For we have many members in one body, and all members have not the same office: so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another. Romans 12:5
If you are around St. James very long, sooner or later I will correspond with you, by mail or by email. You may notice that most often, my closing salutation is, “Yours in Christ,” or, “In Christ.” That closing references our relation to one another much like ending a letter with, “Yours truly,” or “Your friend,” it expresses the connection I perceive with you. I deliberately use the word relation verses relationship, because I believe it to be a more accurate description of our relationship. In the Epistle to the Romans, the Apostle Paul says that we are, “…one body in Christ.” That is more than merely a relationship. We are, more than friends, we are by baptism and membership, a family, a relation in blood, in Christ’s blood spilled on the cross to save us sinners, and so in Christ, we are one body, everyone members one of another.
Over four weeks, including this week, the Epistle readings cover the twelfth and thirteenth chapter’s of Paul’s Epistle to the Romans. These chapters first tell us that we are members together in Christ, and then exhort and instruct on how to be member’s of Christ’s body. I will preach a mini-series, so to speak, on these Epistle lessons over the next four weeks.
This is also a period where we work together as a body. Today is a vestry meeting, next week our Parish Annual meeting, both are important aspects of how this small body of Christ goes about its business. You will also notice that in my weekly email updates I am asking you to pray for the Church. That is true, and I ask the same of you today, right now and later in the Holy Intentions before the Prayer for the Whole state of Christ’s Church.
Before Christ ascended into heaven, he gathered his disciples and instructed them to go to Jerusalem, and there the Father would send the Comforter. They went and prayed, the Holy Spirit came upon them and the work of the Christian Church, the Body of Christ, began at Pentecost. Before there was preaching, before there was evangelism to the Jews and the Gentiles, before Matthias was named the twelfth Apostle, before they cared for the poorer and weaker members of their community, they prayed, so today I exhort you to do the same, to pray prior to the work of the Church.
It is a fitting time at St. James to preach on being One Body in Christ.
In this week’s Epistle, the Apostle Paul states,
“Be not conformed to this world, but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect will of God.” Romans 12:1
One of the distinctive characteristics of Christ’s Body is that we are not conformed by the world. We should not be shaped by or overly conform to the culture of the world. Instead, we should be transformed by continuously seeking the good, acceptable, and perfect will of God. In Epiphany we celebrate or Lord’s manifestation, his shining forth as the new Sun of Righteousness, the light which shines in the darkness, the light which all this world’s darkness can never overcome. “For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” (2 Corinthians 4.6) That is the theme of the Epiphany: the shining forth of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ, who is “the power of God and the wisdom of God.” (1 Corinthians 1.24).
In today’s Gospel lesson for this Sunday, we read how Christ’s divine wisdom shines forth. “He is the power of God and the wisdom of God”, he is the wisdom of God, and we are invited to consider that today: Christ as the Epiphany of the wisdom of God.
In the Epistles of St. Paul, the wisdom of God contrasts with the wisdom of this world, or the wisdom of this present age: “For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved, it is the power of God. For it is written, ‘I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the cleverness of the clever I will thwart. ‘Where is the wise man? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. For Jews demand signs, and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, the weakness of God is stronger than men.” St. Paul makes this statement about Christ as God’s Wisdom in 1 Corinthians 1.19-25.
His point is that the enfleshment of God in Christ, his suffering and dying for our salvation, is a fact that stands in contradiction to all worldly wisdom, to all worldly calculation and expectation, in contradiction to all the schemes our cleverness might devise. The wisdom of God, in Christ, breaks in upon us as a contradiction, and gives us a new knowledge; a new starting-point or perspective. Our life as Christians is radically dependent upon that knowledge, that revelation of divine wisdom. Paul says in today’s Epistle, “Be not conformed to this world (to the wisdom of this present age), but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind.”
The temptations to conformity are ever with us. The spirit of the age presses in upon us; the claims of expediency, of common-sense, of majority opinion (or majority sentiment) seem often very strong indeed; and we as individuals, and we as a Christian community, often find ourselves puzzled and confused as to just what is “that good and acceptable, and perfect will of God.” All too often, we are mindlessly carried along by the spirit of the age, blown in different directions by the winds of this world’s teaching.
But the wisdom of God, the mystery hidden from the foundation of the world, is now manifest in Christ, “For he has made known to us in all wisdom and insight the mystery of his will, according to his purpose which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.” (Ephesians 1.9-10) And that wisdom is ours, to believe, and to understand, and to make our own, by the renewing of our mind, that we may prove what is God’s will.
The tendency of our age, the wisdom of this world, and the temptation of the Church, is towards mindless and vain activity, towards expediency, towards faddish and fashionable innovation. The Apostle Paul today exhorts us “Be not conformed.”
The Incarnate Lord, the enfleshed word of God shines forth as a light in the darkness; and despite all the perplexities, confusions and perversities of the world, the darkness can never overcome the light of Christ. Let us then look to that light which is “the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” (2 Corinthians 4.6) May our minds be renewed in that vision. “Lighten our darkness, we beseech thee, O Lord.” Amen. +