“There are many parts yet one body.” 1 Corinthians 12:20
This Sunday we talked about ”Why Church? For Community.” (You can watch the worship service here.) Paul, who wrote the letter we know as 1 Corinthians in the Bible, gives us this metaphor of the physical body to understand the church community, the literal body of Christ. We know that all parts of the body are unique and necessary to make our physical bodies function. So it is with the church – if one part of our community is missing or harmed or left out, we are incomplete.
So often we’ve sanitized this metaphor, made it cute and fun. But think about our own physical bodies. Sometimes they are fascinating, sometimes they are boring, sometimes they are painful, sometimes they are gross, sometimes they are worrisome, sometimes they stink. Sometimes our bodies betray us, they fail us, they break and break down, they surprise us, they are more beautiful than we can imagine.
In other words, our bodies and the church are exactly alike.
But what happens if we don’t like part of our body? We can’t just get rid of it, can we? We might exercise to make our body stronger or cut our hair into a new style or paint our fingernails but we can’t change the composition of our physical body.
Our bodies and the church are exactly alike.
In the coming days, our worldwide church body, The United Methodist Church, will gather in St. Louis to talk about the future of our denomination, particularly how the UMC will approach human sexuality. The presenting issue of the conference is the differing understandings of human sexuality and life of the church. To clunkily extend the metaphor, we’re going to vote on if every part of the body of Christ – particularly the queer parts and their allies – is an honored, full part of our body, the body of Christ, the church.
We’re going to hear terrible things said about the people we are and the people we love. We will hear people say they love the sinner and hate the sin. We’ll hear folks bat about Bible verses, many taken out of context. We’ll hear boring conversations about property and pensions. We’ll see weeping and singing and maybe even marching.
What we will see, I’m afraid, are people deciding if some parts of our body are expendable. Can some parts be cast off or set aside or cut off?
But friends, we know what happens when we ignore or amputate or refuse to care for part of our physical bodies, don’t we? The whole body atrophies. The whole body becomes infected. The whole body is weakened.
So how, then, can we consider doing the same to the body of Christ?
“Christ is just like the human body. A body is a unit and has many parts; and all the parts of the body are one body, even though these are many. We were all baptized by one Spirit into the one body whether Jew or Greek, or slave or free, and we all were given one Spirit to drink.” (1 Corinthians 12:12-13)
A body is one made up of many parts. We, the church, is made up of many parts.
Friends, we can’t ignore or amputate or refuse to care for our queer siblings and friends and their allies. Because we are part of the body – part of Christ’s body, part of the church. We are all one in Christ Jesus.
Those of us who are queer and queer allies are strong and beautiful and integral to the body of Christ.
We are strong like legs and carry the gospel to marginalized communities.
We are precious like the eye, small but powerful, and can take in far more than the space we take up.
We are creative like our brains, giving and receiving pleasure and creating beauty and sparking new life.
No matter what happens next week in global United Methodism, here’s what I promise you from Two Rivers Church, a United Methodist community.
We will still be here every week, just like we always have.
We will not waver from full inclusion of our queer siblings and friends and their allies at every level of our community, just like we always have.
We will offer opportunities for care
We will explain to you what happened and what it means for our community going forward.
We will still be a place for ALL to belong – no exceptions. Because we are one – one in the body of Christ.