Third Sunday after Epiphany
1 Corinthians 12:22-25
The Rev. Leonard Oakes
“The Miraculous works of the Body of Christ”
Luke the evangelist is known to us as a physician, one who has the ability of understanding the physical needs of a person. In most of the readings in Luke, it highlights the Christ of mercy (one who reaches out to the poor, the outcasts, foreigners and women).
In the Gospel this morning, Luke tells us, that after Jesus was baptized by John, he was filled with the Holy Spirit and returned to Galilee and began to teach in the synagogue. When he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, he went to synagogue on the Sabbath day, as was his custom. He stood up to read the scroll of the prophet Isaiah where it is written, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.
In these few words we see in a nutshell how Jesus, in Luke, understands his mission in the world. “to bring good news to the poor, to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
Then he began to say to them, “Today, this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”
It is not a coincidence that we started our year by reaching out to the poor, the uninsured and the less fortunate in our society through our health and wellness program.
It is not an accident that what we have dreamed together will be fulfilled in our own hearing, today.
So I have a statement to make today: Today, the spirit of The Lord is upon us, because he has anointed us to bring good news to the poor, to the less fortunate in our society. He has sent us to proclaim release to the captives from loneliness and anxieties and those who lost hope for a help are now ready to recover from years of blindness of the possibilities of attaining hope. We have come together to hallow this ground and proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor. Yes, today, the word of The Lord has been fulfilled in our hearing because we are all filled with the power of the Spirit and the report of what we have started to bring to the community together quickly spread through all the surrounding county and community. Praise The Lord, you angels of His, in all His dominion, praise The Lord. This statement can not be a rhetoric for it all started when we dreamed together on how we can bring the kingdom of God here and now.
Let me walk you through on how we all came to this reality together. We all began with a prayer, a prayer that was promulgated by the words of Micah when he said, “What does The Lord require of you but to seek justice, to love mercy and walk humbly with God”
Our prayer was supplemented with our common goal of opening our doors where we don’t wait for people to come and enter but rather an invitation for us to go out and reach out to those who are living in the dark, to shed a little light of love that penetrates their homes, so that they too, will know that we care to make a difference, that the only duty we have in this world is to love and be loved.
Our prayers grew as the spirit of God slowly shines in our hearts to extend our compassion to all. Angels, one by one slowly emerge in our midst and the heart of many are moved and empowered. Together, we have made our connections with institutions that know the needs of the less fortunate. We have made our connections with people who like us, are compassionate and loving. And yet we continue to dream, we hold it as self evident that “To relieve the distressed is a duty incumbent on all good persons who are linked together by an indissoluble chain of sincere affection. To soothe the unhappy, to sympathize with their misfortunes, to compassionate with their miseries and to restore peace to their troubled minds, is the great aim we have in view. On this basis, we form our friendship and establish our connections.”
Yet we continue to dream. We dream that one day, the ministry that we started together and blessed by God Almighty, will flourish like a fresh seed that blooms like a fruitful tree where people can find love so overflowing.
We dream that when we subdue our passions and continuously improve our relationship together by overcoming all our differences and pride, we will get to where we are headed, where harmony and love are overflowing and our lights continue to shine so that God will be glorified.
Jesus surely knew his goals and he was resolved to meet them. So, we too, are resolved to continue to walk with this journey together and meet the goal God has set for us to do, that is to spread the message where the only job in the whole world is to love and be loved. It is our common goal that all the body of Christ will live in harmony to follow what God wants us to be.
Today is our annual meeting. We exercise our ministry in discerning leaders whom we deem fit to represent the members in the Bishop Committee and the appointment of key people in the different committee chairs. I would like to ask you all to be part in this miracle of love and service by prayers and participation. We are all in this together. We are all called as the body of Christ to move forward and aim at the realization of the kingdom of God in this vineyard.
There is a fable about every member of the community, including those who appear to be useless, are important after all. Once upon a time, the various parts of the body began complaining against the stomach. “Look at me,” says the hand, “I till the soil to plant the seeds, I harvest the crops, I prepare the food. All that the stomach ever does is lie there waiting to be fed. This is unfair.” The feet agreed, “Me too, I carry the heavy stomach around all day, I carry him to the farm to get food, I carry him to the river to get water, I even carry him up the palm tree to get palm wine, and all the stomach ever does is lie there and expect to get his ration of food, water and wine whenever he needs them. This is unfair.” The head, too complained how he carries all the heavy load from the farm and from the river, all to feed the stomach who does nothing to help. The parts of the body decided that this injustice must stop. To force the issue, they decided to embark on a protest action. They agreed to stop working and feeding the lazy stomach until the stomach learns to be a responsible citizen of the body. A whole day went by and the stomach was not given any food or water or wine. All that the stomach did was groan from time to time while the others taunted him. By the second day of starving the stomach, the head said that he was beginning to feel dizzy. By the third day, the hands reported that they were feeling weak, and the feet were wobbly and could not stand straight. Then it dawned on them that, much as they were visibly supporting the stomach, the stomach was also supporting them in a less obvious but equally important way. It dawned on them that by feeding the stomach they were feeding themselves without knowing it. So they called off their strike action and went back to work to feed the stomach. Their strength returned and together with the stomach they lived happily together after.
Each of us has a part in the grand plan of the Almighty God. Each of us is making a vital contribution, even those who appear to do nothing. Paul, in the 2nd reading, makes a similar point.
The members of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable. Those members of the body that we think less honorable are clothed with greater honor, and our less respectable members are treated with greater respect; whereas our more respectable members do not need this. God has so arranged the body, giving the greater honor to the inferior member, that there may be no dissension within the body.
There was a priest who had a very able and gifted man in his Parish. If you wanted anything done, and done well, give it to this man. One day the Priest called him and gave him another assignment. This man could not bear it any longer? “My Lord,” he said, “Am I the only person in the parish? Why must every work be given to me while there are some people there doing absolutely nothing? The wise priest said to him, “Would you want me to pray so that no one ever calls on you to do anything again?” The man got the point. He would not like to trade places with the less gifted members of the parish who could not complete an assignment. From then on he stopped complaining and was happy to put his talents to work for the common good.
Today the word of God challenges us to give up that secret pleasure we get by comparing ourselves with others and thinking that other people are inferior. No part of the human body is inferior. In the same way, no member of the church community should be regarded as inferior. God has given each one of us different gifts, different opportunities, different job descriptions in life. Our concern should be to try to be faithful to the grace that God gives us day by day. On the last day, God will tell us who did more than the other. And, oh, what a surprise that would be!
To all loving members, friends and supporters of Holy Child and St. Martin, open your hearts, minds and lips, for today, the Holy Spirit is upon us and the Glory of The Lord is being fulfilled in our hearing. Amen.