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Third Sunday after the Epiphany

January 27, 2019 Speaker: Murray Keith Series: Epiphany

Passage: 1 Corinthians 12:21–12:31a

†††In the Name of Jesus†††
Pastor Murray Keith
Text: 1 Corinthians 12:21-31a (some ideas for this sermon are from Rev. Cwirla)
Date: January 27th, 2019; Epiphany 3; Series C
Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
  • Homo incurvatus in se.  
  • This is a Latin theological phrase that means “humanity curved in on itself”. 
  • St. Augustine is credited with coining this phrase and Dr. Martin Luther later expounded on it - especially in his work on the letter to the Romans.
  • It’s a helpful theological phrase because it describes very well what sin has done to our human nature.
  • God created us to live in harmony with him and with each other.  
  • But sin has corrupted our human nature and now we live a life that is “curved inward” (focused on ourselves) rather than “outward” (focused on God and others).
  • This inward focus of our sinful nature causes all kinds of problems in our lives and in this world.
  • When we are focused first and foremost on ourselves, on satisfying all of our desires, on getting everything we want - then God is set aside and other people become either a means, or an obstacle, in fulfilling our desires.
  • We end up with resentment and jealousy.
  • We end up saying and doing things that hurt others.
  • We end up isolated and alone.
  • We end up with divisions.  
  • This certainly isn’t anything new, but we really seem to be surrounded with this in our day and age.
  • Look out for number one.  You do you - and whatever makes you happy.  Become self-actualized.  Get what you want.
  • If something is tough - just leave it behind.  No worries!  
  • Just be happy!  
  • Happy usually meaning be anything you want to be, do anything you want to do, get everything you want to get - no matter how it impacts others.
  • Me, me, me!
  • Homo incurvatus in se.
  • In his letter to the Corinthians, St. Paul tells us that this is not who we are in Christ.
  • We are not just a bunch of selfish individuals who go about trying to satiate all of our appetites.  
  • We are the body of Christ.
  • We are the body of Christ which is composed of diversely gifted members who are interconnected in such a way that we all need each other and serve one another.
  • A body means unity.  A deep, abiding, mystical unity that transcends all of our differences. 
  • We have all been baptized into one body – whether Jew or Greek, regardless of socio-economic status, education, race, political party, or whatever other ways we divide ourselves.
  • We are all one body in Christ - members who have been given of the one Spirit to drink. 
  • We are all one body - but we are diverse.  We are not all alike.
  • A body is composed of many different members. 
  • If we were all alike, we wouldn’t be a body - but a blob. 
  • We start out as a blob of cells, but very early on in our development, that blob of cells starts to take on specialized function. 
  • Not all cells become the same thing. 
  • Some become eyes, ears, brain, hands, feet, etc. 
  • And so there are many diverse parts, but there is one body. 
  • The church is made up of many diverse and differently gifted members, but it is only one unified body. 
  • The ear can’t be an eye, the eye can’t be a toe, the toe can’t be a liver. It just won’t work. 
  • The popular notion these days that we are all the same and interchangeable is simply nonsense. 
  • If the whole body were an eye, how could we hear? 
  • If the whole body were an ear, how could we smell?
  • If all were a single member, where would the body be?
  • As it is, we are many parts, yet one body.
  • We are one body and we are all interconnected in such a profound way.
  • Members of a body need each other.
  • The eye can’t say to the hand, “I don’t need you”.  The head can’t say to the foot, “I don’t need you”. 
  • Every part is indispensable to the health of the body. 
  • Every part is indispensable and connected in such a profound way that when one part suffers, the whole body suffers.  
  • When you stub your toe, your whole body is affected.  
  • You bend over and grab your sore toe, hop around a bit, maybe say a bad word.
  • The suffering isn’t isolated to the toe alone, but impacts your whole body.
  • So it is in the body of Christ.  We suffer together.  We rejoice together.  We are all in it together.  
  • So how does this image of the church as a body shape how we see the church and ourselves? 
  • What does it mean for us to be a unified body of diverse members - rather than a bunch of self-sufficient, inwardly-curved, self-focused individuals? 
  • It means that we approach church with a kind of peripheral vision with eyes fixed on Jesus and on our fellow members. “Faith toward [God] and in fervent love toward one another” as we pray in the liturgy. 
  • It means that I don’t look at myself and my needs but at others and their needs.
  • It means we don’t ask “what’s in it for me?” but “how does this make us stronger as a body?” 
  • It means we don’t wait to be asked to do something, but we ask “what can I do?” 
  • It means that we take seriously what the Scripture says - that each of us has been gifted for the common good, we have a place and purpose in our congregation and in the greater church, and we’re eager to find that place and purpose and use the gifts God has given to each of us.
  • It means we deal humbly, gently, kindly with one another, especially the hurting, the broken, the difficult. 
  • It means we leave our personal agendas at the door and take up Christ’s agenda.
  • It means that we encourage each other with our words and actions instead of tearing down and criticizing. 
  • It might mean that we need to admonish and rebuke each other when we are hurting ourselves or others. 
  • It means that we speak the truth in love, since it is love that builds up and binds together.
  • My brothers and sisters in Christ, “For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body”.
  • In this one body, Jesus feeds us by his Word, absolves our sin, nourishes and strengthens us with his true body and blood. 
  • In this body, we are diversely gifted, profoundly interconnected, humbly dependent on one another as we all are on Christ who is our Head and Savior.
  • In this body we focus not inwardly on ourselves, but outwardly on God and the gift of salvation he has won for us.  We focus on loving and serving each other and the world.
  • We are the body of Christ.  This is who we are.  This is what we do.  Amen. 
The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus unto life everlasting. Amen.

More in Epiphany

March 3, 2019

The Transfiguration of Our Lord

February 24, 2019

Seventh Sunday after the Epiphany

February 17, 2019

Sixth Sunday after the Epiphany