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Why Would We Get Involved?

Why Would We Get Involved?
8th February 2015

Why Would We Get Involved?

Speaker:
Series:
Passage: 1 Corinthians 12:12 - 27

1 Corinthians 12:12 – 27
Why on Earth would we get involved?

We can’t afford to get this wrong
Some years ago I read a news report about a church community in the United States that had, well imploded. Factions had arisen, Relationships turned sour,
Church members made comments about other church members in the local media,
One half of the church refused to do anything to serve the other half.
Leaders quit their ministries, but of course still turned up on Sundays to criticise those who stepped into the gaps they’d created,
But eventually there was almost no one gathered on Sundays, and no one involved in any ministry during the week.
Church members sued other church members.
There was round after round of court action, and people argued over the church’s property and assets.
The name of Jesus, and the message of the gospel was rubbished in the town’s newspapers because of it all.
In fact it became the favourite topic of conversation for everyone else in the town; the spectacular, costly, ugly, self-destruction of the local church.
The destruction of that church began at a church dinner, when an elder in the church, was served a smaller piece of meat, than was given to the child seated next to him.
Today that church no longer exists. It is entirely gone.
If there’s a lesson to be learnt from that experience, surely it’s that each of us who calls this place our church home, needs to have a pretty clear understanding of how we ought to relate to each other, How we serve,
And how we allow others to serve us.
Get that wrong, and our sausage sizzle in 2 weeks’ time could lead to utter disaster!
But of course, we are only 2 weeks away from re-launching as a single larger Sunday morning gathering at Cornerstone, which is also the day we’ll be commissioning those from here who are the Starter Group for Trinity South Coast. Those 2 things together mean that there will be lots more opportunities for us to get involved in ministry.
But why on earth would we?
That’s the question we’ve set ourselves for today,
Why on earth, would we get involved?
… Because the church is one body (v12 & 27)
Well, the Apostle Paul, one of the leaders of the early church, gives us an answer to exactly that question, in the bookends to this part of the Bible we heard read.
Why on earth would we get involved in the life of the church?
Well, because we have been united together as one body.
Verse 12, Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ.
And then at the other end he makes the point a bit more explicitly, verse 27, Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.
The church is not something else,
Something foreign,
Something outside us!
The church is us!
The “you” in Paul’s language is emphatic. It’s you! You! And strictly speaking there’s no “the” before body of Christ. Paul’s not trying to say that his readers are members of the Corinthian body of Christ, as distinct from the Littlehampton body of Christ,
He’s saying “you’re members of nothing less than Christ’s body!”
And, we understand the point that he’s trying to make, don’t we?
We know the human body has limbs, fingers, toes, organs.
They’re all different, they have different functions, and yet, they make up one body.
At one level, it’s the perfect metaphor for Paul to use, because there’s nothing we more familiar with, than our body.
You know, I’ve had this one all my life!
Why on earth would we get involved?
Why would we take on responsibility?,
And cost?,
And inconvenience?, for the sake of others?
Because we are part of this. We’re not just a collection of people who assemble in this place on Sundays.
The church is the united body of Christ.
Paul has used this body of Christ language twice already in his letter to the Corinthians. And on those occasions, he’s been trying to convince these Christian people that they are one, that they are united.
By the time we get to chapter 12 though, this great truth of unity in Christ is not the point that Paul is trying to argue towards, it’s the point he’s trying to argue from.
He’s already convinced them, he hopes, that they are one, they are united in Christ.
Now he says, because of that, this is how you serve,
This is how you get involved.
Christian people, gathered together in a local church, have a corporate identity. Trinity Mount Barker is not a collection of people, who all just happened to turn up at the same time on Sunday morning.
Remember the 2 bookends, Verse 12, Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ.
And verse 27, you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.
Notice that Paul is not laying out here, a step by step guide for how you join the church.
Doing these things,
Being a foot,
Being a hand,
Being an ear,
That doesn’t make you part of the body
But if you are part of this body,
Then do ear things,
Do hand things,
Do foot things, he says.
And if we are one,
If our primary identity is our gathered identity, our corporate identity, then that has to change my priorities, doesn’t it?
So my tongue doesn’t like eating vegetables; Broccoli, cauliflower, spinach, I don’t like their taste!
They are not what my tastebuds prefer.
But I eat them. Why?
Well because my tastebud’s preferences defer to the needs of my whole body, that needs vitamins, and iron, and whatever else is supposedly contained in those vegetables!
Please don’t let my diet distract you in this moment!
But, friends, if we are united,
If we are one,
If we are the body of Christ, and we are,
Since that is true, I am no longer free to consider only my own needs and my own preferences, I must consider the needs and preferences of the body of which I am a part.
I can’t help but think of John F Kennedy’s famous words from his inaugural address, “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.” And in that sentence he inspired a generation.
Well, Paul had the same idea a long time before.
To ask of church, the body of Christ, what can I get out of it,
What’s in it for me?
What can TMB offer me?
Is, if you’re a Christian, to have things entirely round the wrong way.
The right question is, “What is my part, in the whole?”
When we launched this church, 5 years ago, I said to every Christian person who talked about coming along, “If you join this new church, you are acknowledging that your preferences, the way you like doing things, are not our ultimate priority.
Let’s be clear!
That’s what your signing up for!”
And in God’s kindness a whole bunch of people signed up anyway, because they understood this.
Why on earth would we get involved?
Why would we serve?
Why would we turn up early?
Why would we give, deliberately and generously and sacrificially of our hard earned money?
Because friends, we are in this together.
We are united, as the body of Christ.
And it’s God himself who has drawn us together.          
And this, my friends, is nothing less, than a work of God.
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
Why on earth would we get involved?
Well because God himself has drawn us together.
Jews and Gentiles, that is, non-Jews, in the ancient world, were the very opposite of united. The British pastor John Stott describes what he calls the “entrenched prejudice” that separated Jews and Gentiles. He writes Jews “despised Gentiles as ‘dogs’, and developed traditions which kept them apart. No orthodox Jew would ever into the home of a Gentile, or invite such into his home.”
In fact, every morning, devout Jewish men would pray, and thank God, for among other things, the fact that they hadn’t been born a Gentile.
How can that kind of animosity be undone?
Or slaves and free?
How can they enjoy this kind of unity?
Well because what matters most is their new identity as members of the body, not their old identity, as members of a particular ethnic or social group.
The one defining marker now, is that God has made them his people, baptised by one Spirit so as to form one body.
It’s 20 years this year since I finished year 12. That milestone has a particular impact on a person!
But I remember year 12,
And I remember after year 12, when our results came out, I was friends with lots of really really smart people, and they were all asking each other, “How many subjects did you get a perfect score in?”
And so there were two groups of people, those who did get perfect scores, and those like me, who didn’t get any.
And then lots of us went off to university, and do you know what I discovered?
Getting a perfect score in year 12, for maths, or whatever, counted for absolutely nothing, the day university started.
You still had to do the same assignments as everybody else,
You still had to learn the same stuff.
The perfect score people, had to sit in the same classes as the rest of us mere mortals.
What mattered from that moment on, was not all your previous achievements, but that you were a Health Sciences undergrad.
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
A new identity, at the hands of God, himself. The people around you in the body of Christ, the only feature of their identity that matters, is that they have trusted in Jesus’ death in their place, so that their rebellion against God can be forgiven.
Don’t see them as a rich person,
Or a poor person,
Or a well-educated person,
Or a non-English speaker,
Or a highly-trained person,
See them as someone who god has made his own in Jesus Christ, Just like you.
And that’s why we get involved,
That’s why we serve each other.
Unfortunately, some people say that here Paul is speaking about some spiritual experience that might happen after you become a Christian, what you might have heard called second baptism or second blessing.
But clearly that’s the exact opposite of Paul’s argument here, isn’t it.
He saying this work of the Spirit isn’t something special that’s happened to a few of you.
It what’s happened to every one of you when you came to faith in Jesus.
This spiritual change is God’s work.
Why get involved?
Why invest in church?
Why care even, for those around you on a Sunday.
Because God himself has drawn us together.
God has put you here.
God has put the people around you here.
None of this is accidental!
That person who has some particular need that you’re in a position to meet?
God has made them part of the body of Christ.
And God as made you part of the Body of Christ.
Now, someone might say, “well, I don’t feel like I’m part of the body of Christ.” And the answer to that is, if you’re a Christian, then you are!
And if someone else “Well, I’m trying to work out how to become part of the body of Christ”, and that might be you, perhaps you’ve joined us today, this unity sounds good, “How do I get in, you ask?”
Simply trust in Jesus’ death in your place.
Believe that he took the punishment that you deserved for your rebellion against God, and God will build you in to the body of Christ, that’s his promise.
But please notice that body membership isn’t subjective.
Body membership is a work of God, by his Spirit.
The way we feel about our faith,
The way we feel about our church, doesn’t change our membership of the body of Christ.
There’s that show on TV, “Embarrassing bodies”, maybe you watch it! Maybe that’s how you think of the church! You’re embarrassed by the body that you’re a part of!
But, you know sometimes your leg goes to sleep, if you’re sitting badly or something.
And you go to stand up, and it feels like your leg isn’t part of your body anymore? I’m sure you’ve had that experience!
It feels like your leg isn’t part of your body, but it doesn’t stop being part of your body, does it? Our feelings do not determine our membership of the body of Christ, that is a work of God.
… Because others aren’t more important than me (v14 – 19)
Paul goes on though, and he gives us another answer to our question, Why on earth would we get involved?
Because others aren’t more important than me. Or you!
It sounds perhaps not quite what you were expecting! Let me explain!
Now if the foot, verse 15, 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.
Here Paul’s trying to address an issue, and maybe you’ve seen this in churches, maybe you’ve felt this personally,
Somebody saying “there’s no point me being here,
There’s no point me even trying to make a contribution, because others are more important than me,
Other people’s gifts are better than my gifts,
I’m not really like those people I see, perhaps up the front, so I’m obviously not really important.
I just can’t do the things that that other person can do, so I don’t have anything to offer.
If we see ourselves as not as good,
Not as important,
Not as significant as others in the body, it’s easy to think, “I don’t have a part to play here,
I can’t make any contribution.”
But look at how we know that kind of thinking has no place in the church: Can you imagine a foot thinking, “gee I would give my big toe, to be hand”?!
“Being a hand’s where it at,
Hands get to pick up food,
They get to hold hands with people,
Being a foot just stinks!”
And so you wake up one day, to discover that your foot has fulfilled its life-long dream, and has transformed itself into a hand!
So know you’ve got 3 hands and one foot!
And you can play the piano really well,
But you can’t put your shoes on.
But did you notice in Paul’s absurd little scenario, the foot doesn’t actually say, “I wish I was a hand.”
It just says “Because I’m not a hand, I don’t belong.
Because I’m not like that person, I’ve got nothing to offer.
The name Aron Ralston will be familiar to some of you. Aron was a rock climber, who in 2003, got trapped in a canyon in Utah. It’s all pretty gross, but he had to amputate his right hand with a pocket knife in order to get free, just kind of hack it off, and leave it behind.
Paul says, what happens when we start thinking like this, “Ah, there’s no point me trying to contribute, because I’m not like that person”, he says, we are the hand, that amputates itself.
I can’t play the guitar like that person, out comes the pocket knife.
As a Kids’ Church leader, I’m pretty sure I’m at the bottom of the pile, hack, hack, hack,
I’m not as good at talking to newcomers as that person on the welcome team, cut through the last bit of bone and gristle, and off I go!
What does that do the body?
Friends, if we think, “There’s no point me getting involved, no point me serving here at TMB, you’re trying to cut off part of the body?
But even more than what it does to the body, what does that do the hand?
Araon Ralston, he’s still alive. Sure, he’s missing a hand, but he’s alive. His hand, cut off from the body, has rotted away to nothing, somewhere out in the Utah desert!
Why on earth would we get involved?
Because no one else’s contribution is more important than mine, or yours.
, Because God has placed us exactly where he wants us.
But Paul keeps piling up the answers, as to why each of us, by virtue of our very identity, should be involved in serving the body of which we’re a part, and he says the reason we should each be making our unique contribution, is because God has placed us exactly where he wants us.
We’re back to this idea of “God has been at work!”
Look at verse 18 with me, in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be
Think for a moment about that this is saying!
The position and function of every member, has been decided by God. Is that how you think about things?
Why are you here, with the gifts that you have, among other people with different and complementary gifts?
It’s not by accident.
God has placed us, each one of us, exactly where he wants us.
And you see there in verse 17, that Paul says, God’s distribution of members and gifts, well, it just works!
 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?
Imagine trying to tie up your shoelaces, if all of your body was just big toes!
Or if every single one of us, was just an eye! One massive eye! We could wink at people, and nothing else! We’d all look like Mike Wazowski from Monsters Inc, just an eye!
But that’s not a body! That’s a monster!
That’s Frankenstein gone wrong!
And you know sometimes I think, “gee I wish everyone was more like me!”
I don’t think that here, with all you lovely people, but you know, sometimes my mind goes there!
But imagine if there were 200 me’s around?!
I’d be superfluous, wouldn’t I?!!
To say nothing of all problems that 200 Claytons would create!
A church that is 200 people like me, is just as much a monster, as a body that is one huge eye.
That is Frankenstein’s church, not God’s church.
How sad, for someone to think that they have nothing to contribute, for someone to want to amputate themselves from the body in which God has placed them, simply because they’re not like someone else,
Because they’re not gifted in the ways that some other person is.
Why on earth would we get involved?
Because God has placed us exactly where he wants us.
… Because we need each other (v 21 – 26)
The focus changes a bit as we get into the second half of this section, and Paul shifts from trying address the error of someone thinking, “Well, I don’t need to get involved here”,
Now he targets the person who thinks “I don’t need others to be involved here.
Why on earth would we get involved?
Because we need each other!
See verse 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,
Here we’ve got an eye speaking to a hand! And it really is absurd! Paul is deliberately playing up the absurdity of these body parts talking to each other, to highlight just how non-sensical this attitude is in the body of Christ.
But it’s easy for some people to start feeling superior, because of how they are involved,
Because of their gifts,
Because of how God might be using them.
And then we can start thinking, we don’t need others.
The historian Livy who lived in the first century AD, records an event where a Roman consul named Menenius Agrippa tried to convince some striking soldiers to go back to work.
The soldiers had literally walked out of the city of Rome, because they thought their contribution to the city was more important than whatever miniscule contribution they thought other people were making.
And so Agrippa told them a story about a body, in which the various body parts thought the stomach wasn’t making enough of a contribution;,
It didn’t lift anything,
It didn’t carry anything,
It didn’t talk to anyone else, and so these other body parts decided the stomach had nothing to offer, and so cut off, food supply to the stomach.
Soon of course, all the body parts found themselves unable to function. And they realised that stomach was making a contribution to the body,
It wasn’t lifting, or carrying, or talking, but it was still making a contribution, and without the stomach’s contribution, the parts that did the lifting, and carrying, and talking, couldn’t play their role.
Why on earth would we get involved?
Because each member here is dependent on the others.
See verse 21? They eye cannot say to the hand, the body has no need of you?
No! That’s not what it says, is it? The eye isn’t just unable to say the body has need of you. Look at it with me, verse 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!”
Do you see the point?
Yes, the body needs the hand. But the eye personally needs the hand, just as much as the whole body needs the hand.
And the head needs the feet, just as much as the whole body needs the feet.
Just take a look around you for a second.
When you look at the people here in your church,
The fellow members of the body of Christ,
I hope, that when you see these people, you thank God for their contribution to your church, to Trinity Mount Barker,
To the Body of Christ.
But I hope also, that you can thank God for their contribution to you.
To your Christian life,
To your growing and being built up to maturity in Christ.
See the chair putter-outerr person, doesn’t just serve our church, they serve each one of us individually
I can tell you, as someone who stands up for a lot of a Sunday, it’s heaps better to sit down.
The people who serve in Kids’ Church and crèche, don’t just serve our church,
They serve each of us individually by discipling children who are part of our families,
And by letting the kids be noisy and have fun over there, so we can listen, and concentrate without distraction here!
Why on earth would we get involved?
Because we need each other, and we need each other’s contribution.
The preacher cannot say to the chair putter-outer-person, I don’t need you!
You might be super gifted in the ministry you serve in.
In fact, our church could become famous around the world, because of your particular ministry. I know of heaps of churches where that’s happened.
But no matter how wonderfully you can perform your role, exercise your gift, you need the others around you, to serve in their roles.
We need each other, and we need each other’s contribution.
… Because God’s arrangement has a purpose; to show our concern for each other (v 24 – 26)
The last reason that Paul gives us for serving in ministry as God has gifted us, is because God had a purpose when he put us together.
See there in verse 24,
God has put the body together, giving greater honor 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 honored, every part rejoices with it.
When I was working in Malaysia last year, I was struck time and time again, by the sight of extreme poverty, right alongside extreme wealth; Small huts cobbled together out of scraps of wood and corrugated iron, literally in the shadow, of multi-million dollar apartments.
Some of the wealthiest people in the country, and some of the poorest, side by side.
Well, that was Corinth. That was the church in Corinth.
And unfortunately in Corinth, those differences led to divisions.
So much so, that when they shared together in the Lord’s Supper, some had so much that they got drunk, while others were literally starving.
The body can never be like that.
The church can never be like that.
God’s purpose, in putting the body together, verse 24, is that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other
Why on earth would we get involved?
Because God has put this body together, specifically for the purpose that we would have concern for each other. And not just have concern, but show concern.
Imagine you walk out of here today, and out in the street, you tread on a nail.
It goes right through your shoe, into your foot. And it hurts!
Just think for a moment, how you would describe that pain?
I don’t mean “what swear words would you use?” or anything like that,
But we don’t say, “My foot has a pain,” do we?
We say “I’ve got a pain.
I’m in pain.”
See, automatically, we recognise the unity of the body.
When one part suffers, the whole body suffers.
If I’ve got a sore back, it’s not that my back lays awake at night, tossing and turning, while the rest of my body sleeps soundly!
That’s not how it works, is it?
If my back is in that kind of pain, my whole body suffers.
Actually there are some people who do talk like that, though, aren’t there?
That’s how little kids talk. My knee has a pain, my finger has a pain.
It’s a mark of immaturity, it shows a lack of understanding, to speak like that about the human body.
We should never be content for that kind of description to be applied to us; that one member is suffering,
Or that one member is rejoicing.
Why on earth would we get involved?
Because it’s God’s specific purpose for us, that we suffer together, and that we rejoice together.
There is a whole stack of answers to our question in this passage, isn’t there?
Why on earth would we get involved?
Simply, it is how God wants us to live out our identity as members of the body of Christ.
I’m not saying it’s always easy!
I’m not suggesting it’s always immediately obvious what our role in the Body of Christ might be,
And I know that sometimes it’s easy to feel that we’re not even needed, and often that’s because people who are serving in different ways do such a great job.
But I am saying, we need to work towards our life together looking like this.
Martin Luther, who was a church leader in the 16th Century, once wrote,
The sun does not say that it is black. The tree does not say, “I bear no apples, pears, or grapes.”
That is not humility, but if you have gifts you should say, “These gifts are from God; I did not confer them upon myself. One should not be puffed up on their account.
If someone else does not have the gifts I have, then he has others. If I exalt my gifts and despise another’s, that is pride.”
The sun does not vaunt himself, though more fair than the earth and the trees, but the sun says, “Although tree, you do not shine, I will not despise you, for you are green and I will help you to be green.”
Isn’t that great?!
You are green and I will help you to be green
Who are you?
Who are you helping to be green?
Whatever it is that Christ has gifted you to do for the building up of his body, the church, your church, are you doing it?
Are you helping those around you do it too?
Will you suffer with them?
Will you rejoice with them?
Will you let them suffer and rejoice together with you?