Sunday, January 21, 2007

My two feet

Have you ever noticed the two sides of our bodies are mirror images of each other? On my left foot, the big toe is on the right. On my right foot, the big toe is on the left. The little toe is on the left on my left foot, and on the right on my right foot.

Hmm. Diversity.

Can the toes on my right foot judge the toes on my left foot defective, and unfit to serve my body, because the orientation of the left toes is the reverse of the orientation of the right toes? What if my right foot accused my left foot of walking apart?

How can it?

Would I think my feet were serving me properly?

What if my hands were to decide neither of my feet are worthy to serve Christ, because feet are so obviously differently from hands, and now my hands want to sever themselves from my body, and join a new, footless body?

Kind of ridiculous. And painful, for hands and body.

That's the point of today's epistle, Paul's letter to the Church at Corinth (1 Corinthians 12:12-31a). See the full text of the reading at the end of the entry.

When I hear church people speak of being unequally yoked, I wonder why they want to pull the wagon, "the body," if you will, all alone. The yoke will chafe them. They will tire out much more quickly. They can't go as far. They will fail in their mission.

It's like removing the left engine of a twin-engine aircraft just before takeoff, because the right engine doesn't like being "yoked" to the other engine. The result: The aircraft would pull sharply to the left and down after it just got into the air -- crashing and bursting into flame. The right engine isn't strong enough to lift the aircraft off the ground properly, and the plane's energy is out of balance.

When one engine goes out during flight, the plane just wants to go in circles.

The right engine could power a single engine plane alone, but without the same strength, cargo (read "mission") capacity, or range. When it has a bad day, the plane goes down. There's no backup.

In the same way, a church that eliminates or segregates some of its members becomes weaker and out of balance.

I don't want to belong to a "straight" church. I don't want to belong to a "gay" church. That's a church hopping around on one foot.

I don't want to belong to a church that worships the thinking of Spong or Akinola, either one. That church, and its theology, is out of balance.

To go back to the airplane analogy, we need to fly the course that recognizes, "If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honored, all rejoice together."

I hear some in my diocese, and in other dioceses, say the Episcopal Church is screwed up, and they want to leave it to join like-minded "right" feet in another province.

I think they're making a mistake, one that diminishes all of us, the body of Christ.

We are the body of Christ, Paul tells us.

1 Corinthians 12:12-31a

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. 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.

Indeed, the body does not consist of one member but of many. If the foot would say, "Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body," that would not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear would 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. If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole body were hearing, where would the sense of smell be? But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many members, yet one body. 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, and those members of the body that we think less honorable we clothe with greater honor, and our less respectable members are treated with greater respect; whereas our more respectable members do not need this. But 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.

Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. 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. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? Do all possess gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret? But strive for the greater gifts.


Ann said...

Love the airplane imagery - saving that for next time around on this. We did a congregational reading of Corinthians with parts

KJ said...

Nice job, Pat,

I wish all would realize how boring a "monochromatic" church is. Been there; done that. Yawn!

I see I've been "tagge". Damn! The nice thing about not having one's own blog is the lack of responsibility. Now I have to do my homework.

Eileen said...

Well..I left a church to join one that allowed me to live with my religion and my conscience.

So, I agree, to an extent. We do need each other for balance. We need to push at each other so we can grow.

But, I do think there comes a point when you have to realize there are choices to be made. If you are really that unhappy in your current church, so much so that you question the good attending that church is doing you, it's probably time to leave.

But, like Mimi, I don't think you should expect the entire congregation and building should come with you.

Grandmère Mimi said...

Lovely sermonette, Pat. We do need each other. We do need to be poked with sharp elbows from time to time to help smooth our rough edges.

And sometimes we must move on to another community when we feel that we are not blessed in our community, but expecially when we come to see that we are no longer a blessing to that community.

Saint Pat said...

Yes, I believe our right hand, or at least, some of its fingers, are about to sever themselves from our body of Christ and go join a "footless" church. Our body will heal; we must do it while maintaining some balance.

Church buildings don't travel too well, in my opinion.