Exploring the Word | Spreaker

Monday, October 7, 2013

The body of Christ: breaking down the walls, 10.6.13

Ephesians 2:11-22
11So then, remember that at one time you Gentiles by birth, called “the uncircumcision” by those who are called “the circumcision” —a physical circumcision made in the flesh by human hands— 12remember that you were at that time without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. 13But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.

14For he is our peace; in his flesh he has made both groups into one and has broken down the dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us. 15He has abolished the law with its commandments and ordinances, that he might create in himself one new humanity in place of the two, thus making peace, 16and might reconcile both groups to God in one body through the cross, thus putting to death that hostility through it.

17So he came and proclaimed peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near; 18for through him both of us have access in one Spirit to the Father. 19So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are citizens with the saints and also members of the household of God, 20built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone. 21In him the whole structure is joined together and grows into a holy temple in the Lord; 22in whom you also are built together spiritually into a dwelling place for God.

1 Corinthians 10:15-17, 11:17-34
15I speak as to sensible people; judge for yourselves what I say. 16The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a sharing in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a sharing in the body of Christ? 17Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread.

1117Now in the following instructions I do not commend you, because when you come together it is not for the better but for the worse. 18For, to begin with, when you come together as a church, I hear that there are divisions among you; and to some extent I believe it. 19Indeed, there have to be factions among you, for only so will it become clear who among you are genuine.

20When you come together, it is not really to eat the Lord’s supper. 21For when the time comes to eat, each of you goes ahead with your own supper, and one goes hungry and another becomes drunk. 22What! Do you not have homes to eat and drink in? Or do you show contempt for the church of God and humiliate those who have nothing? What should I say to you? Should I commend you? In this matter I do not commend you!

23For I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took a loaf of bread, 24and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” 25In the same way he took the cup also, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” 26For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.

27Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be answerable for the body and blood of the Lord. 28Examine yourselves, and only then eat of the bread and drink of the cup. 29For all who eat and drink without discerning the body, eat and drink judgment against themselves. 30For this reason many of you are weak and ill, and some have died. 31But if we judged ourselves, we would not be judged. 32But when we are judged by the Lord, we are disciplined so that we may not be condemned along with the world. 33So then, my brothers and sisters, when you come together to eat, wait for one another. 34If you are hungry, eat at home, so that when you come together, it will not be for your condemnation. About the other things I will give instructions when I come.
            Paul’s words can come across as harsh, and I think and hope that my sermon is going to be challenging. To set the stage for that I want to remind you that when I’m preaching to you, I’m also preaching to myself. We all have room to grow together. Another thing to remember about Paul with the Corinthian church and about me with you is that I love you. Challenge is meant to help us all grow.

This sermon series is about the church. The Bible uses different images for the church because it’s a community that’s not quite like anything else. Susan preached about how the church is a family two weeks ago. Last week I preached about the church as an ambulance base or a mission station where we get what we need for our calling in the world.

This week we’re talking about how the church is the body of Christ. That means that as different as we are, everyone around the world who belongs to Christ is part of one body. We are united and connected to people we will never meet. And together we are not just a community, not just an organization, but the living, breathing body of Jesus Christ. That is amazing and mysterious. It means the church is much greater than any one of us, and it means we owe more to our fellow members than we might think because we are one, holy body together.

            Raise your hand if you’ve been a part of the church, this church or another church, for as long as you can remember.

Now, raise your hand if being part of a church is pretty new to you. Great.

            In the first century, when Jesus walked the earth and the church first began Jews and gentiles were about as far apart as they could be. The passage from Ephesians that Donna read talks about how the gentiles who became Christian once felt. Before they came to faith in Christ they were separated from God. The way people connected to God was through the rules and rituals that defined the Jewish community, and they were not part of that community.

            Then Jesus came, lived, died and rose again, and everything changed. The wall between Jews and gentiles was torn down. The Old Testament rules and rituals no longer defined who was in and who was out of God’s community. Now Christ’s call and Christ’s cross define the community of faith. It doesn’t matter where we come from, it only matters that Christ called and we answered. All people who follow Christ are one.

That means we have no business looking down on other Christians. The divisions that used to matter are overcome in Christ. Christ died to reconcile the division between Jews and gentiles. He took two very different communities and made one community in his body, putting the hostility that divided them from each other to death on the cross. That means when we are hostile towards other Christians, we’re going against the cross of Christ, and frankly, that’s not something I want to do.
            Of course, the early church’s division between gentile and Jewish Christians isn’t really an issue now, so for this passage to speak to us we have to think about other divisions that the church faces today. Maybe the best comparison is old and new members. As we saw a minute ago, some of us are new to being members of the church and others have been part of the church their whole lives.

            Our experiences and differences shape us, and the different perspectives that come with being a life long church member or a brand new Christian make this church stronger. At the same time, those differences do not define us, and none of us has any right to look down on anyone else. Jesus Christ himself welcomes everyone here today. Jesus’ welcome and grace is the only ground any of us has to stand on, not our background, not our parents, not our pledge or our tenure or our volunteer hours. Whether know it or not, without Jesus we are lost. We are found now because of his love, whether we accepted that love 40 years ago or just this minute. We are all one and no one is better than anyone else.

            It doesn’t matter if you’re liberal or conservative; if you’re black, white, Latino or Asian, if you know the Bible well or are just reading it for the first time, if your faith is rock solid or you have lots of doubts and questions. It doesn’t matter if you have a PhD or a fourth grade education. It doesn’t matter if you’re Presbyterian, Baptist, Catholic or agnostic. Christ has broken down every dividing wall that threatens to separate us and he is the one who makes us the church. We are one in his body with all our differences and all our unique personalities.

            In our passage from Corinthians Paul focuses on class divisions, which continue to challenge churches, including ours, today. Of course, class isn’t just about dollars and cents. Class is about culture and expectations and experience. The social and economic group we grow up in shapes how we see the world in ways we can’t even see. Unless we have some experience that moves us out of the class in which we grew up, we don’t even know how limited our perspective is, because however we grow up seeing the world is normal to us.

            People who grow up in the middle or upper middle class probably have parents who put a high value on education. Those parents probably succeeded in school and a big part of their parenting was helping their kids succeed in school too. Throughout their life they saw a connection between education and success. In middle class culture there’s often a strong sense that people control their own destiny and that they are responsible for what they do and what happens to them.

            For people who grow up in a family struggling to make ends meet the world looks very different. Often, they grow up without knowing many people who have succeeded in school. That means parents don’t emphasize school because they haven’t seen any benefit from education in their own lives. Sometimes they believe that education is the school’s job, and the parent’s job is surviving, not helping with school work. Since people who have struggled to survive have had a lot of things go against them, it often feels like success is more a matter of luck or fate than education or choice. The world feels threatening and totally beyond their control.

            Obviously, there are plenty of people who straddle those two worlds and I’m oversimplifying things to make a point. The point is that where we come from impacts how we see the world in ways we don’t even recognize. For example, for an upper middle class person it makes sense to take out student loans because they believe education is a good investment that will allow them to succeed and pay back the loan. For people who grew up struggling to survive, the risk of that loan feels too threatening to make sense and the benefit seems uncertain at best.

For working class families it’s often obvious for adult children to stay with their parents because that makes it easier to survive together. For many upper middle class people the expectation is that when children grow up, they move away from home. For each group those decisions can seem obvious, while for the other they seem strange.

            In some ways rich people and poor people live in different worlds. Society separates us from each other, and we don’t often even have the chance to see the world through different eyes because we spend most of our time with people like us. And like most social organizations, the church is often divided along the same lines. There are black churches and white churches, country churches, suburban churches and city churches, wealthy churches and poor churches.

            Paul reminds us that that is not how it should be. In Jesus Christ all human divisions are conquered. The divisions that matter so much to people don’t matter at all to God. The church is the body of Christ, so however different we might look or seem, we are one in Christ. That means when we allow human divisions to divide us in the church we are tearing Christ’s body apart. When we look down on people because they don’t act how we think they should act, we are spitting on Christ’s body. When we resent someone because they see the world differently we are rejecting part of Jesus. We are one body, and when don’t act like it we turn away from our Lord.

            It’s easy to talk about unity and equality, but it’s hard to live it. We say we believe that people are equal and that everyone is welcome, but we don’t always truly believe it in our secret hearts and we don’t experience it in our lives. We won’t know how deep our differences go until we start overcoming them in real life behavior. It will be harder than we think, but we can do it because we are already one in Christ.

            Paul’s argument is theological; he’s talking about what the ritual of the Lord’s Supper means in a spiritual sense, but he’s also talking about the practical nuts and bolts of sharing a community table with people who are different. In Paul’s time the Lord’s supper was both a religious ritual and an actual community meal, think sacrament and potluck rolled into one.

The rich people in the church could start the meal whenever they wanted, and they didn’t have to worry about having enough to eat and drink. The poor members of the Corinthian church couldn’t get to the gathering until their boss let them go, and by the time they got there, there wasn’t anything for them to eat.

            Paul says that we aren’t really eating the Lord’s Supper unless we’re eating it together as equals. It is the responsibility of members of the community with more resources to look out for those with less. It’s everyone’s responsibility to make sure that everyone has enough, that everyone can share at Christ’s table. The church is Christ’s body and the communion meal is Christ’s body. If we allow our differences to divide us we tear Christ’s body apart. When we do that, this amazing meal that is a sign of Christ’s love and death and salvation will condemn us instead of bless us.

            The church is one of the few places where we have the chance to build genuine community with love, honesty and real sharing among people who are very different. Our community is more diverse now economically, politically, and religiously than it was 5 years ago. That’s going to be challenging sometimes. There are times when we are not going to understand each other, times we get frustrated because some one else just doesn’t see things the same way we do.

But difference is an invitation to a conversation. It’s an opportunity to see the world from another perspective. For this to work, for us to really be the community we are called in Christ to be we need to be willing to question ourselves. Paul tells us to judge ourselves, to examine ourselves to see if our mind is in sync with God’s truth. I guarantee if we really start learning about each others experiences we will learn some uncomfortable things about ourselves, but real growth is often uncomfortable.

When we don’t understand someone we should ask them about their perspective, and listen to each other without judgment or defensiveness. We need to open our hearts to each other and really treat each other as beloved brothers and sisters. That’s the way God sees us, that’s who God calls us to be not only when we are in this space but, most importantly, when we leave this building. We are one because we are Christ’s body together. As we let that spiritual vision shape our real life together we will have uncomfortable moments and holy transformation. As we share life with each other, we’ll discover what it really means to be the body of Christ.

So taste and see, the Lord is good. Happy are all who are called to God’s table. Thanks be to God.

1 comment:


    What are the things that do not make you a member of the body of Christ?

    What are the requirements for membership in the Lord's church?


    1. Simply believing that Jesus is the Son of God does not grant you membership in the Lord's church.

    Mark 5:1-12 .....7..."What business do we have with each other, Jesus, Son of the Most High God?....12 The demons implored Him....

    Demons believe that Jesus is the Son of God, however, that does not give them membership in the Lord's church. Legion was not part of the body of Christ.

    2. Sprinkling infants with water does not make them part of the body of Christ. Sprinkling unbelieving babies is not an act that adds them to the Lord's church.

    Mark 16:16 He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved....

    Only believers who have been baptized are added to the Lord's church. Babies are not capable of believing.

    3. Joining denominations, such as the Catholic Church, the Baptist Church, the Lutheran Church, the Methodist Church, etc. does not grant you membership into the Lord's church. Joining a denomination cannot save anyone. You cannot join the Lord's church.

    Acts 2:47...And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved.

    The requirement for being added to the Lord's church is not joining a denomination. The Lord only adds the saved to the church. The church is the body of Christ.


    The apostle Peter said, on the Day of Pentecost, " Be saved from this perverse generation!" (Acts 2:40)

    Who was saved? Acts 2:41 So then, those who had received his word were baptized; and that day were added about three thousand souls.

    Three thousands souls were added to the Lord's church on the Day of Pentecost. Why were they added to the body of Christ?
    They received Peter's message and were immersed in water.(baptized).

    Peter's message: (Acts 2:22-38) They were taught that Jesus was the Christ. That Jesus was Lord. That God raised Jesus from the dead. They were told to repent and be baptized so their sins could be forgiven and that they would receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

    Those who believed Peter's message, and repented and were baptized, were added to the body of Christ by the Lord Himself. (Acts 2:47 ...And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved.



    1. FAITH: John 3:16, Mark 16:16
    2. CONFESSION: Romans 10:9-10, Acts 8:37
    3. REPENTANCE: Acts 2:38, Acts 3:19
    4. BAPTISM: Acts 2:38, Mark 16:16, 1 Peter 3:21, Galatians 3:27.


    YOU ARE INVITED TO FOLLOW MY CHRISTIAN BLOG. http://steve-finnell.blogspot.com