A Unified Body
CrossTies Ecumenical Church |:| January 27, 2013
Being the Church is not something we can create but is something we are mercifully welcomed into through Baptism.
“We come to the water of baptism as individuals, independent and relatively self-contained. We came of that water changed. Our identity is no longer solitary; we can no longer truly know without reference to that community into which we have been incorporated: the body of Christ, the church. After Baptism, we are more than just ourselves, we are by definition beings-in-relationship. Where the spirit of God once moved over the face of the deep and brought life to the word, the Spirit of God remains the source of the life, the breath of the church, moving among us and within us.”
There is no creative effort of ours which gives us the ability to join this one body in Christ. “Christian unity has not been (and cannot be) attained by the members of the body; it is yet another gift of the Spirit to be received and maintained ‘in the bond of peace.”
Our Baptism is one of the first areas as participation within this collective organism. From the point of Baptism we are invited daily to participate in maintaining this gift of the Spirit.
One of the ways in which we participate in this body – made up of many members – is to create and validate the place for all gifts and functions for all who are present.
Together we take time to reflect and discern our own gifts and those within our community. Each member of this body has a role, purpose, function that is vital to the livelihood of the Body.
In our living life together we take prayerful reflection to discern the gifts of each person – then we work to make sure those gifts have an active place within the community. If we stop at discernment we are missing the piece where we examine the wellbeing of the community to see how a person’s gifts are being used to bring wholeness to the community. As we spend time creating space for each person’s function in the body we are ensuring balance within the community.
To use Paul’s language, to ensure we are not a community of all ears or all legs. In taking the conscious effort to cinch space for every member’s function in the community it then is important to note all members roles are valid and necessary for harmony in the community – There is no better function than any other.
“The church should not just tolerate a plurality of capacities and experiences but should actively cultivate a Spirit-breathed synergy.”
This is something I’m sure we have all heard several times over but it bears repeating. The functions of leadership are equal to the functions of assistance.
It can be easy to say a community is no longer a community without a teacher but the truth is it’s still a community – simply in need of one of its members. If a community does not have a member with the various forms of assistance then the community learns quickly how difficult it is to achieve tasks of any size.
All of us are vital to the wellbeing of the communities we participate in. No one is more important than another. In our times of discerning our gifts and those within our community it is also important to not seek to be any other function than who we are.
This is not to say we won’t lean on one another to achieve balance within our existence, but it is to say to stay true to your own giftings for they are equally as good as anyone else’s.
Through the work of knowing our functions and actively applying them in the one of Body we find balance and through this balance we are better able to invite people to join our communities.
“The inviting church is a tangible expression of the hospitality of God; people come in search of meaning in their lives, spiritual growth, deeper relationship with Christ, opportunities to be of service in the world. They also come in search of authentic community, a place where they are known and accepted and where they can experience a sense of belonging. The challenge is to build a community where ‘there may be no dissension within the body, but the members may have the same care for one another’.”
We have been created to live life together and when we realize the work of the Spirit has made this possible and allow ourselves to lean into this reality we create space for each member of the Body to be authentically who they are, without fear of being valued less or not having space to participate.
As we work to provide valid space for each member’s functions we need to be weary of “leaning too far in one direction or another [to create balance]: if we lean too far in either direction we could become ‘peace-mongers’ and avoid conflict at all costs, or become excessively controlling. When this happens, the most anxious and reactive members hold the church hostage as the leader’s own anxiety infects the rest of the body.”
In living into our functions in the Body of Christ and acknowledge the need of other functions we move into being the beloved’s that we are by the grace of the Spirit and invite others to live out their beloved-ness, too.
Being one body made of many members we live life together as the tangible expression of God’s love. In being the Body of Christ made of diverse people with different gifts and functions we inherently reflect the diversity of God.
By the grace and mercy of God we as followers of Christ are invited to be the active presence of Christ to this World and we cannot do this if we are all striving to be a part of the Body we are not created to be, or if we devalue our role in the community because we view it as less than.
The Body of Christ needs those who have power and status in society, as well as those who are seen as not having power or being of status. We are not whole if we do not have all members of the Body – rich, poor, uneducated, educated, with resources, without resources, majority, minority.
The diversity we bring within our gifts, experiences, talents, and persons creates space for the World to see the diversity of God. If we were all “eyes”, as Paul might put it, we would lose sight of our purpose. It is through our differences we understand our purpose within the body more clearly.
We are baptized into one body, losing our individuality and becoming beings-in-relationship. Together we manage the mercy-filled organism of the church; finding our breadth in diversity.
It is by the unity in communion we are reminded of our oneness in Christ and are reminded of our commitment to each other to be balanced in our functions as the Body of Christ.
“In Christ, the church is already a unified body, even if that unity is not being adequately expressed. Its organic oneness is a gift of grace. The Christian community simply needs to enact what it already is.”
This discerning functions, creating space for and validating one another’s functions, to invite authentic participation in forever moving towards balance as a community is not beautiful or easy but it is the tangible expression of God’s love and for that it is worth while – for it is what we were intended to be and by the mercy of the Holy Spirit are able to live into.