Posts Tagged ‘Church’

God’s Delight is With Us and In Us

Sunday, January 17th, 2016

Epiphany 2-C, January 17th, 2016
Rev. Brian Henderson-Pastor
Trinity Lutheran Church,
7210 Lisbon Street, San Diego, CA
http://www.tlcsd.org

Click here for audio of this message

“You shall no more be termed Forsaken, and your land shall no more be termed Desolate but you shall be called My Delight Is in Her, and your land Married; for the LORD delights in you, and your land shall be married.” [Isaiah 62:4]

Indeed, because God’s delight is with us and in us, I cannot keep silent.  For the sake of the church and for the sake of our very salvation I will not be quiet until God’s righteousness goes forth within your life, your family, and Christ’s church, like a burning torch.

Indeed, if ever there was a time for a simple men like myself who have been called to the divine and holy office of ministry to speak out for righteousness it is now; now when both the family and the church are under attack.  This morning, I must remind you that there is a God among you who both created water for a divine purpose and then continuously blesses us by changing that water into the wine of joy.  This morning our message will speak to our lives, our families, our church, and our eternal home.

Each of you were moved from an existence of shame, loneliness, and desolation; you were transferred, married to God through Christ Jesus into a position of honor and community, within a place; a land of plenty. A God who changes water into wine and then wine into water did this for you and to you.  Let me explain what I mean.

On the day you were baptized, God used a simple element like water and attached to it His promise to redeem you from your sins.  With simple water He took the redeeming work of Jesus completed upon the cross for the world’s sins, and He made it a work done specifically for you!  You who were once forsaken and desolate, lost and dying in your sins, He recreated you into His image through the forgiveness of sins.  And now, God the Father looks upon you as cherished and beautiful.   He delights in you because He delights in your Lord, His Son Jesus Christ.  He promises that while you live within this land of darkness and sin you have a place and a Lord waiting for the day He calls you home to Zion, paradise restored!  But for now you live knowing that you wait with a purpose; your purpose is to declare your joy in being loved and redeemed by your God and Lord, Jesus Christ.

Your Lord loves you and desires you to know joy.  This is where we need Jesus to change water into wine for us.  You see our Lord knows who among us do not have the gift of singleness, and so He repeats what He said long ago to Adam in paradise, “It is not good for man or woman to be alone.”  And so He moves our hearts to search for the one who is also alone to be our spouse; that other person who makes us complete; who gives us joy.  Jesus not only blesses us with the wine of joy but He also is at our weddings as the honored guest.  It is Jesus who brings us the gift of spouse and the joy of intimacy with another.  It is a gift that is wrapped with love, the commitment of God, and the promise of faithfulness, husband and wife to each other and together committed to a promise of faithfulness towards God.  God joins these two to become one, so that together they may know the joy of the Lord and together they may stand against anyone who tries to separate them.  And why has God joined them?

To help one another, is the answer of Scripture.  God saw that it was not good for a man to be alone and gave him the kind of helpmeet he needed.  God has given these two people to each other so that they may help each other, depend on each other, rejoice and sorrow with each other, forgive each other, and carry burdens for each other.  They are more closely bound together than any other two people in this world.  In order to cleave to his wife, a man must forsake even his father and his mother.

So it’s the obligation of a man to love his wife.  She really is a part of him.  “He who loves his wife, loves himself,” writes Paul.  And he continues: “For no man ever hates his own flesh, but nourishes it and cherishes it.”  You see, one does not become angry with his own body if it becomes sick or maimed.  Instead one seeks to make the best of it in every condition.  And this is the way married couples should  treat each other.  They do not blame each other.  They try instead to sympathize with the faults of the other, as though they were one’s own.  And together they use these skills to bless and encourage each other.  This is necessary because if God wills it, there will most likely be children, and where there are children there is a family.

The Scriptures teach that when the two who are one become several or many through the birth or adoption of children, these children are a good gift from God. They should be accepted with thanksgiving and nourished with a sense of responsibility.

Parents have the duty to care for these children.  They must have patience with their faults and think more of the children’s welfare than of their own comforts.  They have no right to allow them to do as they please; they must be trained or taught to grow into adulthood.  This is just a matter of stewardship; they are caring for God’s children.  On the day of judgment we should be able to say to the LORD: “Behold, here am I and the children the LORD has given me.” [Isaiah 8:18]

Our homes are the most intimate natural fellowship in this world.  It is there that we see the clearest indications of our inherited selfishness.  In our day-to-day tensions with people who try our patience it is not possible to withdraw like a hermit, and since we can’t hide our real nature, the testing of our character can be very trying.

But it is not intended that we should solve the problems of our home and family by ourselves.  It is as members of the body of Christ, all united in the same common faith in our Lord Jesus, that we find strength and wisdom to serve one another.  It is not a question, then, who is the most important, or who has the greatest success, or who makes the most money, but it is a matter of sharing the joys and burdens we bear with each other.

The church is the place where Jesus first turned water into wine, and where He will also return the wine into water.

When you were baptized it was His church that Christ used to give you this great gift of eternal life; a gift that Christ then used to provide you with joy through the wine of His gladness.  But there is also a time when we think that Christ is not present with us; a time when our joy and gladness has turned to sorrow and dread.  It is in these times we feel like He has abandoned us and taken away our wine of joy.  It is within these times, we must allow the wine to return to water, the water of our baptism so that we will see that Jesus is really with us.

Jesus is there still with us, hiding away in an unseen corner within a divorce court when a judge of the land tears asunder what no man ought.  He’s there with us when one of our cherished children, a gift from God is shipped away to serve our country within the armed forces.  And He is there with us when they come back injured, damaged, or worse yet, they come back lying in a coffin.  He is there when death takes away other loved ones and friends, who’s passing seems to leave such an empty place in our hearts.  He is with us turning wine into water as joy gives way to grief, hope to destruction, and life to death.

When the joy of wine is gone, it is the mission of the church, Christ’s body, to remind you that the baptismal promises and commitments of Christ and His church still remain to sustain and support you and your family.  It is the church that is called through it’s preachers, services, and ministries to remind you that you are never alone.

When the gifts of God that bring temporary joy seem to have been taken away, we can very easily become angry at God and His church for allowing our joy to be taken away.  The spouse we lost to divorce or death, the children who no longer visit or seem to care, the career we lost, the child we never had, the home or reputation or money or friends that are now no more.  When these things disappear, many times we can become bitter or angry, even resentful towards God. But God in His Divine service reminds us that we are not alone in our grief.  He minds us that Jesus is with us.

Jesus knows the joy of a loving mother who stood by him even to the point of death. He also knows the Father who forsook him in His hour of deepest need. He knows what it’s like to be betrayed by those closest to Him and rejected by those He suffered and died for. He knows what it means to have more than enough food, and to have no food for forty days and forty nights. He knows what it is to be at peace and what its like to be attacked; to love and to lose; to live and to die.

He is our God, this man, this Jesus. And when water turns into wine, or wine retreats and takes you to the water, he remains the same—the very incarnation of love and faithfulness of His Father. He is always working toward the same goal: to be our delight and for us to delight in Him, as we live to bear his image.  And it’s that truth that will one day bring us to our native land, a place that He has gone to prepare for us within Paradise restored.  May God continue to do this great work within each of us, and I ask this in Jesus name… AMEN!

Things Are Not Always What They Appear

Sunday, June 14th, 2015

June 14, 2015
Rev. Brian Henderson, Pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church
7210 Lisbon Street, San Diego, CA 92114
http://www.tlcsd.org

Click here for audio of this message

Things are not always what they appear to be, are they?  I am thankful for the warning in the side mirror on my vehicle that states: “Warning, objects in the mirror are closer than they appear to be.”  I tend to forget that, I need that reminder.

I also need to be reminded that the Kingdom of God in eternity is not what it appears to be in our time; it is not what the world supposes it to be.  They see the Kingdom of God as a bunch of superstitious people gathered around and antiquated Bible, a little water, a scrap of bread, and a sip of wine.  And as they scoff, we gather and find forgiveness, peace, and the promise of eternal happiness and joy, within those very things.  Why the disparity?

Faith. Faith is the one thing needful. Lack of faith is what causes a mighty nation, full of life and vigor to decay from within, dry up, and die.  That was the cause of the nation of Israel’s demise, it was the cause of the death of all of the empires that have ever existed, and it will be the demise of our country if its citizens continuously reject faith.

It was the demise of the way of worship for the Jews, which we can call the old church.

Where is their temple worship?  It is gone!  Where is their temple? Destroyed!  Jesus said as much when He said, “The time will come when not one stone will be left on another; every one of them will be thrown down.” [Luke 21:6]  WHY?  Again they had lost their faith in the promise of God and the mercy and forgiveness He would bring to all through the Savior who was to come.  And when He did come, they rejected the very means of Salvation that God had promised since the fall of creation.

But you have not lost that faith, have you?  You are still here, so out of love, out of charity I will gladly assume that you still trust God to make all things new; to make all things right.  I trust that you have faith in the Savior who has now come and will come again.  You have faith in Jesus Christ, the very Son of God!

You have Faith in a Who and a Promise! Unlike what the world thinks, things are not as they seem.  Your faith is not simply in some printed words found in a book, but in the living Word of God that both spoke and ensured by the power of His Spirit that His Word would be preserved for you, so that you would have faith.  What kind of faith?  Faith to believe that simple water when combined with the promises of the Word of God would bring both forgiveness and peace with God.  Faith to believe that a scrap of bread and a sip of wine are also, mysteriously the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, broken and shed, eaten and drank for the forgiveness of sins.

You are that sprig that God says in our Old Testament reading (Ezekiel 17:22-24) was removed from the lofty top of the great cedar that was Israel, which is now withered and abandoned.  You are the church, the very mystical body of Christ that has been planted by God Himself upon the high and lofty mountain, which is the long awaited Paradise restored.  You are part of something inconceivably vast and powerful; you are even now part of the Kingdom of God; a Kingdom, which throughout the eons has not only promised but given rest to the weary and joy to the broken hearted.  You are part of the Kingdom of God fulfilled.

The Kingdom of God is the Promise Fulfilled! Yes the promise fulfilled, but also the promise not yet seen.  To be sure, those who have died in the faith, are now absent from the body and present with the Lord; that is they see with their own eyes both the glory of the Lord and the beauty of their eternal home in paradise.  But we are still here; we must still walk by faith and not by sight.  Faith assures us that the promise is fulfilled and there is a place reserved for us too; a body and home, tailor made for us by the Lord Jesus Christ Himself.

We are holy by faith, because He is holy.  We are holy simply because we are forgiven and loved, so we forgive and love as well.  We are holy because we are sustained by the power of God’s Spirit and the means of grace, which He gives to both create and sustain our ability to see by faith.

And we need that faith to live within God’s promise fulfilled, because things are not always as they seem, and this truth creates tension.

The tension of living by faith and not by sight. In our gospel lesson this morning (Mark 4:26-34), Jesus taught that the Kingdom of God can be compared to a mustard seed, the smallest of seeds commonly known at the time, “yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes larger than all the garden plants and puts out large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade.” And here is precisely where the tension is experienced; there are birds nesting in our branches that bring all kinds of strange and peculiar things with them; things like poverty, sickness and disease, rude behavior and domineering spirits.  Many times they don’t come simply to rest in our gospel tree, but to take it over.

Perhaps the best way to illustrate what I mean is to change Jesus illustration of birds resting in the Mustard tree to one of the Phasmida, or as they are more commonly know as, the “Walking Stick.”  The walking stick insect looks just like a twig of the tree, and it blends in perfectly with the tree.  The camouflage is needed because other animals that live outside of the tree fly around looking to eat the little walking stick.  But when they are within the canopy of the tree, they may rest safe and free from harm, because they look like they are part of the tree.  But they’re not, are they?  And while they rest within the safety of the tree, they begin to eat the leaves and find sustenance from the tree itself.

Are you a part of the tree, or are you like the walking stick simply finding sustenance and safety.  Only you and God know the answer to that, not me.  But I will tell you what I do know; God does not want you to be a walking stick; He wants to graft you within the tree itself.  God wants you to simply quit hiding and surrender to His wonderful grace; his forgiving love and mercy.  And here is the wonderful news, you do not need to do a thing, simply surrender to the same means of grace and mercy that brought the rest of us into the body of Christ.

You may become a branch of this tree, by simply seeing that the safety and security that you have enjoyed for a time, can be yours for eternity by simply surrendering to God and believing that He gives precisely what He promises through His powerful Word, a splash of water, a scrap of bread, and a sip of wine.

What are you waiting for, or better yet, what are you hiding from?  He has already found you; you are here in the gospel tree, the church.  Why not truly belong and become that which the world thinks is both foolish and pathetic?  Why not belong and become what the cross of Jesus Christ has already provided and announced for all sinners throughout the world… you are forgiven and loved by God. [John 3:16]

Look around you; things are not what they appear to be.  You see first with eyes of flesh, and you see sinners.  But now look with eyes of faith at those sinners who have gathered around God’s means of grace and promise, and by faith, you see instead sinners who have become and our becoming saints by faith.  If you can rest in this truth, then you along with all of us struggle together as saints for eternity and sinners only for as long as we live in these tents; these temporary bodies of sin.

We all struggle together with putting to death the sin that is within us, and during this struggle we groan in anticipation for the day that we will be free of that struggle and then rest securely in our new resurrected bodies within our new home.  Each of us together are becoming by grace what God has declared we are through Christ; holy, perfect, and righteous.  And for each of us, the battle to belong and become will not be complete until God calls us to our new home… Paradise.  [2 Corinthians 5:1–10] AMEN!

Color Me… Christian!

Sunday, August 17th, 2014

Rev. Brian Henderson, Pastor-Trinity Lutheran Church
7210 Lisbon Street, San Diego 92114
http://www.tlcsd.org
Pentecost 10A, August 17, 2014

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Isn’t it true that we Christians hate discrimination of any kind?  Isn’t it true that all of us, at one time, have felt the pain of being singled out, left out, looked down on, or trodden upon?  Its no fun being excluded, not being invited to a party or special event, simply because your not part of the “in-crowd”.  Being left out can lead to depression and a real sense that no one cares or appreciates you for who you are.  

So then why do we Christians do that to members of our own family of faith?  Why do we create clicks that clearly demonstrate how our group is different than other groups?  Because it is in our nature… our sinful nature!

God’s message for us this morning in our Old Testament lesson (Isaiah 56:1, 6-8) assures us that God has a solution to our sin problem; to our tendency to group up at the expense of others feeling uninvited or not part of the family.  He shows us how we are all His chosen people who are never left out.  He does not discriminate or exclude anyone by race, former beliefs, or ethnic background.  God looks for and finds even foreigners and outcasts.  This morning’s message tells us that God’s Salvation through Jesus Christ is for everyone, and that everyone is the same color… and that color is Christian!

This is a message that has always been part of God’s plan, but over the years it became lost in the sinful hearts of His children of faith, the children of Israel.  It became lost through nationalistic pride and ethnic feelings of superiority, which replaced what was suppose to be pride in the One true God, who called them out of darkness and into light.

Now, it’s true, that the law of God did command that some people were to be excluded from God’s people.  That was one of the functions of the law; to keep God’s people separate from the godless nations that surrounded them.  God didn’t want His people to be contaminated by the pagan religious practices of the nations around Israel.  They were called to avoid intimate contact with the Gentiles.  And for that reason, God’s chosen people had dietary restrictions; some foods were unclean simply because God said so.  God wanted the world to notice His people; He wanted a world trapped in sin to see that His children of faith were different.  They were circumcised as a sign of their covenant connection with Abraham and the promises God made to him.  Why?  So that the world caught in the darkness of sin would see this difference and God’s many blessings upon His people, and then desire to be included in this relationship.  But sadly, sin began to creep in, and God’s children of faith began to develop a spirit of superiority, and so their pride caused them to look down on other folks.

The Israelites disdainfully referred to the world outside as “uncircumcised.”  And they began to forget to ask some very important questions about these “outsiders,” questions like: “Does God want these people to also receive deliverance by hearing and believing in the coming of the Messiah of God?

That was the dilemma crying out in front of the apostles of our Lord in our gospel reading (Matthew 15:21–28).  Standing before Jesus and His Jewish disciples was a Canaanite woman from the foreign region of Tyre and Sidon.  She was a female, and one of those unclean foreigners that the Jews were taught to look down upon, and she did the unthinkable, she approached Jesus crying out “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David.”  Jesus seemingly ignored her and kept on walking by her, but she followed and continued to cry out for mercy.

After a while, the disciples couldn’t take it any more, so they asked Jesus to give her what she wanted, just  so she would go away.  But Jesus, ignoring the woman, answered the disciples request according to the law of God and said to them, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel… It is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.”  In other words, Jesus is saying that He wasn’t there to help the foreigners yet, but those who falsely claimed to be children of Abraham without faith like Abraham.  Why did they lack faith?  Because they had lost faith in God’s promise of the coming Messiah, the Suffering Servant who would come first to the Jews and then use them to draw all sinners to God’s mercy by faith in God.  You could say that when one is caught in the darkness, one must first have their own lamp lit before they can help others find their own lamps.

Now what the woman says next proves the next point of our message, which is that Salvation, is entirely a work of God.  The woman looks Jesus in the eyes and says, “Yes Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.”  This declaration moved Jesus to look at this woman with love and say, “O woman, great is your faith!  Be it done for you as you desire.”

Did you hear that?  Jesus said that her faith was great, that is her lamp had been lit!  The very thing that the Jews were to have first before they could be effective in drawing foreigners into the inner circle of God’s family of faith, this woman had already received.  She knew who Jesus was; she desired to be part of what he brought, even if it meant enjoying it from the outside!  By being content with her outside status, Jesus drew Her in.

This brings us to our next point…

Salvation is entirely a work of God!  It is God alone who provides salvation, and it is He alone who brings it to people both on the inside and the outside who have been excluded due to sin.  It is what He does for sinners in His Word, the law first and then the gospel.  We see this displayed beautifully in the very first verse of our Old Testament lesson.  Listen: “Thus says the Lord: “Keep justice, and do righteousness, for soon my salvation will come, and my righteousness be revealed.”  Do you hear the law?  Keep justice!  Do what’s right!  It demands much of us, but offers no help in doing!  But then as our terror propels us forward to try and do the law, to try and keep the command, God’s sweet and tender voice of mercy speaks, “It is going to be ok.  Soon my salvation, my Suffering Servant, your Messiah will come, and then the comfort and peace that you thirst for will be revealed and given to you for free!”

Friends, Salvation has come; it has come trough Jesus Christ, the light first given to the people of Israel and now as a light given to the world.  Where was this light given to all people?  Upon the cross!  Listen to these beautiful words of prophecy, fulfilled through Jesus suffering and death:  “He was pierced for our transgressions; He was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed.”  [Isaiah 53:5]

Jesus knows our every fear and weakness; He knows our struggle to find acceptance and belonging.  Like many of us, He too was an outcast, excluded by many of the people He first came to save; the ones who must first have the light before they could help the outsiders and outcasts find their portion of the light.  “He had no form or majesty that (others) should look at him, and no beauty that (they) should desire him.  He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces He was despised, and (even today) we esteemed him not.” [Isaiah 53:2, 3]  But He esteems us, He knows us, and now is the time of our salvation.  Now is the time that Jesus comes for all of sinful mankind!

This morning we gather as God’s children called by faith in His Word; called by faith in the Suffering Servant, the Son of God Jesus Christ!  This morning we know by this same Word and faith in that Word, that salvation is for all of mankind, first for the Jews and then for the world.  It is a work of God done for all sinners, regardless of skin color or the quality of their character, because Jesus calls sinners just as they are.  But when He calls them, He loves them to much to leave them in that condition.  For you see, the call also contains the power of God that transforms sinners into saints.

We are those who once were foreigners but now are sons of God, brothers and sisters in Christ.  People know that we are Christians by the marks that God imputes upon us and within us.  We love to serve our true and living God.  We love to speak His name… Jesus, and we find an unexplainable peace in living under that name.  We  are the ones who truly keep His Sabbath, because we alone find rest and peace in the proclamation and the hearing of His Word.  We alone, enabled by faith, trust in His new covenant promise of grace, and we do that by clinging to Christ alone and no other! We are the people who alone can say, “My color is Jesus and my race is Christian!”

Each of us, through no merit of our own has been drawn to God by His power alone.  Because of His Word, we hear and believe that it is God’s desire to bind all people to Himself through Jesus Christ, and that is exactly what He has done for us.  By faith, we see the very Son of God in the person of Jesus Christ, suffering and dying upon the cross as both God’s Suffering servant and our Messiah, and we know that like a lamb led to be slaughtered, He obediently died for the sins of the world.  But we also know by faith that within the waters of our baptism, salvation became very real and very personal.  In our baptism, we were both buried with Christ and made alive with Him!

Indeed, this morning as well as every Sunday we hear the proclamation that salvation is for all; none are excluded and all have been drawn into God’s inner circle as His children of faith who rest within the mystical body of Christ.  But sadly, there are some who are not yet resting as part of the “in crowd” within this position of peace and comfort.  There are many who still live in the darkness and continually reject God’s free gift of salvation through Christ, or perhaps they have separated themselves from the gift by judging others as not “like them” and unworthy of the same gift that once saved them.  They have bound themselves to darkness rather than to the light of Christ.

Is there hope for those who are perishing outside of Christ’s sacrifice and love?  Yes, and again I say yes, and that hope is spoken of in the last verse of our Old Testament lesson, listen: “The Lord GOD, who gathers the outcasts of Israel, declares, “I will gather yet others to (the body of Christ) besides those already gathered.”  How does He gather?  Through the same means of grace that gathered you… through His Holy Word and Sacraments.  They are His means of grace, and we the church are His means of delivery.  As He binds Himself to us, we bind ourselves to Him to be His instrument of inclusion and Ambassadors of peace.  As we go out being His light in the darkness of sin, we remember that it is He alone who brings and works salvation by binding Himself to the waters of baptism and establishing new Christian identities in those who were once dying in sin, so that they too will serve Him and love the name that is above every name… Jesus Christ!  And in, with, and under that name let the church say… AMEN!

One Baptism—One Body!

Sunday, January 24th, 2010

“For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body” [1 Corinthians 12:13b]
Rev. Brian Henderson—Pastor, Trinity Lutheran Church of San Diego, CA
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INTORDUCTION: First Corinthians is a letter from St. Paul to a church that God created out of nothing in a pagan city called Corinth.  In this letter, Paul continually reminds the Corinthians that they need to strive for unity within the body of Christ (12:12). In other words, there is only one body and one Spirit, one Lord, and one Baptism [12:4 ff., 13]. And yet, Paul has discovered the very opposite is true in their church!  Instead of unity, there are divisions and factions.  Paul’s intention then, is to unite these factions and remove the confusion that’s been caused by bad doctrine.  If they will listen and follow God’s Word then God will unite them! God unites the Corinthians the same way he unites us, by reminding us of our baptism.  A baptism, which reminds us that while we may be many members, we are but one body—while we may be many congregations, we are but one Church!

I. (vs. 12-13) Friends, Christ’s church, our church, is like the human body.  Let’s consider the human body for a moment.  Within our bodies we see the very picture of unity and completeness through a lot of individual parts. Now, this is also true with Christ’s body, the Church. To illustrate this truth, Paul begins with the oneness of the body and then to its many parts through these words: “the body is one and has many members”; he then goes backward from the many parts to the oneness of the whole by saying: “and all the members of the body, being many, are one body.” And throughout Christ’s body, He is always present and active in each one of us—He is throughout the whole body!  How?  Through God’s mysterious work in our own baptism.

In Holy Baptism friends, each one of us was baptized “in” one Spirit, in union with Jesus.  Our baptism is a vital connection with him. In our baptism, God’s Spirit is always present and always making a spiritual change within us—a change, which creates a new spiritual life within us and maintains a right spiritual relationship with God and other members of His Church.  This mystical union of Christ with the church friends is our true union with God, and it is a union that is identically sustained within each of us through Christ’s own Word and sacraments. 

Now, think about what this truth must have meant to the Corinthian church, and then think about what it means for Trinity.  “Jews are equal to pagan Greeks?”  Friends, do you see how in Christ’s body… the Church, all extremes of the human race have been drawn together into Christ and then melted and fused together into one indistinguishable whole? What was lower than a slave, human property with almost no rights? Yet Paul is telling those rich cats and property owners, many of who owned slaves that they are their equals! Christ is in their slaves just as he is in them… they are one!  It’s quite the wakeup call isn’t it?  The same is true with us friends; through our baptism, we are one with the butcher, the baker, the president, the junkie, the homeless, the parent and the child.  People of all races and back grounds, through their baptisms are “one body” just like the physical human body. 

Now with this central truth stated about our physical bodies and the church, think of how preposterous it would be for a toe no longer wanting to be part of the foot, or an eye thinking that it is better than the ear.  We need all of our body parts to function the way God designed them so that we can have a complete and healthy body, and this is also the truth with Christ’s body the church! 

II. (Vs. 14-20) So why do some members of Christ’s Church feel inferior and jealous of others if all of us are baptized into the same body?  To answer this question, let’s first go back to Paul’s illustration of the human body.  Why does the ear say, “Because I am not an eye, I’m not important so that must mean that I’m not really part of the body?”  Does the ears feeling change the fact that it is truly part of the body?  All of its gripping won’t change a thing. It’s not only useless; it’s foolish, because the body can’t be just one member!  We need each member because each member has its own function. Wouldn’t it be foolish if the foot tried to grasp something or shake hands with somebody when it’s real purpose is to help the body walk and move from one place to another?  The same is true about an ear that wants to be an eye when the body really needs it for hearing.  This unity in diversity friends is what makes the body whole and functioning.  Instead of complaining about what it isn’t each part should celebrate what it is, because without each part, the body wouldn’t be whole.  This is also true about each member of Christ’s church and our congregation. Suppose a member were actually what these complainers say: not a part of Christ’s body—well what would it be? Jesus answered this question clearly; He said it would be a dead branch, fit only to be burned. Dear friends, instead of wishing we were someone else or something “better,” we should thank God for the place he has assigned to us and then work with the Holy Spirit to do our part not only expertly but also joyfully!

Don’t you think that all of this jealousy and envy is foolishness?  After all, wasn’t it “God (who) arranged (all of) the members in the body, each one of them, (just) as He chose(?) (If each of us were the same member), where would the body be?  (So, we see friends), there are many parts, yet one body.” [vs. 18-20]   All of this is part of God’s divine work of creation!  He did it all according to His will when He formed the human body and when He created His church!   He desired that both bodies would consist of many members. Each one He set into its perfect place within the body. Do we really want to find fault with what God did? Do we really have the audacity to think that we can improve on His work? Well, the fact stands: God made the true Church what it is and He made you as you are for a purpose… now we must live out that purpose as He leads us! 

III. (Vs. 21-26) Ok, but then why do some people act like they’re superior or better than others?  Or as Paul says, “Why does the eye say to the hand, “I don’t need you,” or the head to the feet, “Go away, you’re not needed”?  Why indeed and here we go again!  Once again there’s grumbling within the body; but this time it’s a different kind of grumbling.  Now it’s the eye and the head’s turn to voice their sinful feelings, each looking down on a different body part and thinking that they are superior to them.  One looks down on the hand, and the other is looking down on the feet.  What’s going on here?  There seems to be trouble throughout the body!  And this is what Paul is saying about the church at Corinth.  And so we see him expertly using God’s law to attack their habit of looking down on others. 

Let me ask you a question: When are we more likely to look down on others?   I think the answer is when we think that they’re not in our class!  Social status, education, health, and many other conditions fuel our disdain for others!  We’re inclined to look down on others when we feel that their talents or position seems lower than our own. To illustrate this, Paul lets the eye and the head speak. Now, because the eye is able to reach out to great distances it looks down on the hand which can only grasp what is in arms reach. And because the head is placed so high above all of the other members, it is prone to look down with disdain on the feet, which are dutifully plodding away on the hard and dirty streets below! So you see, those who have been given what seems to be greater gifts and talents might be tempted to foolishly think that they don’t need those who have what appears to be inferior gifts and talents, but in reality, once again each of us must remember that we are not individuals but part of a whole.  What each part has is only part of the whole body… a body designed by our Creator! 

But what about our more humble parishioners; the very old, the sick, and the disabled?  Paul compares them with our private body parts; the ones we keep hidden—the parts that we might be ashamed of?  Listen to what he says: “And on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another.  If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.” [vs. 23-26]

ILLUSTRATION (Please listen to the audio attached with this message to hear the illustration)

Dear friends, when I think about my Aunt Dianne and her little church, I can’t help but wonder if we as a congregation demonstrate the same interest and care for our weaker members.  I hope that we do, don’t you?

God will help us do this very thing if we will remember that it was the Creator who put all of us in our proper place within His Church and within this congregation!  But what if we are having problems living out this truth? 

IV. (Vs. 25-30) What’s the solution? How are we to be saved from these terrible sins that divide us?  Well friends, God does this very thing by taking us back to our own baptism—back to the truth of our equal standing as sinners before God.  He takes us and back His Word, which promises and gives forgiveness; a word that reminds us that each of us, as members of God’s church, are equally loved by Him.  And friends, God wants us to demonstrate that same love and care to others who are also members of His church.  With His Holy Spirit living within us, He reminds us that if one of us suffers, then all of us suffer together; if one member is honored, then all of us will celebrate together.

Let’s look to our own bodies one more time to illustrate this truth: If our foot is in pain, even if it’s the little toe, won’t our eye immediately look to see what’s wrong?  And won’t we use our fingers to hold it and caress it, as our face twists in pain and our whole body bends over to assist in its care?  And as the entire body is caring for this one ailing part, the entire body is benefited when the pain is soothed!  

Dear friends, isn’t it a blessing to be part of a body where “if one member suffers, all members suffer together, and if one member is honored, all members rejoice together?”

CONCLUSION: Rejoice dear friends in the truth that Christ’s suffering and death upon the cross was equally given to each of us within the waters of our own baptism—for you see it is the same sin that was covered, but more than covered, it was the same sin that was drowned and destroyed.  It is that same sin that equally drives each of us to the font with the same need and the same identity… beggars in need of God’s grace.  And as we remember this truth let’s also rejoice together in yet another truth…He is still giving us that same grace through His Word and His Holy Supper!  Praise God dear friends!  Praise Him all creatures here below.  Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost…AMEN!