- The Washington Times - Monday, June 3, 2002

The following are excerpts from a sermon given yesterday by the Rev. Kerry L. Stoltzfus at Potomac Presbyterian Church in Potomac:

Let me use baseball to paraphrase Paul's words in 1 Corinthians [12:12-31]. He speaks of the church as the body of Christ, with its many parts.
In the same way, what would you think of a pitcher who said, "I have no need of you, shortstop?" The left fielder says, "I have no need of you, pinch hitter." Or what about: "I'm a future hall-of-famer, I have no need of you, batboy?"
It is, of course, ridiculous for any player to think of seceding from the team. Teams win when everyone does their part, and all receive the glory. When Paul wrote in the ancient world, the body was commonly used to illustrate philosophical themes. Ordinarily, speakers used it to argue that lower members of the body were meant to serve the higher, more honorable parts. Now, that works really well if you happen to be one of the honored members.
Has anyone seen the fabulous movie "My Big Fat Greek Wedding?" Throughout the movie, the father explains how everything important goes back to the Greeks. This was not in the movie, but do you think the Greeks invented the term "most valuable player?" I will come back to that.
In Corinthians, Paul takes the body image and uses it opposite to the rhetoric of the day. He says that every member is essential to a right functioning of the body. He is the first egalitarian. Now, in regard to Paul and women, in my view, a few isolated texts have been misused, ripped out of context to oppose ordination of women. In a hyper-class-conscious society, Paul defied conventional wisdom. His view was that, "There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female. All are one in Christ."
Two themes emerge from Paul's words in Corinthians. When he speaks of an eye not needing a hand, we see this bizarre cartoon of a huge single eye with a tiny body. Instead, Paul is talking about a diversity of roles. Pitchers are not expected to be top hitters. Clean-up hitters don't take the mound in late innings. Trainers do not come to the plate as pinch-hitters.
Second, Paul speaks of interdependence. This applies to parts of the body, but also the extraordinary link of body and mind. We forget that great physical feats use strategy and concentration. In fact, a team's excelling in the mental parts of a game is the most impressive. They said Larry Bird of the Boston Celtics could envision what was about to happen, and he passed accordingly.
Interdependence means there is no "most valuable player" in the body of the Christ. The Greeks might have invented the idea, and Americans today may love it, but the body of Christ has no such thing.
The emotional side of life the working together of body, mind and spirit often is why a team wins. The losing side says, "They wanted it more than we did." To excel, a team needs talent, but there is much more. In the Christian life, we may not have the most talent or the best preaching but a God-given will brings astounding results.
Our measure of success is the quality of response to God, not the quantity of suffering. Paul concludes by saying all parts of the body deserve respect. Physical beauty attracts admiring attention. But who of us will trade that for the steady beating of the heart, or the proper function of the humble digestive system.
The spirit of God is what makes the body of Christ one. Given our desires in a me-first culture, it may not be easy to be part of an interdependent team. But we are invited to join. Each time we close our worship, we affirm that God calls us together. Of course, we will have teammates we like and ones we don't like as much.
But nowhere in the New Testament does it say that a sole individual is the body of Christ. Only believers together. Thus my sermon title, "Do Not Attempt This Alone."

Next week: a sermon at a D.C. congregation.


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