, some can do carpentry, some can do finances, some are artists and some are dancers, some excel at sports and others are deep thinkers.
Because I am a minister, doesn’t make me more important than the person who cleans the church. Because we are different genders or different ages, or one of us shops at a fancy boutique and another at a thrift store does not make one of us more important than the other. Because one might have a genius IQ and another struggles with math does not make one better than the other.
I read recently of a teenager who may have developed a breakthrough for detecting pancreatic cancer in its earliest stages. He needed the facilities to test his theory. 199 research companies turned him away. The 200th one has invited him to use their facility to do all the necessary testing and not only that they are also providing the scientists and technicians to get it done. 199 companies thought his idea was not worth their time, but one did and just maybe in that one lives will be saved.
On one of my trips to rural Haiti, I witnessed a joyfulness and level of hospitality that is amazing from people who have nothing – people who have no earthly reason to be happy, often don’t know when their next meal will be and yet have a spontaneous joy and enthusiasm for God. They spent long hours preparing meals for the mission team as they feel God’s calling to hospitality and they sing with joy and abandon reveling in the life God has given them.
God has given each of us gifts to help make our community and our world better.
My experience with persons with developmental challenges is that they have a deep spirituality which is pure and without pretense and they willingly share it and in the process make themselves beautifully vulnerable. One young man I can think of was very active in his church and he sang of God’s love and God’s glory during worship. Did he have the best voice ever heard? – it was good, but no, not the best and sometimes he fudged the words to O Holy Night on Christmas Eve , but he sang from his heart and because of his love of God and that witnessed to the courage that it takes to get up and put yourself out there to share the gift God has given you.
As members of the Body of Christ, the Church, we must honor and respect the gifts God has given others and we must encourage each other so that we all work together to be Christ’s presence in our world. In order to do that we need to respect each other and listen to what each person has to say. Listen with our hearts, listen looking for contribution rather than looking for evidence in order to dismiss another’s thoughts and opinions. There is enough of that going on in our world outside of church. We are Christians and we are called to love one another remembering that God’s Holy Spirit may speak through another where/when and from whom we least expect it.
Remember always that the Holy Spirit is active and present in every conversation, every meeting, every encounter and the Holy Spirit has given each person a part of God’s truth that as a church we are striving to comprehend.
Together, you who were born on this peninsula, and those of us ‘from away’, we are all part of the body of Christ and together we can help the world know about God’s love for each person. We can do that by helping each other and helping in our communities and loving each other just as God loves each of us. Amen.