"That Church"

Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes

Scripture: 1 Corinthians 12:12-31
Jill A. Kirchner-Rose, MDIV, DMIN
November 8, 2015

The human body is absolutely fascinating!  Some interesting facts about the human body:

  • The human brain cell can hold 5 times as much information as the Encyclopedia Brittanica.
  • Our tongue has 3000 different taste buds.  It is also the strongest muscle in our body in proportion to its size.  Every time we eat, swallow, or talk we are giving our tongues quite a workout.  And each tongue has a unique print…just like our fingerprints.
  • The nose can remember 50,000 different scents.  Sneezes regularly exceed 100 mph, which is why we can’t keep our eyes open when we sneeze.
  • The stomach is strong enough to dissolve razorblades.  And we receive a new stomach lining every 3 – 4 days.  The strong acids the stomach uses to digest food would also digest our stomach.
  • Our bones are stronger than some steel.  The hardest bone in the body is the jawbone.
  • The small intestine is 100 feet long and the human body is estimated to have 60,000 miles of blood vessels.  The distance around the earth is 25,000 miles—which makes the distance of blood vessels if laid end to end go around the earth more than 2 times.
  • The liver has 500 different functions.  The liver is one of the body’s hardest working, largest, and busiest organs.
  • Human hair decays at such a slow rate that is practically indestructible.

And some other interesting facts about the body:

  • The body can go 20 days without food, but it can only go 11 days without sleep.  If you are dying to get a good night sleep, that may be literally true.  Sleep is so very important for the body to restore itself.
  • Have you ever walked into a room and forgot why you were there? And after that, have you ever noticed that you can sometimes remember if you go back through the doorway? There is actually a reason for that.    Researchers say that our mind perceives doorways as “event boundaries” and that decisions you made in that room are “stored” there when you leave. That is also why you can remember if you go back into that room.
  • To top it all off, the body has the amazing ability to heal itself; except for our teeth.  The tooth is the only part of the human body that can’t repair itself.

Those are just some of the fascinating facts about our bodies.   No doubt, the human body is truly a miracle.

No wonder the authors of scripture are forever holding up a mirror to our bodies so that we may see the fingerprints of God all over us.  The author of Genesis declares, “God created humankind in God’s own image, male and female God created them and God declared that these bodies are good.”  The Psalmist sings, “I praise you for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.”  And the Apostle Paul asks, “Do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit?”

And of course, Jesus honored the body as a sacred creation of God.  Jesus attentively washed the disciples’ feet.  Jesus gently patted mud onto the eyes of someone who could not see; Jesus touched lepers; Jesus sat at the bedside of the sick and dying.  Once a woman, who was called a sinner, entered into a house where Jesus was having supper and she began weeping over his feet, pouring out a pound of perfume and wiping them dry with her hair.  While others scandalized this woman, Jesus honored her act of tenderness.  And of course, in one final act of love, Jesus gathered with his disciples at the table and said this is my body broken, my blood shed for you.  Jesus taught those around him how God sees and honors the body; so intricate and capable and also very vulnerable.

 Yes, our bodies are masterpieces of creation.  We have the fingerprints of God all over us…which may be the very reason why Paul decided to use the analogy of our bodies to describe the church.  Yes, this body of Christ like a human body is so very sacred, it is capable of healing; it is both strong and fragile; it is a sign of God’s gracious bounty.

Paul wrote his letter to the Corinthians.  The Greco-Roman society of that day took great pride in the human body – so it was a good analogy for the Corinthians.  And the Corinthians often boasted over who was most important, who was #1; there was a lot of conceit, arrogance and vanity among the Corinthian church goers.  And there was a lot of division in Corinth – controversy over the role of women in the church, conflict between people of different ethnic backgrounds, tension between the rich and the poor.  Yes, the church at Corinth was probably Paul’s most challenging congregation – divided, conflicted, and torn apart.  And so he comes up with an analogy to unite this body of believers into one.

It is actually a very humorous passage, but we have a tendency to go to the Bible with such seriousness that we often miss the humor.  Paul says to the Corinthians – listen to you – arguing with one another as to who is better.  That is absolutely ridiculous – that is like your eye arguing with your foot over who is more important.  Don’t you get it?  Your body parts need one another and so do you as the body of Christ.  Some of you are eyes, bringing vision to the whole body – but  propelling the body forward, moving us along – but that doesn’t mean everyone is supposed to be a foot.  Some of you are hands – you do the work of the church, you are service people, but we also need some who are the ears – those who are great at listening. But if the whole body were an ear, where would the mouth be, the one who speaks up?  And yes, I know some of you are brains with high IQ’s and you want everyone to be a brain and think like you; and some of you are bleeding hearts, concerned with social causes and you want everyone to be a bleeding heart  too.  But God has gifted each one unique.  Your gifts as the body of Christ are complementary, not contradictory to one another.  God did not make us “one size fits all.”  Rather each member of the body is unique, distinctive, irreplaceable, and unrepeatable.  And each part of the body is interdependent with every other part of the body.   Without each other we are blind, deaf and lame. We need each other!

Christ did not call us to be a homogenous group.  Sure if we are all the same color, the same economic level and have the same political stance then of we will remain placidly content.  But that’s not a church, that’s a country club.  The church is being with people who are different; it is a place where we can disagree and hold hands at the same time.  For Paul, it is the dissimilarities, even the dissonances between and among the members of the Body of Christ that keep it alive and vital.  Divergent attitudes and understandings in the midst of the church is a sign of health, and not disease.

On this Covenant Sunday, I give thanks for this diverse body of Christ.  Personally, I am very excited about re-covenanting with this congregation after 20 years.  I remember writing my first covenant as a teenager – it was indeed a sacred and profound experience as I reflected on my relationship with my church family. I, also, pledged a tithe that year for I had my first paying job as a babysitter for the Wessons!    Even though, in the United Church of Christ an ordained minister is automatically a member of the congregation in which he or she serves, I believe it is important that I, too, write a covenant along with you.  I covenant to honor you, support you, serve you, empower you, at times challenge you, but most importantly love and care deeply for you as we together become the body of Christ to which we are called.

And I rejoice that uniting this diverse body together is the very Spirit of God.  The word for Spirit is ruach, which means breath.  God breathes into this body of Christ the very gift of life, uniting us together in ways we may never have thought possible.   God is the creator of all parts of the body; God is the author of wholeness; God is the Great Physician of broken hearts, skinned knees and stubbed toes; God miraculously turns you and me and them into us.  For together we are the one body of Christ!

Amen.