Celebrating our Shared Children and Youth Ministry
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From Senior Pastor Kent French:
You can easily enough see how this kind of thing works by looking no further than your own body. Your body has many parts—limbs, organs, cells—but no matter how many parts you can name, you’re still one body. It’s exactly the same with Christ. By means of his one Spirit, we all said good-bye to our partial and piecemeal lives. We each used to independently call our own shots, but then we entered into a large and integrated life in which God has the final say in everything.
The way God designed our bodies is a model for understanding our lives together as a church: every part dependent on every other part, the parts we mention and the parts we don’t, the parts we see and the parts we don’t. If one part hurts, every other part is involved in the hurt, and in the healing. If one part flourishes, every other part enters into the exuberance.
1 Corinthians 12:
Many of you remember how 5 years ago, I slipped on some ice during a surge of single-digit temperature in March and ruptured my quadricep tendon. Now, I had never thought much about my quadricep tendons before this fall. In fact, I’m not sure I knew they existed. But I knew what it meant to walk normally.
As I recovered from my immediate fall, essentially alone on the sidewalk, and slid on my hands and butt across the ice, through the ice melt up the stairs and to my host’s door, I thought, “Oh, this is what it’s like to fall alone.”
I had tried calling Robert and my host, but I knew that being thoroughly-in-the-moment kind of people, they were enjoying each other’s company in a 2nd-floor living room, not checking their phones and waiting for me to re-emerge any minute. I reached up behind me, unlocked the door, dragged myself through the foyer and unlocked another door before laying down and yelling, up the stairs,
“I think I bust my knee!”
Never having thought about the quad tendon, I quickly realized that you cannot lift the bottom half of your leg without it. You essentially cannot walk normally on that whole leg. This little 1-2” piece of usually strong, yet pliant tissue connects your quadricep or the thigh muscle, the most powerful muscle in the body, to the knee cap.
Without it, your whole leg is essentially lame.
And you all, Robert, friends and family, a skilled orthopedic surgeon, a wonderful physical therapist, with the assistance of braces, crutches and a cane, all lovingly helped me back to full recovery. And I am grateful! In an earlier time, I would have been using crutches the rest of my life.
And if I didn’t learn that lesson the first time, it happened again to the other knee this past summer while on a contemplative prayer retreat here (at Holy Wisdom Monastery). God and I are still talking about the meaning of all that. I can report that so far, I have no injuries this visit.
Paul’s beautiful meditation on the body of Christ that we just heard reminds us not only of the wonder of the human body, but the interconnectedness of it all.
In the part of the passage we left out, Paul playfully writes
Think about how this keeps your significance from getting blown up into self-importance. For no matter how significant you are, it is only because of what you are a part of.
An enormous eye or a gigantic hand wouldn’t be a body, but a monster.
What we have is one body with many parts, each its proper size and in its proper place.
No part is important on its own.
Can you imagine Eye telling Hand, “Get lost; I don’t need you”?
Or, Head telling Foot, “You’re fired; your job has been phased out”?
As a matter of fact, in practice it works the other way—the “lower” the part, the more basic, and therefore necessary. You can live without an eye, for instance, but not without a stomach.
When it’s a part of your own body you are concerned with, it makes no difference whether the part is visible or clothed, higher or lower.
You give it dignity and honor just as it is, without comparisons.
If anything, you have more concern for the lower parts than the higher.
If you had to choose, wouldn’t you prefer good digestion to full-bodied hair?
It is the same for the environment:
a lizard in the pond cannot say to the reeds, I have no need of you
or the fox on the prairie cannot say to the dragonfly, I have no need of you
or the big blue whale to the infinitesimal krill, I have no need of you,
and planet Earth cannot say to the stars, moon, sun and other planets, I have no need of you
for they are all interconnected.
And it’s the same in the community of Christ, such as ours – which is Paul’s broader point to the churches at Corinth, who were apparently quarreling a lot among themselves.
For those of us who know the passage and for those who get the power of metaphors, the analogy is fairly straightforward. And yet, like the complexity of the human body, the natural world around us, and human communities, they are multi-layered and complex, often containing small, individual parts that we never realize how essential they are until they’re missing.
Some of us grew up in places where children were meant to be seen and not heard
Or that the hormonal turbulence of adolescence was to be ridden out with rolled eyes and exasperated sighs until we could all get to full maturity.
I am grateful that we are a congregation committed to honoring the children and youth in our midst as equal and important members of our collective body.
Their voices, their questions, their new generational take on the world, their wonder, their honesty are all an important part of what we do together – as we try to figure out how to follow and model the ministry of Jesus and live here on Earth as it is in heaven.
I am grateful for the time a 1st grader asked why a loving God would drown the Egyptian army after parting the Red Sea for Moses and the Israelites to walk on dry land safely;
Or how we can know God exists when we cannot see God;
or how a child says, with some wonder, “I pray for bees, even though they hurt people;”
or when teens retell the Gospel stories with stick figure animation or in performance skits.
Such intensely theological questions, such benevolent, yet conflicted, prayers, such creativity and new ways of thinking, framing and seeing things are the heart of our faith. And when children ask these questions and offer these perspectives, they enrich life for ALL of us.
And as we just heard:
If one part hurts, every other part is involved in the hurt, and in the healing.
If one part flourishes, every other part enters into the exuberance.
Each of us is now a part of Christ’s resurrection body, refreshed and sustained at one fountain—God’s Spirit—where we all come to drink.