Toorak Uniting Church

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Arms, Legs, Hands and Feet

1 Corinthians 12: 4 – 13
Rev. Anneke Oppewal
18 January 2004, 9:00am

We are all different.

If we look around us in Church this morning that is something that will be all too obvious, even without knowing too much about each other’s personal background, experience, circumstances etcetera. Each and every one of us is unique and each and every one of us is on their own unique journey through life.

John’s journey has just begun. His parents have travelled the path of life a bit further and some of you who have gathered here today have life journeys that again are considerably longer than those of either John or his parents. But age is only one thing that makes us different, there is also education, moving from one place to another, books, films, friends, family, and many, many other things that have somehow shaped and formed us and made us into what we are.

The Church says Paul in his first letter to the Corinthians is very much like a person. It is constituted from different parts that together make up a unique whole.

The church he says is like a human body. The Church, like the human body, is made up of different parts that all have their own unique part to play in making the whole body function. Hands are there to hold things, touch things, gesticulate with. Feet are there to walk with, run with, or even put up when one is tired. Legs are there to carry us around and without them the feet would not be much use. Same goes for the arms in relation to the hands, hands but no arms would severely restrict the use of hands….. and so on. He doesn’t even go into the finer dynamics, into the millions of bits and pieces that together make each and every one of us what we are: unique, walking, talking, eating, sleeping, communicating personalities. Paul just limits his comparison to the very obvious: legs, arms, head, eyes, mouth, ears.

We all got those. And we all have experience with their workings, we know how wonderful it is when our different body-parts seem to work together effortlessly, but we also know how awkward it can be when one or more stop functioning the way we would want them to. It all has to work together, if it doesn’t life can become very difficult in many respects.

The Church says Paul is like a body, in fact it is a body. A body made up of people who each have a necessary contribution to make for the whole of the body to be able to function properly. Together all these different people with their different gifts, talents, strengths and weaknesses are called to be Christ in the world. It is through this community, in this community of different and unique people that Christ takes shape, takes on a tangible form after his death and resurrection. It is here the Holy Spirit materialises in different ways, through different gifts, services and activities in human beings, serving the world, of people serving each other in imitation of Christ.

There is a place for everybody, whatever or whoever, everybody’s gifts are somehow part of the plan, part of the whole that, by God, has been designated to make a difference in the world through service, through a life lived for others in the footsteps of Christ. And each and everyone has his or her unique role to play in that. A role that may change over time. John for instance has today given us joy with his enthusiastic and energetic way of being, his lack of inhibition. His baptism reminding us of our own baptism, or the baptism of our children, or even our grandchildren, bringing back to mind the commitments we ourselves have made over time in the Church. Later on he will hopefully become a responsible, matured individual perhaps involved in the Church or religion, or perhaps making other choices.
John will change, as we all do when we grow up and even after we’ve grown up.
Those of us who have been around a little longer will know that from experience: The life of the members of the body of Christ is in no way static, but is always moving, growing, changing. And because each of us does this growing, moving and changing the whole body of Christ, the Church is per definition a community that changes with the members that constitute it.

It is a living thing.
And that is what it is meant to be, by God.
A very special living organism that breaths with the breath of the Spirit, that is held together in unity by God himself, that finds it’s one example in Jesus Christ. Through the Church, through the people that together are the Church, God is present both in the lives of those who are part of the Church but at the same time through them and their lives and deeds in the world as a whole.
In the Church God moves in us and through us, moulding us into a living, breathing and well functioning organism through which His love and mercy will take shape in the world. Pulling us together, giving us direction, guiding our steps, feeding us, nurturing us, supporting us through his Spirit changing us into more than the sum of the components we ourselves and all of us together as a Church are made off.


© Rev. Anneke Oppewal, 2004

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