We are the Body

Scripture: Colossians 1:3-23

One of the things that many people know about me is that I like to play games.   That’s a bit of an understatement.   I love to play games.   My single most played game of all time is a game called Warhammer: Invasion.   I have played this game hundreds and hundreds of times.   I was also extremely competitive in this game.   I competed in and won national tournaments.   One of the things that I really enjoyed about this game is that it was customizable.   From a pool of thousands of possible cards, I would pick the sixty I wanted to use in my deck.   The game is fun to play, but the real fun came from spending hours trying to craft the best decks, figuring out just what cards would contribute the maximum impact to the team I was putting together.   I am not the only one to find this fun.   There are several games of this nature, and the customizable card game market is one that makes $2.1 billion annually.   However, the fun of customizing a deck and creating a team is not just limited to card game fans.    The same appeal is found in fantasy sports.    Fantasy football is growing in popularity.  Last year 56.8 million Americans participated in fantasy football, which is more than double the participants from 2009.    In Fantasy sports players pick athletes from across the league to fill their team, and then they get points based on how well the people they drafted or traded for actually do.  I think the appeal of fantasy sports is very similar to the appeal of CCGs like Warhammer Invasion.   There is something very fun about picking and crafting what you hope will be the perfect team.   It is extremely satisfying when it works the way it is supposed to and you win.    Taking on the architect or coach role and putting the pieces together to achieve our desired effect, is something that has broad appeal across a wide variety of lines.  

             Perhaps one of the reasons for this is, because the scriptures seem to hint that God finds this concept appealing as well.   This morning’s scripture mentions the church as the body of Christ.  This is not the only scripture to do so.   Corinthians, Romans, and Ephesians also make this very same analogy about the church being Christ body and Jesus himself being the head.   Given that this imagery shows up multiple times in different places, it is clearly something that is important and it is something we should be paying attention to.    The other scriptures such as what is found in 1 Corinthians and Romans go into more detail about what the various roles of the body are and how the body functions.   The emphasis here in Colossians is different.    The point being made in this scripture, is that God through Christ has chosen us to be part of the body.   Just like a card is selected for a deck or a player is drafted for a fantasy team is handpicked, we have been selected by the Creator himself for our part in the body.   By fully exploring this scripture we can get a better understanding of what our role in the team known as the body of Christ is supposed to be.  

            This morning’s scripture is similar to a lot of Paul’s writings in the bible.  At first glance it sounds really good, it sounds very powerful, and it sounds so very spiritual.   However, when we dwell upon it, we find his words a little hard to unpack because each sentence is so very dense with meaning.   That is in part what is happening here with this scripture.   It may not be very clear at first glance, but there is an incredibly deep, theologically sound, and awe-inspiring explanation of just what the Christian gospel is.   It starts in verse 12 where Paul writes that God the Father has qualified us for the inheritance of his holy people.   Paul goes on to write in verse 13: “For he has rescued us from the dominion of darknessand brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.”   Paul goes on to methodically establish how in a very real spiritual sense Jesus is qualified to be the one who reconciles us with God.   Paul states in verse 20 that this is done “by making peace through his blood shed on the cross.”   Paul concludes this thought in verse 21: “Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior but now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body.”    To simplify all of this to something that can fit on twitter, we could tweet the gospel like this:   “Our evilness separates us from God. Jesus took the punishment we deserve for being bad, in order to reunite us with God the father. #blessed”

            That is the gospel.   That is the basic message that we proclaim and that all Christians claim to be absolute, vital, life giving truth.     One of the things that is so amazing about this morning’s scripture is how personal it is.   The message of salvation through Jesus is presented in some dense, theological language in this scripture, but it is not given as an impersonal textbook definition.   Notice how often it is personalized to the individual this scripture is:  “The Father has qualified you”; He has rescued us; we have redemption and the forgiveness of sins; he has reconciled you by Christ physical body.”    The most amazing truth of the gospel, is not that God so love the world that he sent his only son.   It is that God so love you, God so loved me, that he is sent his only son, that if we believe in him then we will have eternal life.”    What makes the gospel so humbling is that we, to some degree, are chosen.   We had to still say “yes” to God’s yes, but God pursued us, God wooed us, and God wanted us-each and every one of us to be part of the body of Christ.  

            If we are the body, then what do we do?    This is a question that we overthink quite a bit.    We can get stuck on trying to figure it out, but the answer is deceptively simple.   If we are the body of Christ, we do what Jesus did.   We have compassion on the multitudes, we proclaim the kingdom of God is near, we challenge self-righteousness, we show special care to the poor and vulnerable, we treat unloved sinners in a way that is radically loving.    We love other people with such a degree of selflessness and passion that we are willing to go to any lengths to reunite them with the source of all love, God the Father.   Simple right?  

            We are the body.  We have been chosen by God, redeemed by Christ, and empowered by the Holy Spirit.   However, we are still imperfect beings.   We tire quickly, we get distracted easily, and we lose clarity fast.    When it comes to being the body of Christ, we tend to know what to do.  We are often at a loss on how to do it.    That is why this morning’s scripture begins with a prayer.   Paul stated that he has not stopped praying for the church in Colossae.   He prayed continually that God would “fill you with the knowledge of his will, through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to this glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience.” 

            That is a tall order to fill.   If as just one person we sought to live up to that prayer, it would be daunting.   We would very quickly feel overwhelmed and burn out.   Fortunately, we are not all supposed to do all of that on our own.   It is not, “I am the body” or “you are the body”.  It is “we are the body.”   Each and every one of us have been called to the Christian life by God.   Just like a card is picked for a deck or an athlete drafted for a fantasy team, we have been selected to be part of the body, and when we all fulfill our role, when everything comes together, then we win and we win big.  

            We can see how this works in real life in just one aspect of our church ministry.   Many of you know that youth ministry is a real passion of mine.   This evening we will have youth group,   this building will be blessed by teenagers from the community who will come here, and we will seek to teach those teens who Jesus is and how they can better follow him.   However, our youth ministry is not just me in a room of teens because we are the body and our youth ministry is the work of the body.    I will be the one teaching the lesson tonight, but in order to successfully implement it, I need additional volunteers up there with me.   We can only offer a youth ministry because so many people have used their gifts.   Not that long ago we had a major electrical issue in the youth room, and members of this church family spent a lot of time fixing it so that the room would be ready to go.    In addition to that, from time to time members of the church family graciously clean that space, because even if teenagers are trying to pick up after themselves they tend to still be messy.    There are others who have volunteered to make pizzas that we can serve the youth every week.   Many of those ways of making this ministry happen were behind the scenes, but they were still involved in tangible hands on ways.   There are also those of you who support our youth ministry through your faithful gifts of stewardship.   Because of the way you give financially, you ensure we have the funds available to make the ministry happen.   Finally and perhaps most importantly, I know that several of you regularly pray for our youth ministry and pray for some of the students by name.   Over the years, there have been young people who have come to know Jesus and claim the faith as their own because of our youth ministry.   This is not the result of any one person, but it is the result of God at work in the world.  It is a result of our Lord and Savior Jesus the Christ working through is body, and we are the body.  

            Youth ministry is just one example of how we work as the body of Christ.  There are many ways to follow God’s will and live a worthy life.  There are many good works that we can bear fruit in.  Remember, you (yes, you!) have been qualified to share in the inheritance of God’s holy people, and you have been rescued from the dominion of darkness.   God wanted you, on God’s team.   There is absolutely a reason for that.   There is a reason why God wanted all of us.   Each and every one of us have a part to play in the body of Christ, and our part is all equally vital and important.    There is a perfect combination of spiritual fruit, gifts, passion, and power that you possess that no one else in this congregation has.   There are ways that you can work and share to proclaim the gospel that saves us all in a way that not everyone can.    There will always be more work to do for God’s kingdom in this world than we can handle, but as a congregation we can do more.  Until each and every one us is fully engaged in being the body of Christ and fulfilling our unique spot in that body, there is more we can do.  

            May you know, cherish, and claim the gospel of Jesus Christ that saves us.   May you be willing to proclaim and work towards the proclamation of that good news!   If you are still searching for how you fit in the body of Christ, then let’s sit down together sometime and have a chat about it.  If fulfilling your role requires us as a church family to do something new, then let’s try it.   If it will help us collectively live like and better embody Jesus, then it is absolutely worth trying.   May we continue in our faith, being established and firm and not moving from the hope held out in the gospel.   May we seek to truly be the body of Christ.