If One Member Suffers...

From1 Corinthians 12:12-26
Faces of “essential workers” Who are the people who have delivered something to you; prepared something for you; worked as a cashier, checker, bagger; performed a medical procedure on you; offered you a needed service during this time of limited mobility and sheltering-in-place?

Bring to mind the people who have harvested your food, cared for your health, picked up your trash, insured you get your medicine, made deliveries to your home. . . .

Do you recognize them as essential? Did you before 3 months ago?
Paul teaches us that the eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” On the contrary, the members of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable.
Are there people who you now see as essential who you once thought you could live without?

In a relaxation spiritual practice that I do—and some of you have done with me—toward the end, we focus our attention on a part of our body that is in pain, that may be sick, or weakened…

And as we focus there, we also become aware that there are other parts of the body that remain strong and healthy, and we allow those parts of the body to send their strength and energy to the weakened or sick area. No part of the body exists on its own.

Paul says, if the ear were to say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. . . . God has so arranged the body, giving the greater honor to the inferior member, that there may be no dissension within the body, but the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honored, all rejoice together with it.

If one member suffers, all suffer together with it. . . .

George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Michael Lorenzo Dean, Eric Reason, Christopher McCorvey, Christopher Whitfield, Atatiana Jefferson, Dominique Clayton, Pamela Turner, Botham Jean, Antwon Rose II, Stephon Clark, Ronell Foster, Aaron Bailey, Eric Garner, Michael Brown, Sandra Bland, Freddie Gray, Philando Castile, Trayvon Martin, Jordan Davis, Ahmaud Arbery, and . . . .

Scores / hundreds of black men, women, and genderqueer individuals have suffered and died at the hands of racists—and racist police—who think they are above the law. And because racism was built into the fabric of America from the beginning, systemic racism continues to be a persistent obstacle for our society and for the values and vision we claim for the church. . . .

And even as the global pandemic continues to unfold, we are experiencing waves of grief, anger, and unrest unleashed by centuries of injustice—which come around to us—here, today—and ask, How is it that you, Church, can help in this time of crisis?

In her recent charge to the graduates of Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary, Dr. Tamura Lomax invoked the ancient prophets and said, “Raising hell in an unjust world is your work. It is THE work. It is holy work.” So, go be hell raisers for justice!

And as if heeding her words, crowds of people—black, white, and brown; gay, straight, queer, and trans; people of all faiths, nationalities, economic status, and political affiliation—have taken to the streets to cry out against the brutal and inhumane moral illness of systemic racism. And this is where the church belongs. 

If one member suffers, all suffer together with it. . . . We belong to one another. We are essential to one another. Without you, my humanity in diminished. Without me, you are diminished. We need one another.

And this is what Paul is trying to convey to the 1st century church in Corinth. There are obviously those within this very diverse Christian community who are questioning whether or not they belong—whether or not this Jesus movement is really meant for them—whether or not they can really contribute in a meaningful way—whether or not they truly belong. And here we have Paul’s response:

Each and every one of us—no matter who you are—is important, actually essential, to the entire body of Christ. We are all interrelated, interconnected . . . as different—as opposite—as we may be . . . Jews or Greeks, slaves or free . . . democrat or republican . . . gay or straight . . . young or old . . . rich or poor . . . black or white . . . strong or weak . . . . regardless of gender identity, social ideology, education level, ability level. . . . We actually belong to one another. We are essential to one another.

The poet and philosopher David Whyte argues that feeling as if you belong is one the great triumphs of human existence—especially if you can sustain a life of belonging and invite others into that deep sense of belonging. But he further suggests that our sense of woundedness around NOT belonging can also be a great source of strength. When we know what it means to live in exile—hurt and pain—and when we learn to name the exile we feel, we have already begun the journey home. And that is one of the greatest human endeavors and the greatest of human stories. Just ask Abraham. Or Ruth. Or Mary. Or Jesus. Or any of the Black Lives Matter protestors on the street, fighting for their lives to end the deadly reach of racism. Or any of the millions of refugees around the world searching for a deep and abiding sense of home.
It’s easy to feel like we don’t belong. It’s much harder to create intentional spaces where all kinds of people feel like they DO belong. . . . And that my friends is the work of the church. Where every single person is welcomed as a beloved child of God and truly feels at home.

Clivie and the hummingbirds. Built nest, laid eggs, hatched, grew, practiced, left the nest on Thursday. Clivie’s big tears loss and underneath the loss, a deeper, almost inexpressible mourning. Mourning safety and safety for friends and needing one another. …

Reminder that we need each other. We are related. Dependent. Interrelated. Even in a time dominated by messages of individualism, isolation, loneliness, and fragmentation. We’re all in this together. We belong to one another. We are essential to one another. And especially now, we need to allow our hearts to be broken open. . . .

And to express our dependence, our relatedness, in the shadow of racial brutality, white supremacy, and privileged entitlement, we must humble ourselves. And we show up for the ear. For the foot. We must show up for what Paul calls the “less honorable,” “less respectable” members of the body. We show up for those who are different from us. For those whose needs are greater than ours. We show up for those facing oppressions and injustices that we may never fully comprehend. We show up for Black Lives Matter. And we raise hell.
Today, this may mean that we show up for the March and Rally to end Racism in Vallejo. Or it may mean we show up in another way. Relationships, after all, are not just something we “do.” Relationships are who we are. They embody a quality of presence. A way of sharing love. A willingness to examine ourselves and our intentions and the impact of our actions. And as we face down centuries of racism in this country, undoubtedly our God is with us. And we take the lead from our siblings of color. We show up for them. And when they are honored, we will all rejoice together.




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