Today’s Scriptures: Lectionary selections from the Revised Common Lectionary Year C
Nehemiah 8:1-3, 5-6, 8-10
1 Corinthians 12:12-31
The biblical text uses so much figurative language that we are sometimes stumped for the exact meaning. We study the languages of the time it was written for clues. We look at the context of the passage. And we look at the Bible as a complete document to discern some of the meaning. Even with all these helps, there continues to be much disagreement about the meaning of passages. Today’s passage from 1 Corinthians, though, is one of broad agreement: our body serves as a symbol of the Church.
Paul clearly lays out the functions of body parts and how, traditionally, we treat those different parts. No matter what we think of the parts (less/more honorable, less/more respectable) we rely on them to have a complete church. We all have different “less honorable” and “more honorable” members in the church. In some churches it is the drug addict, in another the poor, in another the convict. Regardless of the criteria, Paul makes it clear the church has room for everyone and everyone has a role in the church. I the arm (teacher) may have difficulty accepting or understanding the knee (prophet) but I have trouble getting where I am going without it.
While sometimes we struggle with the role we have in the church, in my experience we often struggle more with the roles we do not have in the church. The struggle does not come from a malicious place, quite the opposite; it comes from the yearning to serve. We desire to be faithful and active disciples for Christ and we want to do it all. God created us limited, flawed beings so we cannot do it all and we learn to rely on others.
Understanding how the body of Christ, the Church, fits together also helps us understand God, the Trinity. As we are in the Epiphany season, we are learning to better understand Christ. Today’s passages serve well to do that. The Corinthians passage reminds us how the body parts fit together to make us whole people. We see the same thing in Luke as it leads us up to an early rejection of Jesus. He returns from the forty days in the wilderness and goes to his home synagogue. Everything was normal until he sat to teach on the passage he read. He proclaims the prophesy fulfilled, and these people who have known him since childhood, wanted to push him off a cliff.
The passage begins, “Then Jesus, filled with the power of the Spirit…” Just like our body, each part of God – Father, Son, Holy Spirit – must be present for God to be complete. They are all one, but they serve different functions. They are each unique, but they create the “God body.” Jesus experienced some of the limitations of humankind when he was born into an earthly body. The Spirit guided him and allowed him to overcome many of those physical limitations – the same Spirit that is with us today – while the Father directed the events.
Scripture provides a variety of names for each portion of the Holy Trinity, and likely, just as I have favorites, others do too. Just as I often want to be a control freak and do everything, the passages today helped me understand that even God delegates responsibilities to those parts best suited to do the job. Knowing that I am not alone as the arm, but I have a whole body to help me out does not eliminate some of the stress I have from wanting to do too much, but it certainly alleviates it. God, the Holy Trinity, is love and in that love God takes care of us.
Revised Common Lectionary Daily Readings, copyright © 2005 Consultation on Common Texts. www.commontexts.org