2 Samuel 6:1-5, 12-20a; 1 Corinthians 12:4-27
September 11, 2022
- Giving our whole selves for God’s experience
Anyone here ever jumped out of an airplane? And I am not talking about having such a bad flight that you were tempted to just jump out. I’m thinking legitimate parachuting, friends. I have not jumped out of a place, myself, but it strikes me as something I might like to try it one day as long as they make parachutes my size (snicker, snicker). My brother used to be in the 82nd Airborne Unit of the US Army, so he has made a number of jumps in his younger years – over 40, in fact. I asked him the other day about what it was like to jump out of an airplane. His experience was not what I would consider traditional skydiving where you get to jump out of a plane at high altitudes and soar through the sky until you pull your chute and float the rest of the way down. He was in a line of soldiers on a transport plane at low altitude, and the chute got jerked open for you as soon as you jump out of the plane. The landings are hard, you’re carrying a bunch of extra weight, and if you hesitate to jump, you get pushed out or a swift kick to the rear. I called him, though, because I needed to hear from him how big a thing it was for him to be at that very moment of jumping. I needed to know if he felt the tremendous commitment necessary to make that leap. I needed to know if he faced that moment of decision in which he had to choose to be all in. Absolutely, he did.
And that is what I expected. You probably did, too. At that moment, he had to choose to put his life out there, his whole being present in that one moment. He had to risk his whole self to that one step out. Maybe you have never jumped out of an airplane, but there have probably been times in your life in which you had to give your whole self to a moment, to an experience, to a leap of faith. If you have ever had to have surgery in which you were put under anesthesia, the choice you make for that procedure is to place your life in the hands of the medical staff. I have felt that anxiety myself when you hope all will be fine. Another experience in which you have to completely commit in a profound way that demands your full presence is being on stage in front of a crowd of people. I have also done maybe 20 stage productions, and the first time you step out before everyone, if you take it seriously, it can be very nerve-wracking as you make a spectacle of yourself. By the way, preaching can be like that, also. We preachers have the audacity to dare to speak on God’s behalf before a group of people who may or may not appreciate what we say. In other words, we risk making EVERYONE upset. So, in humility, we must invest ourselves completely in the service. I can tell you halfhearted efforts are a big no-no and will lead to failure. You may have heard preachers who did not seem to care about what they were doing. I doubt they lasted too long.
If you are present with me in this moment, right here and right now, you might be wondering why I am going on about our commitment, our investment, the important of being “all-in” on certain things. In case you never realized it, there are times in our lives that demand everything we have and can be a little risky.
David, dear David, everyone’s favorite Jewish King was having his day in the sun when he finally brought the holy, holy, holy Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem. It was lost years and years beforehand to the Philistines, and then it made its way back to Israel, but it ended up in someone’s outbuilding for a good while because people were afraid of it. Even touching the Ark incorrectly was a death sentence. David, however, knew where the Ark needed to be, in his capital city, so he decided to bring it there with a huge parade, a huge celebration, a huge fanfare, and a huge heart. When thinking of a time or an occasion in Scripture in which someone committed themselves with their whole being, this story easily popped into my mind. David leaves no part of him behind but puts his whole body, his whole mind, and his whole spirit into the sacred trip. Reasonable, measured, and proper people would not have approved. His own wife Michal disapproved and berated him in disdain, but he was undeterred in blessing God and the people. I love this story of full commitment.
In these last few weeks, we have been sharing in different parts of our experience of the world and God through the senses. I hope you have gotten something useful or meaningful from this exploration, but at the heart of things, we are whole people. God is not just interested in one sense but wants us all, every part of us, every aspect of us, our whole being. Our Heavenly Father fully desires our whole selves for gifts, for service, and for ministry.
Sometimes we can be a little hard-headed, though. Alright, sometimes we can be a lot hard-headed. If you have ever known someone who made you want to pull your hair out or knock your head on a wall, don’t worry. You made someone else feel that way at some point in your life, too. The followers of Jesus at Corinth, Greece, are case in point. The Apostle Paul is trying and trying. He taught them the gospel, but they have been focusing on bits and pieces. They love teaching that makes them feel special; they love the spiritual gifts that make them feel special. You probably catch the worry on Paul’s mind. They are a divided church with everyone wanting to be more special than others, so much so that they needed one of the greatest love chapters of the whole Bible in the next chapter, chapter 13, as a response, but first, Paul has to tell them what they should be doing as a whole body.
We have no hope of making it through life on our own. Life is too big for us, and God did not make us this way. We are not designed for hermit living. Even Plato understood this when he said human beings are by nature political people – not that we are about politics and government but are a people who gathers together for and with one another. The Greek word for a city is a polis. That’s what political means – coming together and organizing our common life.
We see people going all-in together right now in a dramatic way in Ukraine. As the world sits by, this nation is embroiled in the fight of its life. They live with the constant threat of death and many have died just going about their regular business, but they have not sat back and left the defense to others. This nation, this people, stood on the brink of the jump, and they took the leap of faith. Everyone has pitched in. People across the nation have stepped up, and they have fought back hard, much harder than anyone thought they could. Yes, they have received much help, but ultimately, they have had to find a way to unite in this fight for freedom. In the face of all of this evil, they have found ways to give their whole selves for good.
Paul is saying something very similar in this passage in chapter 12. We all have a place in the family of faith, but it is more what this family is trying to become. This is the same faith tradition that tells how we at the beginning of the world were given a body from the dust of the earth to live and serve the Lord, but we have strayed and sought our own good. We have all each celebrated what makes us more special than others, what makes us worth more than others, how we are better than others. This is in our human DNA and is a product of sin. Even though this is our history, this is not why God made us.
In Christ Jesus, we have a new body, one with better DNA – the right DNA, that shows us all how we have a place and a value. Life together in Jesus is what God made us for, why we draw breath. Oftentimes, it takes a disaster or threat to bring us together and to find our better selves (as in the war in Ukraine) or maybe in the Great Depression here as people came together to help or our national response in WW2. Today, we share in the anniversary of 9/11 when we came together briefly, but we have also failed to live out being a new body in Jesus together. We have too often rejected whom we were made to be. The last several years have expressed how utterly divided we are, how neighbor can disregard neighbor, how we can ridicule others on social media. There have been plenty of examples of people living rightly as whole people, diving into the service and care and ministry for others, too, thankfully. This is especially evident in medical staff and first responders and teachers who have risen above differences and found new ways to value others. But our world is far from right.
As a congregation, we are given this sacred task to dive “all-in” to being the people God created us to be together, but this opportunity reaches far beyond this door and these walls.
What the Corinthians had to realize was that being a body together requires humility more than pride, commitment more than division, and repentance more than blame. Rather than celebrate themselves, they had to value those in their midst who did not seem as special to them. In other words, we came into the world together, we go through this life together, and we will even depart this world together as part of the great company of the faithful. Who is not worth our love? We are not and have never been a people living for ourselves, if we are truly serious. If we are deeply interested in being deeply Christian, we will find our way in Christ together. Our body is ever before us. Our whole self is right here in Jesus for us to embrace with everything we have.
This is a whole lot easier to say than it is to do. I get that. We will always be tempted to cut corners or go part-way or brush difficult history under the rug. If this were anything less important, I’d say that is good enough. This, however, is the very soul of our family of faith, and none of us can do this alone. None of us can be the body of Christ alone. None of us can become the people we are meant to be alone. It will take our constant commitment and recommitment. We must honor those entrusted to our fellowship and love as Christ has loved us with his whole self. We can do no less. To God be the glory. Amen.