Pentecost 12 – What’s YOUR Part of Christ’s Body? – August 23, 2020

What’s Your Part of Christ’s Body?

On Wednesday of this week, we had to make the difficult decision to suspend operations of Emmanuel Day School.  So much has changed during COVID time, and many parents had very understandably decided that it was safer to homeschool or teach in small neighborhood “pods.”  Like so many other changes since the pandemic began — social distancing, face masks, temperature checks, restaurant and beach capacity limitations — this is a huge change for us.  And change — especially change that seems to limit or take away things we have loved and enjoyed — feels sad and disappointing.

#EDSChalkPicture            We will all miss our EDS colleagues — Carissa Perkowski, Kate Frantz, Terri Traeger, and Sarah Evans — and their care, dedication, and creativity.  And I will miss having a front row seat in my office to EDS recess out on the church lawn.  The unbridled joy of those children — as they ran, jumped, explored, poured mud all over their clothes, and learned — is their own form of worship, and watching it has been mine.

The school has been filled for decades with children’s voices, and its space — still watched over by the giraffe tent and the giant inflatable right whale given by “Mr. Steve,” as the children affectionately called Steve MacAusland — is empty and quiet.  This coming week, the teachers will pack up the school for safekeeping for this next year, and as they do that, we grieve the loss of the way things were.

Part of Our Body Is Missing

When things change like this — when something we have grown to love as a part of us isn’t there any more — it can feel like a huge loss.  It can even feel like part of us — part of our body — is missing.  And it is.  And we grieve that loss.  Sometimes it’s difficult at first to see new possibilities when our eyes and hearts are clouded by disappointment and grief.  But our faith, hope, and creativity can open our eyes to new possibilities.  We have great resources among us in our community at Emmanuel.

Our epistle today from Paul’s Letter to the Romans is right on point.  The Apostle Paul likely wrote the Letter to the Romans to encourage the Christians in Rome after an experience of disappointment or tension in their community.

#EDS           In his letter, Paul tells the Romans to think clearly and seriously about the community’s greatest assets:  the spiritual gifts of the people themselves.  They themselves are Christ’s body on earth, Paul tells the Romans, and each of them has a special role to play in the community’s future.  We can do this together! Paul tells them.  First off, Paul tells them, each of you — each of you — is holy, and God loves you!  So gear up.  You’ve got this, he says.  And what you do every single day to help this community in your own way is sacred — a living sacrifice, as Paul says it.  So don’t get all discouraged by events in the world, but see things in a new way, Paul says.  Here’s our translation of Paul’s words:

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God– what is good and acceptable and perfect.

Then Paul gets right to the pain we feel today at the loss of Emmanuel Day School — feeling like we’re missing part of our own body.  Because we are.  We are one body in Christ.  Paul says:

For as in one body we have many members, and not all the members have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually we are members one of another. We have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us: prophecy, in proportion to faith; ministry, in ministering; the teacher, in teaching; the exhorter, in exhortation; the giver, in generosity; the leader, in diligence; the compassionate, in cheerfulness.

We Can Do It Together

And I know that at Emmanuel — which itself means God with uswe can do it together.  We all have different roles to play!  Which one is yours?  Foresight, worship, teaching, encouraging others, service, leadership, or pastoral care?

#OurPlace            Your vestry is thinking through Emmanuel’s spiritual gifts now.  What are our spiritual gifts in this body of Christ?  At our regular vestry meeting Tuesday, we had a presentation from Valerie Martin, our Assistant Treasurer, from the Stewardship Committee chaired by Susan Barnes.  Members of the Stewardship Committee have taken a Spiritual Gifts survey to identify their own spiritual gifts — to figure out how they can best serve our body of Christ.  Their enthusiasm was really infectious, and now the vestry will all do the Spiritual Gifts inventory too.

Yes, we are sad that EDS, a part of our body of Christ at Emmanuel Church, has suspended operations this year.  And we mourn that loss.  And the most hopeful, prayerful, constructive way we can work through our grief is to think and talk and study and pray about what part each of us plays in Emmanuel’s body of Christ — each one of us is a different part of the body.  And each one of us has a role to play.

Reach out to your vestry members, or to me, for a copy of the Spiritual Gifts inventory, and take the survey.  Which spiritual gift is yours?  Foresight, worship, teaching, encouraging others, service, leadership, or pastoral care?

I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God– what is good and acceptable and perfect.