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Body Building: Reflections on the Body of Christ.

By Sr. Anne, SSJD.

Ex 16:2-4, 9-15 / Ps 78:23-29 / Eph4:1-16 / Jn 6:24-35

While I was growing up in a Lutheran parish where my father was employed as the Organist and Choir Director, I was fascinated to watch my father play at the end of the 11 o’clock service. His hands and fingers were flying and his feet were in constant motion as he produced sublime music to the Glory of God. As I was preparing this homily, I was given this remembrance as an image of how the body of Christ functions. To produce glorious music on the Organ all limbs are in motion with the middle of the body giving balance and stability to the person playing it. Similarly, it is with the body of Christ. Every person is given a task within the body to provide a visible presence of Jesus Christ. Not one person is wasted. Everyone has to contribute for the proper functioning of the body.

Paul in his letter to the Ephesians spells out the function and the attitudes that comprise the body of Christ aka the Church and our community of faith.  He starts out by sharing with the recipients of this letter his own understanding of his call to be an apostle. He says of himself that he is the “prisoner of the Lord.” What does that mean for us today to be “prisoners of the Lord?” For myself I thought of myself being captivated by Jesus for a specific purpose by a special call. Paul counsels the Ephesians to “walk worthy of the vocation to which you have been called.” This calling is the central theme of the rest of the letter- It is an appeal (call) to live up to the high calling to which God has called a person. The word worthy has many meanings but some that would be closest to our context are our life of integrity, a sense of excellence, of having good actions and self respect to mention only a few.

In verses 2 through 6, Paul is setting forth the qualities of the members of Christ’s church which include, humility, gentleness, patience, bearing with one another and peace. Humility comes from the sense of our own creatureliness and that we are absolutely dependent on God. Gentleness is the kind of graceful spirit that comes from a deep faith in God in a person and they often are known as the strong, quiet type. Having patience means having endurance or steadfastness It is a spirit which never admits defeat, which will not be broken by any misfortune or suffering, by any disappointment or discouragement, but persists to the end. It possesses the strength of rock-steadiness. Bearing with one another in love is the ability to retain unconquerable good will to the unlovely and the unlovable, towards those who do not love us, and even towards those whom we do not like.

Humility, gentleness, patience and love – issue in a fifth, peace. Peace may be defined as right relationships between people. It is humility, patience and love that will make it possible to “keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”

In verses 4-6 Paul emphasizes our unity. The key word here is “one”.

The Message says “You were all called to travel on the same road and in the same direction, so stay together both outwardly and inwardly.”

 How we as a community express this oneness outwardly, is though our wearing of the habit and inwardly, through our individual and corporate prayer. We are indeed of one body, of one spirit and we hold the one hope of our calling each and every day. We are all of one mind when it comes to Jesus being “Our Lord” and we are of one faith and we have all been baptized into one baptism. In our confession of faith, we believe that there is One God and Creator of all, who governs us all, who works through us all, and is within us all.

In Verses 7 – 13, Paul talks about the functions in the Church and acknowledges our diversity. This passage gives us a picture of the organization and the administration of the early Church.

The Apostles were those whose authority ran throughout the whole Church. There were two qualifications: First, they must have seen Jesus and second, they had to be a witness of the Resurrection and of the Risen Lord. Although the originally Apostles died out, but the qualification still remains that those who would teach Christ must know Christ; and those who would bring the power of Christ to others must have experienced Christ’s risen power.

The prophets were wanderers throughout the Church. Their message was held to be not the result of thought and study but the direct result of the Holy Spirit. They went from church to church proclaiming the will of God as God had told it to them. Eventually this function vanished from the church.

Evangelists correspond to what we would call missionaries. They were bringers of the good news. They were the rank and file missionaries of the Church who took the good news to a world which had never heard it.

Pastors and teachers had the most important task in the whole Church: They were not wanderers but were settled and permanent in the work of one congregation. The teachers had the responsibility of being carriers of the gospel story. It was their function to know and to pass on the story of the life of Jesus.

These teachers were also pastors. Pastor is the Latin word for a shepherd. It was the duty of the pastor to shepherd the flock and keep them safe. The shepherd of the flock of God is the one who bears God’s people on one’s heart, who feeds them with the truth, who seeks them when they stray away, and who defends them from all that would hurt their faith.

The work of these office bearers was and is for the purpose of preparing people for the lives they are to live and the work they are to do. They provide us with a sturdy foundation and strong walls and a solid roof so that we might survive the storms that will buffet us and the temptations that will threaten us. It is the function of these office bearers to see that the members are so educated, so guided, so cared for, so sought out when they go astray, that they become what they ought to be. Furthermore, their aim is that the work of service may go on. The office bearers of a community of faith are in office to see that the practical service of God’s poor and lonely people is continued and to see to it that the body of Christ is strengthened and built up. Then all of us will come to the unity of faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to maturity, to the measure of the full stature of Christ through our continual growth into Christ.  

There is a phrase that we in this community use quite frequently and that is “speaking the truth in love.” This is the kind of love that puts the welfare of the other person first. Speaking the truth in love is a Godly thing. Truth spoken in love stands a chance to be heard, whereas truth spoken without love is almost certain to be rejected. One of the goals of Christian nurture is that we come to a point where we can speak the truth in love.

We are Christ’s body and the head of the body is Christ Jesus. Paul says that a body is only healthy and efficient when every part is thoroughly co-ordinated. Individual parts are connected by joints and ligaments that make it possible for them to work together. Each member is important to Christ’s spiritual body. It is important to respect each individual member of the body of Christ. Each believer is enabled to contribute according to the gifts given to them and that the multiplicity of gifts are “fitted and knitted together” to serve the whole world.

Organ Image: