31 Maple Street
Bristol, Connecticut USA
January 13, 2019
1 Corinthians 12:12-27
Rev. Kristen J. Kleiman
The Church is Christ’s body. You might have heard that metaphor before, but when the Apostle Paul wrote it two thousand years ago, it was a pretty novel idea, an idea that helped this newly forming Christian community find clarity about who they were and what they were called by God to do.
Two thousand years later, the Church (with a capital C) continues to clarify who we are and what we are called by God to do.
Over the next three sermons, I am going to be sharing metaphors for the church. Some of them will be Biblical; some of them will be familiar; and some of them will be creative, mind-stretching, out of the box ones like the church as a big red umbrella – or the church as a Lego. All of them will help us clarify who we are as Christians and what God calls us to do.
When Paul wrote to the divided, conflict ridden Christian community in Corinth, Greece, he was using the metaphor of the church as a body to help the Corinthians see themselves as connected, connected to God and connected to one another. Paul used this metaphor to highlight that not only are Christians connected, we need each other, for “the body does not consist of one member but of many” (1 Corinthians 12:14). We need to care for one another because just like when we have a cold or a headache or a torn ligament, when “one member suffers, all suffer together with it; [and] if one member is honored, all rejoice together with it.” (1 Corinthians 12:26)
The body is a great metaphor for the church. In the way of good metaphors, it is rich and many layered, getting to the heart of our purpose as followers of Jesus Christ: connected, called to care for one another, called to share our unique gifts in service of God’s vision.
The body is a great metaphor for the church; however we have sometimes added an unhelpful meaning to the church being a body. We have come to see the body of Christ as a Lego, today’s Legos. (show Lego built set: Car & Robot dog)
If you are unfamiliar with the Legos of today, they are more like models than the Legos of years ago. You open up the package, follow the instructions, and build one specific “body”.
This was actually the inspiration for the plot of the Lego Movie that came out in 2014. The evil villain is trying to super glue the Lego World so that Master Builders will never again be able to take it apart and use their imaginations to build something else.
In a way, we have come to see the church that way – as super glued together in this one particular way, no changing, no rearranging, no using our imaginations to respond to God’s still speaking voice.
There is a certain comfort in seeing the church as a complete, non-changing body. We know who is in and who is out; we know how the body should function; and what it should look like.
There is a certain comfort in the church being a Lego model that can never and will never change; however it is also a fib. Everything, including human bodies do not stay the same forever. So why do we pretend that the body of Christ will never change, that we will always have these exact members, this committee structure, this way of doing ministry. When we strive to keep everything the same, we become more focused on maintaining this institution than focused on who we are as Christians and what God is calling us to do.
What if, though, what if…we saw the church as a bunch of Legos and not a completed body or model?
Then we could move pieces. Use our imaginations to build something new (Unique sculpture) and then if we didn’t like it, if it didn’t work, then we could just take it apart and try something else, do something else – something that would serve God’s mission of love better.
If the church was a bunch of Legos, we could experiment and try different church organizational structures, structures that allow us to be nimble and flexible as we respond to the changing needs of ministry and our neighbors in need. We could begin new styles of worship; we could try new ministries – and it wouldn’t be so scary because we would know that “failure” simply means more time to play and get it right.
If we saw the church as Legos, we would also see that there is always room for more connection. Even in a finished Lego model, you can always add one more Lego in, always make room for one more person, always make room for one more ministry partner.
If we saw the church as Legos, we might connect with partners in ministry that we never thought of before – with other churches – to share Confirmation classes or youth ministries as our sister UCC churches are doing in the Granby area, or to share in men and women’s retreats, or even to build a foundation that supports the needs of men and boys in the Bristol area or to connect with other faith communities to house homeless families.
There would be no end of the good we could do if we opened our eyes to all of the ways we can connect and build out the church. Our partners in ministry might expand beyond the religious – to secular people and organizations that are doing the work of God without calling it the work of God. The public library, Prudence Crandall, the United Way, Bristol’s Boys & Girls Club, Bristol’s Senior Center and Commission for Persons with Disabilities, the School Readiness Council, Bristol Hospital’s Parent & Child Center or Hospice ministry. There would be no end of the good we could do if we opened our eyes to all of the ways we can connect and build out the church.
The church is a body: connected, called to care for one another, called to share our different gifts in service of God’s vision. And the church is Legos – called to be adaptable and imaginative, called to make room for others to become a part, and called to make connections, to create partnerships that we might fulfill Christ’s call to fulfill God’s kingdom of peace, hope, justice, and love here on earth.