john davies
notes from a small vicar
from a parish
in Liverpool, UK



    Romans 12: Your gift - it's good for the body!

    Christ Church Norris Green Holy Communion, 20/6/2010

    Romans 12:1-8 , Luke 11:9-13


    1. A child reads out Fathers' Day prayer. [1]

    2. A father and two confirmation candidates come to the front

    3. Give gift to a father. [Shampoo]

    4. Give gift to one of the newly-confirmed. [Radox]

    5. Give gift to another of the newly-confirmed. [Box of biscuits].

    What will you do with them - take them home or share them around? [Sharing is good...]

    Your gift - it's good for the body!

    If I gave you 10 to buy a gift that would make you feel good about yourself - look good - be healthy... what would you get?

    [on Father's Day] If I gave you 10 to buy a gift for one of the (other) men in this room - to help them feel good about themselves - look good - be healthy... what would you get?

    Your gift - it's good for the body!

    One of the most wonderful signs of God's love for those who believe in him, is that he gives us gifts. And the gifts that he gives us - are good for the body.

    Let's hear again what Paul wrote in his letter to the church in Rome:
    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.
    Two things there - we are all members of the body of Christ; and we are all different members - we all have a particular function.

    We are reminded of what Paul wrote to the believers in Corinth:
    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. 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. [1 Corinthians 12]
    Paul gives his readers a bit of a biology lesson when he says,
    Indeed, the body does not consist of one member but of many. If the foot were to 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 were to 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. [1 Corinthians 12]
    So we are all members of the body of Christ; and we are all different members - we each have a particular function. We don't exist alone. If we try to go it alone as Christians then the life soon goes out of us - and the body of Christ feels like it's lost a limb. Paul again:
    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 honourable we clothe with greater honour, 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 honour to the inferior member, that there may be no dissension within the body, but the members may have the same care for one another. [1 Corinthians 12]
    This is the Christian life in action - united in Christ each of us living that deep connection to each other, showing each other what that means by practically caring for one another.
    If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honoured, all rejoice together with it. [1 Corinthians 12]
    - do we see that in the life of our church? When we are functioning well, then we really can and we really do: suffer together, rejoice together.

    This time last year I was here with you at Christ Church, and by an odd act of God I was speaking about the same passage. I'd that day I quoted Richard Foster who wrote that
    In contrast to the religions of the East, the Christian faith has strongly emphasised corporate worship. Even under highly dangerous circumstances the early community was urged not to forsake the assembling of themselves together (Hebrews 10:25). The Epistles speak frequently of the believing community as the 'body of Christ.' As human life is unthinkable without head, arms, and legs, so it was unthinkable for those Christians to live in isolation from one another. In addition, when the people of God meet together, there often comes a sense of being 'gathered' into one mind, becoming of one accord (Phil 3:15). [2]
    Now this idea of a fully-functioning body - brings us back to the theme of gifts.

    Why?

    Well, we know that for an eye to function properly it needs to be given the gift of sight.

    We know that for a hand to function properly it needs to be given the gift of touch.

    And those of who are watching the World Cup know that for a foot to function properly it needs to belong to a German body - no, for a foot to function properly it needs to be given the gift of motion.

    What Paul wants us to learn is that for the body of Christ to function properly it needs to be given the gifts of God's Spirit. Gifts which build us up. Gifts which are good for the body.

    What Paul wants us us to realise is that this has already happened, and that each of us - members of the body - have been given the gifts of God's Spirit.

    Romans chapter twelve again:
    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.
    So now we know: that some members of the body of Christ are given the gift of compassion - so that they can cheerfully help the body to develop the emotional capacities of empathy and sympathy (for the suffering of others).

    And now we know: that some members of the body of Christ are given the gift of leadership - so that they can diligently help the body to grow in its understanding of itself and of God.

    Now we know: that some members of the body of Christ are given the gift of teaching, and others ministering, and others prophecying, and others exhorting - exhorting, according to the dictionary, means 'To urge by strong, often stirring argument, admonition, advice, or appeal'. Who are the exhorters among you? There will be one or two.

    And finally it's interesting to note that Paul mentions another gift that the Spirit gives to the Body of Christ. He makes sure that some members of the body of Christ are given the gift of giving... 'the giver,' Paul says, is a member of the body, who will bless the body by spreading their generosity around.

    Think for a moment: what gifts has God given the body of believers here?

    Who are the compassionate ones, the generous ones? Who are those who teach, who are those who minister, the ones who prophecy and exhort? They are here, in this room. If you think you know who they are then it would encourage them if you told them, sometime, that you've noticed what gifts God has given them.

    Think of what gifts God has given you. Because he has, or will have, or wants to. Don't deny yourself the joy of taking a gift freely offered from God.

    If you're not sure what gift you might have then ask for it. That's not a selfish thing to do - it only becomes selfish if you start to boast about it and use it to score points against others, which God help us, save us all from that.

    It's not a selfish thing to do, to ask God for your gift. In fact, it's exactly what Jesus tells his followers to do. Remember the reading from Luke's gospel today:
    'So I say to you, Ask, and it will be given to you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened...'
    Jesus is as clear as he ever was in this passage. God wants you to ask him for a gift. God will make sure it is a good gift when it comes.

    And this is the message of today - God does this for the good of his own body. Because the gifts he gives to you, to me, to each one of us, build that body up.

    Your gift - it's good for the body! Let's celebrate that today.


    Notes
    [1] Fathers' Day prayer from Common Worship website.
    [2] See my talk from 21 June 2009