N.B. This is pretty much what I preached on Sunday, although obviously, I have changed it a little bit to fit with it being posted on a blog as opposed to spoken in church. The service was all about being the body of Christ, and the young people did so well, bless them. I loved seeing how much they have all grown and changed since I started working with them last September, as many have commented on my development since I started working here. For sure... I would not have been preaching last September.
"We are the body of Christ. We are the Church. We are a group of people travelling together. We are men, women and children of all ages, races and societies supporting one another on our long, and often tiring journeys to our final home. When we share together in communion, eating and drinking the bread and wine, we become that one body. Through the visible, outward sign of the inner grace we experience, we become more than a team, a group or even a fellowship. We become the one body of Christ, the Living Lord, present in the world.
The church is holy, and sinful. It is spotless and it is tainted. The church is the bride of Christ, washed in cleansing water and made one with Him. The church too, is a group of sinful, confused and anguished people constantly tempted by the powers of lust and greed and always entangled in rivalry and competition. When we say that the church is a body, and we too, are part of that, we refer not only to the Holy and faultless body made Christ-like through baptism and communion, but also to the broken bodies of all the people who are its members.
The church is that unlikely body of people through whom God chooses to reveal His love for us. Just as it seems unlikely to many people that God chose to become human using a young girl living in a small, not very respected town in the Middle East over 2000 years ago, it seems even more unlikely to a whole lot more people that God chose to continue His work of salvation in a community of people constantly torn apart by arguments, prejudices, authority conflicts and power games.
In the past the Church has made enough mistakes. We have a history of violence and controversy, judgement and manipulation of people and ideas, as well as constantly recurring divisions to overcome before we can begin to spread the message that Christ has set in our hearts. We need to believe that despite the flaws of every single one of us, as Christ’s body we carry in our centre the Word of God and God’s healing love. In the midst of our human brokenness, the Church needs to present the broken body of Christ to the world as food for eternal life! Because in a world where sin is abundant, grace is superabundant, and where promises are broken over and again, God’s promise stands unshaken.
The grace of God, overspills, flowing further and wider and deeper than the sin that so easily entangles each part of us, as broken members of one body. But by putting Jesus at the centre of our lives, we can gather together and become one whole body, spotless and Holy. Through one spirit and one baptism, we gather together with one hope, and Christ’s one sacrifice is enough! When we have faith that Jesus lives within us, we realise that he also lives among us and makes us into a body of people witnessing together to the presence of Christ in this world.
Every single one of us needs God’s grace. Our children and young people need to learn about it, the people out there in our town, country and world need to hear about it. And just as much, every single one of us needs to accept it. Every single one of us can have God’s grace. It is not something we can earn - it is a gift that we receive. Not because of the good things we may have done, but because of Christ’s love for us. That he died, and he poured out his blood, and washed our broken and sinful bodies clean.
Grace is a gift that when realised and accepted, changes lives. God’s grace is completely sufficient, because he pours it upon our heads day after day after day. He showers us with love and acceptance every time we realise it. It conquers our insecurities, and it wipes the stain of our sin from our lives. So that we can stand and say we are members of Christ’s body. There will be people who need to accept the grace that God is offering to them today. Maybe for the first time, maybe for the hundreth time. Because no matter how many times in the past you have screwed it up and made mistakes, God is offering you his forgiveness. You just have to decide whether or not to take it."
"Just as our bodies have many parts and each part has a special function, so it is with Christ’s body. We are many parts of one body, and we all belong to each other. In his grace, God has given us different gifts for doing certain things well. So if God has given you the ability to prophesy, speak out with as much faith as God has given you."
Romans 12:4-6 [NLT]