Sermon by Pastor Tim Woodard

“The Community – The Common Good”
First Corinthians 12: 12-31, January 24th, 2016


I have been watching a lot of football with my wife Lois. Well, maybe not as much as a true fan might, but a lot of Football for me. I really have learned a lot about the game recently and with the help of that internet source called Wikipedia I think I have a grasp of the concepts. “The objective of this game is to score more points than the other team during the allotted time. During a play, each team should have no more than 11 players on the field, and each of them has specific tasks assigned for that specific play. A typical offense is made up of a quarterback, five offensive linemen, two wide receivers, a running back, a fullback, and a tight end, however teams will vary their personnel on the field to fit any given play.” /Wikipedia/ It is an amazing game really and these past few weeks have been all about the playoffs to determine which two teams will make it to the Super Bowl on February the 7th.

As I have been observing these football games I was thinking about what a team effort it takes, and how important every player truly is. The key player seems to be the quarterback; and I suspect they get paid really well for their efforts. But, I have noted that if the fellows on the line don’t protect the quarterback well, the quarterback gets pressured into a situation that does not usually lead to a positive forward motion of the football. Of course the object of the game is to move that ball successfully down field to score points. The team with the highest score at the end of the allotted time wins. So my observation is this: even the less important players seem often to be vital in attaining the results desired. I have also observed seemingly nonessential members of the team assisting on the side lines. Helping the players with water, towels and even coats on these frigid days. One might wonder how well the players would play if they didn’t have all these support personnel assisting on the side lines.

I suspect that in football, similar to all walks of life, it is a struggle to see how we fit in. It is a real journey to find our place, to belong and to do our fair share. There are places where someone can go it alone, but more often it is a team effort. If you are a loner this can be a real challenge. Even a computer programmer, is reliant on others to design the hardware that will accommodate their programing efforts and there are numerous others who support the team effort it takes to implement a new computer program. If you are not clear about your attributes or how you can be a part of the team it can feel very discouraging. I am sure the same goes for being involved in the team effort of a football team or in the team effort at our Local schools to implement a school lunch program. Just like on the football field, it takes more than just the guy or gal on the front line to deliver the goods to the intended receiver.

Next Sunday the members of this congregation will meet and review the year just past. An Annual Report has been written for everyone’s review. During the course of the meeting there will be a recommendation from the Nominating Committee. A slate of Offices and Committee members will be presented. All of this has been done for the church community, for the common good. I am not going to get into the details of all of this, one annual meeting a year is quite enough, however I am going to lift this up as a simple example. That roster of names is very similar to the list of players a football team has of its players. Each person on the roster has a roll or a position that they have agreed to play or perform. This is a very simple organizational piece of a typical church such as ours. At the annual meeting, the congregation will vote to affirm that these are the positions these chosen folks have agreed to fill. Just like a football game, the only thing left to do is to fill the position and do the best that you can do. If you are on a football team and you are a ‘running back’ that is what you have signed up for. If you have signed up to be a part of the Outreach Committee than that is the role or position on the team that you are most responsible for.

Some of you may be thinking: well all this formal organizational stuff is not for me. Others may say, well I’m not getting into that cause the same people who were running this church ten years ago are still at it. And yet others may be muttering under a cup of coffee, well if I had the skills or I had been asked then things would be different. Now, I am hopeful that none of this sounds like you, yet since there are only twenty seven elected positions which leaves about a hundred other members without a formal role, some of you may be feeling left out. Wrong! No one is left out of this team! It will take every one of us to accomplish the good works we are aiming for in 2016, just like it took a team effort, all of us, to have the tremendous good success over these last twelve months!

Let me make this perfectly clear.

The position of our church offices are real important, yes. However, neither the Treasurer nor the Church Clerk are expected to also be the one to turn off the air conditioning, or the heat, after services are over on Sunday mornings, nor will they ever find the time to do all these extra support details. Nor can the head of the Spiritual Committee be expected to find the time to remember to clean the bathrooms every week or put out the trash. Thank God we have a volunteer sexton that comes in every Monday morning, on his day off and does all of that and a lot more! Our elected leadership needs the assist of each and every other member and friend of this faith community to do their part, or they will not be successful in their goals. It takes a team, or as I have heard it said in this fellowship: “it takes a village” to get things done! I have got to ask: what would make us think otherwise? It definitely takes all the players on the field, all the election leaders of a church, and all of the volunteers and support staff that are seemingly on the side line to get the job down, and accomplish the goals that our Moderator and Vice Moderator so diligently try to lead us toward!
In a commentary on today’s lesson I read this statement. “There must be a distinction of members in the body. So Christ’s members have different powers and different places. We should do the duties of our own place, and not murmur, or quarrel with others.” /Matthew Henry’s Commentary/ If only everyone who needs to hear these words and embrace them were sitting here this morning! As we begin to digest the words, the lesson from the Apostle Paul, let’s remember that no matter what role we take, in the life of a church, in the life of a team we support, no role, no part is less crucial to its success than another. The theologian John Wesley, once said: “Perhaps the foot may represent ‘individual’ (private) Christians; the hand, officers in the church; the eye, teachers; the ear, hearers.” We are all a part of this fellowship, member, friend or visitor. It takes every one of us to make this church all that it is meant to be! Daniel B. Clendenin Professor and teacher is quoted as saying: “Paul draws some practical conclusions about our unity in diversity. I need you. And you need me.” Simple, clear and to the point.

Today’s lesson from the Apostle Paul’s letter to the struggling church in Corinth, continues on from our discussion of last week pertaining to spiritual gifts. Paul was needing to clarify – striving to clear up any misunderstandings or confusion around these subjects. That’s right, small struggling churches often need a little direction and clarifications. Today, as we get into the actual roles we take as the body of this church or the body of Christ, there again is plenty of room for misunderstandings and hurt feelings. We need not be embarrassed by this or surprised. Twenty-First Century Christians are just as human as First and Second Century Christians! The important thing is that we come together, using Paul’s illustration about being parts of a body, recognizing that we are all essential. It is just that our roles are different for various reasons. Perhaps we have different gifts of the Spirit and some of us make better leaders and speakers while others of us are better at organizational skills or editing the Sunday bulletin. So, please, stay in this conversation long enough to realize we can’t all be the one on center stage. Some of us need to be on the sidelines performing the vital tasks of support that are crucial to the success of this our church. This is true on Sunday mornings and all throughout the week, for the work of a living church goes on all week long!

Greg Herrick sums up the importance of Paul’s writing, pertaining to the church in Corinth in this way: “The contribution of this section to Paul’s argument is to affirm, against the arrogance and self-centeredness of many of the Corinthians, that all members of the body are needed and that despite whether the “weaker” members are convinced of their place, or whether the “stronger” members are not convinced of the weaker person’s place in the body, God is the One who has placed all the members in the body and who works with them so that there might be no divisions.” Michael Lomax says it well: “Regardless of the labels, categories and hierarchies outside of the church, within the church, we are all one body. It is this (oneness) that provides a space for difference.”

What we need to take from this is exactly what that struggling community needed to take from it. We need to remember that when we are part of a community, or a team, we need to come together for the common good. We can’t all be quarterbacks but we all have our position or place within the whole body. It is our responsibility as individuals to take on the position, the responsibility that we are able, that we have agree to do and then do it. Do it, whatever the position entails as best that we can; and ultimately do it for the team, or the family or the community we are a part of. And as we do so we need to be reminded that when we use our gifts for this purpose we are acting on behalf of our God through Christ, for ultimately, together, we are the body of Christ.
“Let us now open our ears, as-well-as our hearts, as we listen now to these words from the New Testament letter, First Corinthians, chapter:12 verses: 12-31”
1 Corinthians 12:12-31
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 baptized 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 of many. If the foot would say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear would say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole body were hearing, where would the sense of smell be? But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many members, yet one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” On the contrary, the members of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and those members of the body that we think less honorable we clothe with greater honor, and our less respectable members are treated with greater respect; whereas our more respectable members do not need this. But God has so arranged the body, giving the greater honor to the inferior member, that there may be no dissension within the body, but the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honored, all rejoice together with it. Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers; then deeds of power, then gifts of healing, forms of assistance, forms of leadership, various kinds of tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? Do all possess gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret? But strive for the greater gifts. And I will show you a still more excellent way.
“Allow God to touch our hearts and minds, as we seek out and look for a deeper and more meaningful understanding of these ancient writings.”