Monday, January 25, 2016

Sermon on 1 Corinthians 12:12-31a, for the 3rd Sunday after Epiphany, "One Body, Many Members, One Spirit"



 Sermon Outline:
·         Paul uses a vivid image to describe the church of Christ—one body, many members
·         Begins with objective reality: In One Spirit, all baptized into one body. Our entrance, identity, incorporation.
·         Illustrates the way we function together, on the one hand, how certain sins particular to the Christian body show themselves; on the other hand, what the body of Christ looks like at its best, as God intended.
·         Starting on the negative side—individualistic tendencies, rejection of our place in the body. Some today would use the language of self-esteem—but Scripture’s advice to us is not to think more of ourselves, but “not to think more highly of yourself than you ought to think.” Humility encourages us not to boast of ourselves. There is a “low thinking” that is not Godly—despair, worthlessness, and jealousy
·         Value as God values—both ourselves and others. Each important to the body, with different gifts and roles. Acknowledge and be thankful for them.
·         A high-thinking that is not godly—arrogance, boasting, rejecting those with seeming lesser importance or more “modesty”. Meddling or interfering with someone else’s role, neglecting one’s own.
·         Both on the “high thinking” and the “low thinking” end of these problems in the body, it causes division and malfunction of the body. Prevents the body from being what Christ intends it to be and do, because the members are fighting against one another. It’s like the saying “he cut off his nose to spite his face”—as members of one body—we don’t always realize that the damage we do to one another hurts us all. If on member suffers, all suffer together.
·         Now to the positive! The good news! When the baptized body works as God intends. Beautiful thing—each has a purpose—God’s design, God’s gifts in unique measure from one to another. No reason for envy or superiority, but rejoicing in the wonderful variety. Discover how each person and gift fits into God’s purpose for the whole. Use those gifts, don’t leave them dormant.
·         Modesty and honor is shown to parts accordingly. Each doing what they do well, synchronization, cooperation, success. Mutual care and concern—not isolation or individualism. Community, corporate. Suffer, honor, rejoice together. The good of the body is bigger than “My good”
·         Higher gifts—next chapter: faith, hope, love…prophecy
·         This is Christ’s body, the church. He gave Himself up for it, paid. Each member is His—you, your neighbor, your brother or sister in Christ—even the one whom you may be at odds with. Paul urges us in his letters, give up our quarrels, let’s not be defeated by fights within the body that injure the whole body, and the whole body suffers for it. You are the body of Christ and individually members of it. He has sent you His Spirit and fills you with His gifts. Our identity, the shape of our life comes from Him. Daily forgiving us our sins, renewing us to be transformed into His image. May His gifts renew us day by day, so that we, as His church, may show that blessed harmony of the body!
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Sermon Talking Points
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  1. Though it’s common for people today to define faith in very “individualistic” terms, the Bible describes Christianity very differently. 1 Corinthians 12 uses the imagery of “one body” to describe the believers in Christ. What sacrament joins us together into one body, and what do we receive from God? 1 Corinthians 12:13.
  2. How do we as Christians face the temptation to either a) devalue our own importance to the body, or b) overestimate our importance in relation to others, by devaluing them? How does each error affect us and others?
  3. If we see ourselves and others as God sees them, as essential members of one body, how does that change our sense of purpose, and how we treat ourselves and others? What kind of behaviors would be inappropriate for us, since we recognize this? 12:14-23.
  4. What arises within the church or body of Christ when we don’t work together as a body? V. 25; Titus 3:1-11
  5. Why does God arrange the body as He does, with various gifts? Romans 12:3-8. How can this prevent us from jealousy and rivalry? What attitudes would God have us exercise instead?

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