by Pastor Lehmann
Posted on January 28, 2020 2:04 AM
How many 'things' do you belong to?
Most fundamentally, most people would point to their families as something they belong to, but each of us can point to all sorts of other "things", too: a generation ("Boomer"? Millennial? Gen Z?), a group of friends, an honorary society, an alumni group ("Go Mascots!" "Class of 93, baby!"), a sports team, a department, a community, a region, a nation, an ethnicity, a language-group, a political party, an economic class, and ... so many more.
So when we talk about how we, as Christians, are members of the Family of God -- or of the body of Christ, or the Holy Christian Church, the Communion of Saints -- is this the same kind of belonging as all the others? Or what about being members of Christ Lutheran Church? Is that the same, too?
It's not. Our relationship to the Church, and our church, is not just about belonging. It's much more.
This is one of the reasons why the scriptural imagery of "family" and "body" are so effective at describing and explaining who we are together, and thus who we are as individual believers in relation to each other. Your family is not like a club or gym that you belong to for a while, but might just decide someday to leave and let your membership lapse. The various parts of a body are not like the members of a department or a team who can participate enthusiastically one day and later just quit and take a position somewhere else. With both the family and the body, each "member" and his or her contributions are essential to the wholeness of the whole, and if one or more members choose to slack off or separate itself, bad things result -- both for the individual and the whole.
The Apostle Paul, inspired by the Holy Spirit, teaches us this very clearly and vividly in his letters, especially in 1 Corinthians 12, where he says,
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 baptized by one Spirit into one body -- whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free -- and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.
14 Now the body is not made up of one part but of many. 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? 18 But in fact 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? 20 As it is, there are many parts, but one body.
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!" ... But God has combined the members of the body and has given greater honor to the parts that lacked it, 25 so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. 26 If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.
27 Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.
So we see that as members of the body of Christ, whether we are speaking of the Family of God that is the Holy Christian Church or the family of faith that is Christ Lutheran Church, we do not just "belong", as though our membership can be listed on a line of our resumes or renewed by paying our regular dues. No, each of us is needed. It won't be the family or body it's supposed to be -- the one that's best for us and best for everyone -- without our presence and participation.
You don't just belong. You are an essential part of what happens in this family and play an indispensable role in what this body does. Your praises raised alongside your fellow members encourages them, as they encourage you, every Sunday in worship. Your gifts and offerings enable the congregation and synod to do together what none of us could do individually. Your hours spent in teaching, helping, leading, greeting, ushering, cleaning, crafting, fixing, straightening, planting, mowing, raking, shoveling, salting, discussing, even sitting in meetings -- or whatever ways in which you put your gifts, skills, and interests into service -- are a fulfillment of your purpose and calling as a believer -- and necessary for the health and growth of this wonderful thing we all belong to, love, and cherish.
This is who you are and what you do. Just as you are not merely a name or a number to Christ ("Soul #342985-313-5849"), so you are not and never will be "just" a member of the Family of God. You are needed.