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Members of His Body
(From the Epistle, 1 Cor. xii.1ff, Trinity X)

There are a lot of models for effective organization these days. As those of you know who have worked in the corporate world, group-thinking is a big science now: “How can we all get on the same page?”; “How can we work together as a team?”; “What can we do to break down inter-personal barriers so as to maximize our efficiency as a working group?” I am no follower of such things, but it seems all the rage today. Lots of time is spent on retooling and recreating the corporate unit. We are held in the thrall of poster boy groups which have somehow garnered fame and attention for having really developed the most successful technique.

This same approach, may I say unfortunately, is also used of the church, as if we are another form of human institution, albeit a “religious” one. And so seminars and books are devoted to providing ways for the church to become the ideal. We wait for each new series that's being talked up, each new guru of church growth, in hopes of making it work for ourselves, in our own situation, so that we, too, can wear the tag of “successful”.

Again, maybe it's just my disposition, or some tendency to dislike “proven means”, especially when it comes to the church, but I have not generally been much excited about what I've seen. To me they smack too much of stress-producing, compulsion driven, pumped up methods that better serve athletic teams, fund-raising initiatives, or political campaigns.

But the Church, thank God, really is different. “Ahhh...!” I feel like heaving a big sigh of relief.

“You mean, Deacon Ed, that we should actually relax at church, rest, be at peace, slow down, sit down, and trust God? It's almost too good to be true!”

But that's exactly what I'm suggesting. The God whom we serve is the same God who causes the flowers to grow, the cycles of life to continue uninterruptedly, and every other process at work in the universe to continue unabated by His power and operation, as long as each component remains in its place, accepts its function, maintains itself in its best trim, and submits to the design and oversight of the One who created it.

Yes, this is the rule for the Church, as well, and as we see it depicted in our Epistle. Surely it is divergence from its divine plan that has led to most of its dysfunction.

What is the best posture of a church wanting to to really function as the Church? Let me call it “active passivity”.

It is “active” in the sense that we each have our part: staying in touch with God through prayer, fellowship, the Scriptures, and Holy Communion, keeping ourselves as healthy spiritually as we possibly know how.

But “passive”, in the sense that we are always “waiting on the Lord”, listening to His voice, proceeding at His pace, resting in Him; sitting on our hands, even, if we sense we are trying to do His work for Him at His expense, so to speak.

The “active” part of that stance should cost us everything, mind you. God won't do anything with us unless we are indeed doing our part. But we should find pleasure, fulfillment, and contentment, in occupying the place we've been designed for within the church.

Let's look at today's Epistle to learn what the Church really is. We will find that it actually operates like no human organization on earth. This should provide us no small amount of relief.

Note first that there is one activating principle within the Church, and that is the Holy Spirit. He is the One who baptizes each member into the Body, assigns each his place there, and operates through each one to accomplish His own ends.

Look at it this way. When you were entering a new classroom at school after the summer vacation, who assigned you your place? Who told you where to sit, introduced you to your fellow classmates, and took responsibility for making sure you were integrated into a very unfamiliar setting? Why, of course, it was your teacher. Your only part was to take your place with the others, and do what you were instructed to do. Pretty simple, pretty practical.

Within the Church, we all have an assigned place. It is the Holy Spirit's doing. It is more than a pew with your name on it. It is a supernatural assignment. There is a particular task, a function, a unique place of service that He has chosen for you. But note that it is up to you, and up to the rest of us as your fellow members to help you to recognize that place and to function effectively within it.

What does this mean in the most practical of ways? Why, you have something to offer that is a needed component of Christ's Church. It is more than a talent or ability. This is a divine working of some sort that may or may not be connected to your natural giftedness.

Remember, we're dealing with the super-natural here.

What functions are named in our text? The “word of wisdom”, the “word of knowledge”,“faith”, “gifts of healing”, “working of miracles”, “discernment of spirits”, etc. We have to assume that these are all necessary elements of the Church since such things are spelled out specifically both here and in other texts (cf. Ro. 12:3-8, Eph. 4:1-16).

Without any of them, we are incomplete. With any of them present but nonfunctional we have a situation like a string of Christmas tree lights with a couple of bad bulbs: the rest are out, or can't work properly. Oh, they may try to work. And some members, as we all know, in an effort to compensate for the inactivity of others, burn themselves out. But it shouldn't be that way.

I am suggesting that God wants to work through you in a unique way to benefit the Church. I believe if each of us will seek Him, listen to Him carefully in the silence of our own hearts, we will discover that place of operation that belongs to us alone.

Some of you have been given faith that you need to vocalize, and share with the rest of us, so that we can have faith, as well. Some of you are born encouragers, and the rest of us need it. Some of you have a propensity for organization. Others of you exert a healing influence in your manner and words. Others have wisdom for the moment and the occasion that we greatly need. All of us together constitute the hands, the eyes, the feet, the mouth, the organs of this Body of Christ, of which Christ Himself is the Head.

The health of that Body depends upon the health of its members, and I am speaking of spiritual health. Regardless of age, or infirmity, or any other limiting factor, there are things we each must and can do to remain in active spiritual health.

Do you see how different this is from any other gathering of people upon earth?

Do you see what a wonderful calling this is to “active passivity”?

It is a simple assignment. The rest is up to God.

In the Name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Holy Trinity Church, Waterville ME
Ed Kalish, Deacon

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