1 Corinthians 12:26-27
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.
As my family and I were outside enjoying the snow a couple of weekends ago, there were hundreds upon hundreds of geese which flew over our house. At the request of the kids, we had to take a brief time-out in our snowball fight so that we could all look up at them. As we were looking up at the geese, one of the kids said “Look, they are all flying in a V.” Jessica and I asked them if they knew why they were flying in a shape of a V. Faith quickly said that it was because they were flying south. She was right in that they were flying south, but we tried to explain to her and Heath that the flying south isn’t the main reason why they fly like they do.
So let me ask you, have you ever wondered why geese fly the way they do? I did and so I decided to look it up. When I looked it up I found their flight pattern and their in-flight habits to be quiet interesting. First off, those geese flying in the front rotate their leadership. When the lead goose gets tired, it changes place with one in the wing of the V-formation and another goose flies point for a while. By flying in a V-formation like they do, the members of the flock create this upward air current for one another. With each flap of their wings, they are creating an uplift for the bird immediately behind them. So essentially, the geese are drafting with each other. An author who studied this determined that by flying in a V-formation, the whole flock gets about 70 percent greater flying range than if each goose flew on its own.
Also, did you know that when one goose gets sick or wounded, two geese fall out of formation with it and follow it down to help and protect it. They stay with the struggling goose until it’s able to fly again. If they didn’t, that goose would be cooked. Sorry, couldn’t help myself.
Here’s my last little tidbit of information for you … the geese in the rear of the formation, they are the only ones who are doing the honking. Maybe it is their way of announcing that they’re still back there and that all is well. The repeated honks could also be looked at as a means of encouragement to those in the front to stay at it.
One thing is definitely true … the geese are all in it together. Whether they are rotating positions, flapping their wings, helping a sick goose, or simply honking … the flock is in it together. By sticking to it together, they are able to accomplish far more than if they were trying to do it on their own.
And the same holds true in our reading from 1 Corinthians 12. Here Paul tells us and all the Christians in the city of Corinth how the church is set up and that it operates very much like our own human bodies do. Paul starts out saying that, “The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though its parts are many, they form one body” (1 Cor. 12:12). All the parts of our body are in it together. My hand can’t go off and decide do its own thing. My foot can’t go one way and try to leave the rest of my body behind. My stomach can’t decide that it wants to control my breathing nor can my nose decide to digest my food. The body just doesn’t work like that. If it did, if each part of the body went off and did its own thing … you could never do the hokey pokey and turn yourself around nor would you even really be able to function. If the different parts of your body went off and did their own thing, not only would you not be able to function, your body would not even be considered a body. The basic definition of the body is the physical structure of a person or an animal, including the bones, flesh, and organs, but the Bible again tells us “The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though its parts are many, they form one body” (1 Cor. 12:12).
What is true for our human bodies is also true for the church, for after Paul tells us about the body being a unit and made up of many parts, he adds these words, “So it is with Christ” (1 Cor. 12:12b). Paul says that each and every one of us help make up the body of Christ. We are all in this together. From the newest baptized believing newborn, to our preschool kids and all the way through to the most senior of us, we are in this together. Together we make up the body of Christ, which we sometimes refer to simply as the church. We make up the church here locally as we are Salem Lutheran Church, but we also are a part of something much larger. We are a part of the whole universal church of all Christians. We just confessed a few minutes ago in the Apostles’ Creed that I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy Christian Church, the communion of saints. We are all in this together.
Because we are all in this together, Paul tells us that “if one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it” (1 Cor. 12:26). When you get your finger pinched, the other members of your body are concerned and rush to is aid. The other members of your body don’t say to your finger, “That’s your problem, you figure it out.” Likewise, if someone compliments say a young girl on how beautiful her hair is, the rest of her body doesn’t sulk at it. The entire girl is going to glow with pleasure. The members of our physical body suffer together and they rejoice together for they are all in it together.
The same is to be true for you and me. I’m sure we’ve each had a time when we were suffering. When we suffer, whether it be from something minor or something major, your fellow brothers and sisters in Christ should come to you and provide whatever aid they can. Personally, Jessica and I have never felt more loved in a church than when her mom passed away about a month ago. The support through prayers, cards, text messages, hugs, coming to the visitation and funeral were all far beyond anything we could have imagined. The same should be true when there is rejoicing as well. When one part rejoices, every part rejoices with it. We celebrate and rejoice this morning as we welcomed two precious children through baptism into the family of God. We also celebrate with our preschool as we begin Lutheran schools week and as they are in the midst of their 30th year of operation.
But more and more, whether you see it on the news or in person, the world in which we live is not living like a body should live. Instead, a quote from Pelagius, a British theologian who lived in the late 300 to early 400’s, seems to ring true today. Pelagius said, “We do the opposite – we weep over those who rejoice and rejoice over those who weep. For if someone has been praised, we are unhappy. If someone has fallen, we leap for joy” (Roman 12:15 CPH Commentary). People also tend to do the opposite of what James tell us. Instead of being “quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry” (James 1:19b), we are slow to listen, quick to speak and quick to become angry. This behavior, this attitude within the body leads to it not being a body anymore. When the parts of the body, when you, I, and other Christians, do not work together like a body should … we struggle more and accomplish less.
Sinful pride makes us believe that we can be a lone goose and do it all on our own, that we can live and be successful all on our own. That didn’t work out so well for Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, it didn’t work out so well for the Israelite children of God in the wilderness, and it didn’t work so well for certain Old Testament judges and kings. When scanning the pages of the Bible and history in general, being a lone goose never turns well in the end.
But here’s the thing … we are not alone. In the midst of our suffering, in the midst of rejoicing, in the midst of everyday life, not only do we have the other parts of the body with us, we have the head, we have One who goes with us who has been there and done that. A month ago we celebrated the awesome event of God being born in a human body in the person of Jesus. Jesus came in order to save his people from their sins (Matt. 1:21), but he also came to be Immanuel, the God who is with us. Jesus through his earthly life experienced everything we have ever experienced and then some. Jesus knows what it is like to suffer, He knows what it is like to hurt from a broken relationship, and He definitely knows what it is like to lose a loved one. God the Father is also able to sympathize with us as He watched His one and only Son whom he loved suffer and die.
Not only does God know what it is like to suffer … He knows what it is like to rejoice. God rejoiced at the resurrection of Jesus because it was through that vicious death and victorious resurrection in which you and me and all of God’s children receive the precious gifts of the forgiveness of our sins, the promise of eternal life, and the great joy of being a part of the body of Christ.
The Bible also says that there is much rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents (Luke 15:7a). God rejoices as lost sinners are brought to the saving grace of knowing and believing in Jesus as their Savior. The mission of the church, the mission of the body of Christ which you and I make up is simply this … to use our hands and feet, our lips and voices, to use all of our body to help bring the lost and erring into an eternal fellowship with our Savior Jesus Christ. We are all in this together, so with the help of God’s love and the Holy Spirit, may we do this to the glory and honor of God alone. Amen.