One Body
Luke 24:36b-48

 

This week we will once again look at the third article of the Apostle’s creed, but this time rather than focus on the work of the Holy Spirit, we will dig around in the other important bits that we just skimmed over last week.

Today we will spend some time on what it means to believe in the holy catholic church (little c), the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting.

Let’s start with the communion of saints, our second reading today, from 1 Corinthians says “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 the one Spirit we were all baptised into one body – Jews or Greeks, slaves or free – and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.  Indeed, the body does not consist of one member but many…Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.”

We are the body of Christ and have been since our baptism.  This has struck a chord with me this week as I’ve gone about my week, starting on Monday night with a study session for the lay worker trainees in Outer Eastern Melbourne who are all part of the Lutheran Church here in Victoria.  Then on Wednesday morning I was at Tudor Village at Lilydale and preached to a diverse group of Christians who gather there on a weekly basis for a worship service.  They come from all over the world, from many different denominations, yet they all worship the same God, all seemed to agree with what I proclaimed to them and they appreciated hearing some of Luther’s explanation of the creed.

Then on Thursday morning I led the worship service at Luther College and on Friday morning led the devotion for staff at Good Shepherd Primary School.

Each of these gatherings were very different, all were made up of a broad cross-section of the community, most of those gathered were from some form of Christian background and wanted to be there.  They were all different and yet are all a part of the communion of saints, the holy catholic church.

When these gatherings occur we are witnesses to those around us that Jesus Christ has risen from the dead, that we have faith in him and we want to get together to worship him and his Father in heaven and we are called together by the Holy Spirit.

As I mentioned to the people at Tudor Village their presence in that place each week is similar to Jesus inviting the disciples to touch and see the wounds in his hands and feet. Those of us who gather together to worship, whether it be there on a Wednesday morning or at any other time of the week, anywhere in the world, are visible proof to the world out there that the body of Christ is alive and well.  Simply by gathering together for worship we are witnessing to those around us.

When we hear the word church we often think about the buildings where we meet to worship, but the church isn’t about buildings, it’s about the people who are called together by the Holy Spirit to worship God.  At Tudor Village they gather in a shared community area behind the main administration offices, they put out chairs each week and put them away immediately after the service.  When I go up to Yarra Junction today, we will be in the Uniting Church building.  Sure it’s nice to have buildings that help us to worship God, but what is really important is that we are here as God’s people, the body of Christ.

To continue further on the body imagery, the body of Christ has many members, each of us with our own unique gifts, given to us by God for the building up of the whole body.

As I’ve mentioned many times before, I think it is important that we all take the time to try and discover just what gifts God has blessed us with, so that when we feel the calling of the Holy Spirit to serve in some way that we might be able to do so in an area for which we are suitably gifted.  How are we to know what those gifts are unless we spend just a little time look inward with God’s help.

It may be inappropriate to quote an ancient Hindu proverb in a Christian sermon, but I think this one makes an important point. 

At one time all people thought they were divine.  So Brahma decided to hide the gift of divinity.  But where would he hide it?  One said, “Hide it on the highest mountain.”  But Brahma said, “No, some day people will climb the highest mountain.”  Some said, “Hide it in the depths of the sea.” But Brahma said, “No, some day people will plumb the depths of the sea.”  “Anyone else have a suggestion?” he asked.  All were silent.  Then Brahma had an idea:  “We will hide it within each human.  They will never think to look there.”

God has hidden gifts of the Spirit within each of us, and we are encouraged in 1 Corinthians 14 to discover and put them to good use, “So with yourselves, since you are eager for spiritual gifts, strive to excel in them for the building up of the church.”

What are some of these spiritual gifts you might ask yourself?  They are gifts such as and not limited to; hospitality, mercy, giving, evangelism, teaching, prophecy, wisdom, leadership, counselling, encouragement and the list goes on.  All of these things are used by God to build up the body, the holy catholic church, the universal Christian church around the world.

To make all of this happen there needs to be an element of forgiveness, as each of us test our gifts and learn how to put them to their best use in the building up of the body.  At the OELC camp this year we ran some sessions on discovering our life gifts and spiritual gifts.  This was a helpful start for many of us; it was also a little confronting for some too.   I encourage all of you over the coming months to prayerfully consider taking part in similar sessions I hope to run!

I haven’t covered the resurrection of the body and life everlasting yet!  Much of this is a mystery to us and will remain so until it actually happens.  As St Paul explained to the Corinthians, exactly how you and your loved ones in Christ will be raised is a mystery, a mystery which God has not made fully clear” and he also uses a great analogy.  “In order for there to be a resurrection of the body, death must first occur.  Like a seed cast into the ground by the sower, “That which you sow does not come to life unless it dies.””

Luther picks up on this, saying, “The cemetery or burial ground does not indicate a heap of the dead, but a field of seed, which will blossom forth again and grow more beautifully than can be imagined.” 
As I have stated many times, using one of my favourite texts, “In my Father’s house are many rooms, I am going to prepare a place for you, if it were not so I would have told you.”  This we can believe, and look forward to, as we spend our time in this world, patiently waiting and watching as a part of the body of Christ.  We, like the whole earth, groan in anticipation and longing for the day when Christ will return and take us to be with him.

Until then we continually confess with the whole catholic church on earth what we believe about him and what he has done for us.  For the benefit and building up of ourselves and the whole body of Christ and as a witness to the whole world, who even though they don’t know it, are longing to be a part of the body too.

Amen.