The church is a family, a community, a flock of sheep, etc. There are a lot of metaphors to describe the church. Metaphors are helpful, and of course, all fall short. The metaphor I use the most in talking about church is that of the body.
The Apostle Paul introduces this idea in I Corinthians 12:12, “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.” He goes on to say things like, “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,’” in I Corinthians 12:21.
I am thinking about this idea of the body of Christ as we approach Holy Week and Easter. On Good Friday we remember the physical death of Jesus, the day when his body was tortured and stopped breathing. It is the day Jesus died like every other human. On Easter we celebrate his resurrection and God’s power over death.
The physical resurrection is central to my faith. It is not something I can explain nor try too hard to understand, but it is something I deeply believe. I love standing with the church in all time and place to proclaim this good news. One of my favorite Easter proclamations is from John Chrysostom, a 4th century Christian, whose Easter sermon contains these words:
Hell received a body and encountered God. It took earth and came face-to-face with heaven. It took what it saw, and was overcome by what it did not see.
With that said, I am also drawn to metaphors about the body of Christ. The Corinthians (first century Christians) believed that the church was literally the body of Christ. Christ, having ascended to heaven, was no longer physically present in person, but Christ was present as the church.
Because of this they took very seriously any behavior within their community that did harm to the body of Christ. If someone in the community behaved in a way that was against the values the community held, they believed that the person was literally hurting Christ.
My sister’s church is in crisis, and I’m reminded of how quickly the body can fall apart. As is the case with a human body, a well-functioning church is a miracle. There are so many people, and organs, and cells that have to work together in order for the smallest things to happen, in a human body or church. If we are not attentive to our bodies they start to break down and even the small simple things become hard.
What amazes me and makes me grateful is the way that so many of you model this kind of attentiveness. You check in on one another. You seek to serve. You model Christ’s love. You seek to glorify God. You spend time in prayer and in scripture. All of this strengthens this body, and it is only when this body is strong that we can reach out and share Christ’s love with those outside of our church, which is our call.
Being human, having a body, is not passive. We have to take care of ourselves. The same is true for being a church. We are the body of Christ, and we need you here doing your part.