12 For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For in the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.
27 Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. 28 And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers; then deeds of power, then gifts of healing, forms of assistance, forms of leadership, various kinds of tongues. 29 Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? 30 Do all possess gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret? 31 But strive for the greater gifts. And I will show you a still more excellent way.
1 Corinthians 12: 12-13, 27-31
First Corinthians 12 has been a guiding text for my entire ministry. Even so, I am surprised how much it describes my life experiences. I have served the church for 36 years as an ordained person. I trust that along the way I have been of some service to others, I know at every step others have been a service to me. When I was in the hospital and my family had been told I would probably not survive, they found themselves surrounded by a host of clergy and lay people who became the presence of our Savior in the waiting room. Has the church disappointed me? At times it has. I am sure, at times I may have been a disappointment to others. We often see the church’s brokenness, its divisions and its failure to be what it is called to be. My own broken and limited body reminds me that even when we are not as whole or as well as we would like, we can still be used by God. We do not wait to be perfect or whole to consider ourselves a part of the kingdom. As a line in the old song, “Come Ye Sinners Poor and Needy,” reminds us: “If you wait until you are better, you will never come at all.”
Paul proclaims that the Church is already the Body of Christ, in spite of its limitations. Even more exciting “each of us are members of it.” If you want to see God incarnate look at the Church.
Bill Randall, a Session Member of the Lillington Presbyterian Church, stopped me before the closing prayer one evening and asked that we all hold hands, with our thumbs to the right. One hand was turned up and one hand was turned down. He explained that just as one hand was supporting someone else’s hand, our other hand was being supported and that this is the way he thought we should understand our job as Session members. It is just as important to accept support as to give it. Before his term of service was over, Bill died, but the message of that lesson is not forgotten.
We Presbyterian clergy are appropriately well trained, yet like everyone we need to develop our ability to hear truth even in the stories and the faith of those who do not know “clergy speak.” We may need to develop an eye to see God at work even when we are not leading.
Can the eye say to the hand, I have no need of you? During this Advent season, when clergy stress is often at its peak, perhaps we can grow in our ability to accept from as well as give to other parts of the “Body.”
A prayer for this day:
God of wholeness and Peace, remind us that we are not whole or at peace when we seek to live without others. Teach us the spiritual discipline of receiving from the brokenness within ourselves, others and the church as we look with hope to that day when we find ourselves fully a part of you. Amen.
Rev. Bill Goodnight (D. Min., 1979)
Retired from Parish Ministry