Last week we started with saying a few Thank You’s…(It was Canadian Thanksgiving)
Sometimes, when given the opportunity to be grateful, we bring up ‘something’: job, money, car, experience – and that’s fair. However, if their was a poll, I really do think that ‘someone’ not ‘something’, rather, people would top that list for us. Your community of people: friends, family, neighbour, co-worker, fill in the _______.
We know this to be true:
When community is healthy, Life is Good.
When community breaks down, Life is Hard.
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You had to know that as we walked through this series we’d land here eventually:
THIS. IS. US. We Are Community.
– something we celebrate and are proud of
– something we continually work on
We are only as strong as our sense of community.
Dwayne Casey, the beloved coach of the Toronto Raptors, was fired after what was considered many successful years as head coach. He had every reason to complain about his circumstance and situation and unfortunate turn of events. But instead, he wrote Toronto a letter.
Thank you to basketball fans across this city and the country of Canada who supported the Raptors and welcomed my family with open arms during our seven years here. Thank you to all the fans who cheered us on at the Air Canada Centre while we built this program into a playoff contender, packed Jurassic Park even in the cold and rain, watched the games from home and offered their undying support as we traveled this road to relevancy together.
(here’s where it gets good)
Thank you for teaching our all-American family the Canadian way. That being polite and considerate to one another is always the best way. That diversity is something to be embraced and celebrated. That taking the time to learn about each other’s cultures is the surest way to find common ground and understanding. Thank you for making our children feel safe, valued, and comfortable in their own skin. We cannot express how important it has been to build the foundations of who our children are as human beings in a country that shows through its words, and actions…that all people deserve basic human rights, and a chance to reach their goals through education and hard work.
Dwayne Casey was obviously impacted by a deeper sense of community than he had experienced before arriving to this great city.
There is a word in Scripture that pops up about 20x. It’s the word for fellowship – KOINONIA, which also can translate into community.
– this word depicts what it means to follow Jesus together and not alone.
– You’ll see it in places like Acts 2:42, 1 John 1:7
– We don’t read it in John 17:20-24, but the heart of it comes through as Jesus prays for us to be one.
You’ll find in other scriptures that this idea is referred to when the words one & another are grouped together.
Scripture encourages and instructs us to be devoted to one another (Romans 12:10), honour one another (Romans 12:10), live in harmony with one another (Romans 12:16; 1 Peter 3:8), accept one another (Romans 15:7), serve one another in love (Galatians 5:13), be kind and compassionate to one another (Ephesians 4:32), admonish one another (Colossians 3:16), encourage one another (1 Thessalonians 5:11; Hebrews 3:13), spur one another on toward love and good deeds (Hebrews 10:24), offer hospitality (1 Peter 4:9), and love one another (1 Peter 1:22; 1 John 3:11; 3:23; 4:7; 4:11-12). That is what true biblical koinonia (community) should look like.
It’s been said that Community is at the centre of God’s mission. (David Fitch)
You also may have heard this before…there is nothing like the local church, when the church is working right.
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There is a certain passage of scripture that not only tells us about community, but shows us how it should play out, and gives us perhaps the greatest metaphor for community ever laid out.
1 Corinthians 12.
Chapter 12 is found in the larger context of chapters 11-14, a discussion about spiritual gifts, and the even larger context of some conflict that Paul is addressing with the Corinthians.
Lets read it and see where it takes us…
Now about the gifts of the Spirit, brothers and sisters, I do not want you to be uninformed.2 You know that when you were pagans, somehow or other you were influenced and led astray to mute idols. 3 Therefore I want you to know that no one who is speaking by the Spirit of God says, “Jesus be cursed,” and no one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit.
We can see the context right away. Paul wants to instruct the initial readers (and us) about spiritual gifts. He wants us to be informed verses uninformed. He wants us to be influenced by Jesus, rather than by useless (mute) idols. So when he starts us off with the phrase, Jesus is Lord, Paul wants us to truly see how important that confession is – and that we can only come to that with the help of the Holy Spirit.
4 There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. 5 There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. 6 There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work.
7 Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. 8 To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another a message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, 9 to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, 10 to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues. 11 All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines.
We can see that spiritual gifts is still a focus, but Paul starts to narrow in on another theme: There are different kinds of gifts, service, work, skills, but they all come from the SAME Spirit.
He gives us some examples of what people offer the larger community, and emphasizes that it’s the same Spirit who distributes and determines these gifts.
What do we learn about community here?
– we all make a contribution
– we all play a part
– each of us has a gift to offer
We might agree that much of the breakdown in community, wherever that is, starts when people see themselves as islands, and not as part of something larger. When people think that their contribution to society is greater than their neighbours, things go south. When we think that we, or our skill, or our intellect is better than the next guy or girl, the sense of community is lost.
This leads us to what comes next…
12 Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.
This sections seems to be written for those who thought their part was more important.
I’m sure we don’t see that happen anymore these days? People never think what they do or what they offer is more important than the next person? (enter sarcastic smirk) But if we’re honest, it’s in our weakest moments that we experience this or reflect this kind of thinking in our own lives.
The inclusion of both Jew & Greek, slave & free in this text are very important. Paul writes about this in other letters (he includes rich & poor, male & female, strong & weak), and the point is always the same: We may be different, but because of God’s spirit in us, we are one.
Paul pushes this point/theme as he continues…
14 Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many.
15 Now if the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. 16 And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body.17 If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? 18 But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. 19 If they were all one part, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many parts, but one body.
21 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” 22 On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23 and the parts that we think are less honourable we treat with special honour. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, 24 while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has put the body together, giving greater honour to the parts that lacked it, 25 so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. 26 If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honoured, every part rejoices with it.
My favourite kind of Jazz is BIG BAND. Duets and Trios are fine, but BIG BAND is where it’s at. New style or Old grove? It doesn’t matter. An 18 piece band playing their guts out, all doing something different, all playing the same song – It’s both magical and powerful.
If we’re not careful, we can start to look down on other parts of our body. Wish that one part looked different, wished that another part performed differently. Wishing that you played their part instead.
We Cannot Make This Mistake. We all make this music sound amazing – together.
A word about suffering…
The first time my dad was sick, which lasted for many years, culminated in him having to remove his leg. My Dad passed away at 66 from Cancer, but for years before that he dealt with a terrible pain in his left foot. After almost ten years of dealing with it, the doctors decided to remove part of his leg. In the weeks and months leading up to this operation, he was so ill – tired, weak, always thirsty. His body was fighting the pain in his foot.
What happened after the operation was truly amazing. My dad was back. Colour, strength, energy, everything. He didn’t have a leg, but he didn’t have pain. Why? Because his body didn’t have to compensate for what was taking place in his left foot.
The hurting parts of our body affect us as much as the good parts do. You suffer, I suffer. That’s how it works. Think of any back pain you’ve had, or a stubbed toe, or a tooth ache. Your whole body suffers because one part of your body is in pain. It’s the same with the church. We feel the pain of others.
Now it works the other way too. When you succeed, I’m happy. When you do well, I cheer you on. That’s how it should be.
This is community. Every single part plays its role. We win together and lose together. It’s beautiful and real and authentic.
This is why Paul gets us to some of these final words in verse 27.
27 Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.
THIS IS US.
WE ARE THE BODY
WE ARE COMMUNITY
WE ARE FAMILY
WE ALL CONTRIBUTE to the WHOLE
We know it to be true in a small group. We know it to be true in our larger community. And we know this to be true in the church world wide.
We all have an important part to play. We all have something to contribute. We all make a difference. And when one part is missing, the others feel it. And I bet (and know) that the missing part feels it too.
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So what do we do with this information now? In Paul’s words, we are now informed.
- Figure out what part you play
- Play your part well to the best of your ability
- Contribute to the whole (gifts, resources, passion)
- Appreciate what others bring to the table
- Let’s keep making the table longer & wider (as our local body grows) and the fences lower & thinner
- Understand & appreciate other Christian expressions and traditions
- Don’t try and go solo. We were meant to follow Jesus together.
The church has it’s imperfections. That is for sure. If you find one that doesn’t, trust me, when you show up it will be imperfect. Here’s the deal: there’s no other place or way to be a Christian, just like there’s no way for a hand or a foot to be what they are unless they’re connected to the body.
THIS IS US.
WE ARE THE BODY OF CHRIST.
WE ARE COMMUNITY.
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small group discussion:
When we talk about community, what are your initial thoughts or questions? Why is this both a beautiful topic and a tough topic?
“Community is at the centre of God’s mission”. How so? Why?
Anything you’d like to talk about in regards to Paul’s image or metaphor about the church in 1 Corinthians 12?
– Jesus is Lord
– Spiritual Gifts
– We are like a body. Many Parts. One Spirit.
– Suffer together? Celebrate together?
You are the Body of Christ. Wow? or Huh? or Both?
How can we be better at being the body of Jesus? In the church? In the world?