Winthrop Congregational Church, United Church of Christ
No matter who you are. No matter where you are on life's journey. You are welcome here.
Romans 12:1-8 The New Life in Christ
I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect.
For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of yourself more highly than you ought to think, but to think with sober judgement, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. For as in one body we have many members, and not all the members have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually we are members one of another. We have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us: prophecy, in proportion to faith; ministry, in ministering; the teacher, in teaching; the exhorter, in exhortation; the giver, in generosity; the leader, in diligence; the compassionate, in cheerfulness.
Pop quiz from last week: Who wrote the letter to the Romans? That’s right: Paul. Do you remember why he wrote them a letter? Right. He had a new mission, a trip to Spain, and knew he’d need the support of the church in Rome in order to do it. Did he know anyone at the church in Rome? Right. Probably not. He wrote the letter, in part, to introduce himself and explain what he believed about Jesus to a church that was not one he started.
Paul talks about a lot of different things in this letter. One of the things that seems particularly useful today is the way he wants to help people figure out how to be a church together when everyone is different from each other. One of my favorite ways that Paul tried to help people understand how to work together as a church was to invite them to think of each of themselves as different parts of one body. He used this metaphor in today's reading and in another letter that we call 1st Corinthians. He explains it a little more fully in 1st Corinthians, so I'd like to share a little of that letter because I think it's helpful. If you want to practice being one body:
You can tell from your answers that no one part of our body can tell the other parts that we don't need it. We need all the parts to work. And, if one part isn’t working, we need the other parts to help it. Church is like that, too. We need each other so that our body can be whole. And, when one part needs help, the other parts are there to pitch in.
When Paul wrote the letter to the Romans, he also told their church that he thought the church was like a body. He said that God wants us to find a way to serve God by working together as a body works together. He said that it's important for us to not imagine the things that we each can do are more important or better than things the other members of our body can do. We must remember that we need all the different things that each one of us can do in order to be the church. Some of us will be teachers and some of us will be compassionate hosts and some of us will preach, and some of us will teach everyone how to share (and we'll all probably do a little bit of each one of these things). We really need to appreciate all the gifts each one of us brings. We need to love each other, be excited about our service together, be hopeful and empathetic when someone suffers, and we need to pray together. All of those things make our body stronger.
Since school will be starting soon for the students and teachers and everyone who works at the school, while I don’t think public schools need to be like churches, I have been thinking that schools are kind of like bodies, too. Everyone has things they are supposed to do all together for school to work right. A few years ago, one of my friend's churches (many thanks to the Congregational Church UCC in Exeter, NH and Rev. E. Heath) shared a list of things that are important to do at school so that the school works well, like a body. I think it sounds a little like the things Paul wrote about church. Here's some things that they said that the student part of the body could do to help the whole body:
Do those things sound like good things for students to do to make sure the school body works well? Anything you'd like to add?
Remember how Paul said there were some things that we all need to do in church to work as a body? He said, we need to love each other, be excited about our service together, be hopeful, be empathetic when someone suffers, and pray for each other. I think loving each other, being hopeful and excited together, and trying hard to understand other people's feelings are probably important for school, too. Maybe we get to practice these things at both at church and at school.... maybe we can practice them anywhere where are.
I was reading a professor named Frank Crouch who said that we carry with us in our bodies our faith. That’s one of the big lessons from Paul. Our faith in Jesus is supposed to shape how we live in this world and the actions we take in this world, both inside our church and outside of it. I hope, as the new school starts, we can pray for the members of this body returning to school... may they be safe, offer safety to others, learn so many good things, have great fun together, and work hard. May the students, teachers, lunchroom workers, janitors, coaches, and office staff all feel appreciated as members of their body of learning. And, may we in this church body, support them.
Resources consulted while writing this sermon:
Frank L. Crouch- http://www.workingpreacher.org/preaching.aspx?commentary_id=3375.
The list for the kids comes from a post shared by the Congregational Church UCC in Exeter, New Hampshire, at the return of school in 2017. It was so good that I brought it back out to share once again.
Pastor Chrissy is a native of East Tennessee. She and her wife moved to Maine from Illinois. She is a graduate of the Divinity School at Wake Forest University and Chicago Theological Seminary.