“His yellow skin scarcely covered the work of muscles and arteries beneath; his hair was of a lustrous black, and flowing; his teeth of a pearly whiteness, but these luxuriances only formed a more horrid contrast with his watery eyes that seemed almost of the same colour as the dun white sockets in which they were set, with his shrivelled complexion and straight black lips.” … “Its gigantic stature, and the deformity of its aspect, more hideous than belongs to humanity, instantly informed me that it was the wretch, to whom I had given life.”
You may recognise those words of Mary Shelley in the greatest horror story of all time, “Frankenstein”, the story of a medical student who took spare limbs from dead bodies to make an artificial man which he brought to life with the energy of lightning. This “man-made monster” has been the classic theme of horror and science fiction ever since, from Boris Karloff to Christopher Lee to Herman Munster, from the repellant Cardassians in Star Trek Deep Space Nine, to genetically engineered mutants beloved of X Files or Outer Limits. It haunts our dreams, “the Post-Modern Prometheus” (Mulder), our “Frankenstein complex”. The whole picture is terrifying in its ugliness. A body made up of stray limbs, angular, disjointed, sluggish – a revolting body made by a man rather than a body beautiful as God creates and intends bodies to be.
The apostle Paul describes the church as the Body of Christ. When we say “Church”, we may have in mind our own individual Congregation. We may have in mind the church in Chelmsford as she is made up of all the Christians from all our diverse traditions. Whenever we think about the church as the Body of Christ the spectre of Frankenstein’s monster looms large. As we look at our individual congregations and at the church together we are faced with a disturbing question. Are we really living and working together as the beautiful Body of Christ as God intends? Or does the Christian church of Brentwood and our own separate congregations sometimes seem more like Frankenstein’s monster. Especially to those “outside” church life, do we appear to be any more than just a jumble of limbs, not fitting together, not working properly, too much a man-made organisation and not enough a God-fashioned organism, less like a body and more like a business? But what can we do to become more the body of Christ, less of a man-made monster???
The apostle Paul writes in Ephesians 4:15-16 We must grow up in every way to Christ who is the head. Under His control all the different parts of the body fit together, and the whole body is held together by every joint and sinew with which it is provided. So when each separate part works as it should, the whole body grows and builds itself up through love.
If the parts of the body are to fit together and be held together, building each other up in love, each separate part needs to be working as it should. Each and every Christian needs to see himself or herself as part of that body, and play the part God has given. And all ours distinct congregations must play their part in the one body too.
1. NO OPTING OUT!
1 Cor 12:12 The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ. 13 For we were all baptised by one Spirit into one body- whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free- and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. 20 .. there are many parts, but one body. 27 Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.
Each Christian belongs to the Body of Christ. The Christian life is a team game – not an individual event! Claiming to be a Christian without being properly committed to a church is like claiming to play football but never joining a team or playing in a real match.
In the comedy horror film/series “Addams Family”, a strange creature “Hand” pops out of box to answer telephone. NO SUCH thing in the church – no Christian who is an unattached hand, an “independent ear” or a “freelance nose” !!! We ALL have a part to play, spiritual gifts to use in Body of Christ. NONE of US is useless. There’s the difference between Body of Christ and human body – body of Christ doesnt have an appendix – NO part of Body of Christ is redundant, NO part of Body of Christ is useless!
I’ve told you before the story of the talking dog which walked into Job Centre one day and asked for a job. The employment officer was amazed, but quickly said, “There’s a circus in town this week – go and see if they have any vacancies for a dog.”
Next day the dog was back in Job Centre again. “What happened with the circus?” the officer asked.
“Oh that was no use,” the dog replied. “They wanted a performing dog – I’m a bricklayer!”
We can’t opt out just because we aren’t invited to do the job WE would like to do. Our responsibility is to take the part GOD has given for us – using the gifts HE has given to do the job HE wants us to do! Belonging to a church is like belonging to an orchestra – turning up for the rehearsals as well as playing in the concerts. It’s like belonging to a football team, playing your hardest so the team wins rather than you getting all the glory for an occasional spectacular solo effort. It is when each separate part works as it should that the whole body grows. No opting out! And …
2. NO INFERIORITY
1 Cor 12:15 If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason cease to be 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 cease to be part of the body. 17 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?
Christians aren’t all meant to be the same!!! We aren’t meant to be all clones, all identical. What a strange body that would make. Back at college whenever we had chicken for dinner – EVERYBODY got legs, every time, never any wings, never any white meat, always legs. We came up with the theory that we were being fed on a new experimental genetically engineered creature, the “Centi-chicken” – 100 legs, no wings, no white meat! The body of Christ is not meant to be some kind of “centi-chicken”, every part identical. God does not want all Christians to be priests or vicars or ministers or elders or deacons or musicians! Parts of the body have different functions, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t parts of the body! They all still belong!
1 Cor 12:18 God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. 19 If they were all one part, where would the body be?
No opting out. No inferiority, and …
3. NO SUPERIORITY – no PRIDE, or exclusiveness or arrogance.
1 Cor 12:21 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, 23 and the parts that we think are less honourable we treat with special honour.
Christians can so easily look down on each other. We dont like his theology, we don’t like her lifestyle, we dont like his earrings, we dont like the way her kids behave in church. But remember, WE don’t choose who belongs to His Church, Christ does! If that person is a believer, they are part of Christ’s body in this congregation and in this town whether we would choose to let them in or not! We HAVE to make space to let others play their part!!
1 Cor 12: 25 there should be no division in the body, but its parts should have equal concern for each other. 26 If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honoured, every part rejoices with it.
So, NO DIVISION in the body. SO MANY DIFFERENCES can come between Christians in our church life – issues of theology, styles of worship. Matters of Emphasis, of Taste, or of Conscience. There can be Power struggles and Party interests and Personality Clashes. It is strange that we find these kinds of arguments and divisions in the Body of Christ when we never find them within a human body. We NEVER find hands and feet arguing and falling out. When toenails need cutting our hands never say “yuk what a nasty job Im not going near those feet”. When our eyes want to move nearer to look at something interesting our legs never say “YOU may like looking in computer shops but I dont, so you can go off by youself if you like, head. We are staying here!” Each part of the body plays its part, all working together!
There should be NO division in the body. We shouldn’t ignore one another, but enjoy one another, benefiting from the different gifts and contributions each can make within the one body. “Equal concern for each other” means for ALL the parts of the body, even the parts we don’t know or don’t get on with. Concern for ALL, from youngest to oldest, whatever race, background, education, employment! “Anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen.” (1 John 4.)
And SUFFERING and REJOICING together means the parts of the Body take care of each other! When I had terrible EARACHE: my feet took me to doctors, my mouth explained problem, my hands put the ear drops in my ear, and the tablets into mouth which swallowed them. ALL parts working together!
People opting out, folk being made to feel inferior, people acting superior and ignoring the needs of others and squeezing them out: so many divisions which leave the church looking like a Frankenstein’s monster! This is true in any individual congregation, and it is should be equally true in the relationships between congregations. There should be no divisions between Anglicans and Baptists, Roman Catholics and Pentecostals – differences, yes, divisions NO! Divisions can come from churches opting out, from churches being made to feel inferior and other churches acting as if they were superior. The apostle makes it abundantly plain, “There should be NO divisions in the Body of Christ!”
We need unity in the Body of Christ for our own sake – for the blessings we will receive. We also need unity for God’s sake. A church which is only a man-made monster grieves the Holy Spirit of God, it grieves Christ the Head of the Body, it grieves the Father heart of God. And most of all we need unity for the sake of the world, that the world might believe. The church is supposed to be God’s visual aid to the watching world of the difference that His love and forgiveness makes. But so often the church gives a very poor example of God’s love. God commands us to show His kind of sacrificial love to this sin-spoilt world. And He gives us other Christians to practice on. If we can’t even be bothered to love each other, how can we begin to seek and save the lost? We need to put divisions behind us because the world NEEDS TO SEE the beautiful Body of Christ – not a Frankenstein’s monster!
Isn’t the body
an amazing creation. Just think of some of the things a human body can accomplish when all the parts work together in harmony. Think of an Olympic athlete, say Daley Thompson throwing the discus or Jonathan Edwards doing the triple jump – body supple and flowing, perfect balance and positioning. Think of the coordination of legs and hips and arm and eye, for the hand to release the disc at the exact split-second, or hopping, stepping and jumping in sequence. Somehow it’s hard to imagine Frankenstein’s monster throwing a discus, or doing the pole vault or the triple jump!
Or think of a violinist, Yehudi Menuin or Nigel Kennedy, or Vanessa Mae, the right hand guiding the bow across the strings to within a millimetre and a split-second, with just enough pressure and attack. At the same time the left hand has to be even more precise as it fingers the notes, kept in tune by the ear, with one eye on the music and the other on the conductor! It’s hard to imagine Frankenstein’s monster playing a violin concerto!
No opting out. No inferiority. No superiority. No divisions. Are we the Bride of Christ or the Bride of Frankenstein; are we the Body of Christ or just some Man-Made Monster? Which will we choose to become ?????