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Epiphany 3 – 1Corinthians 12:12-31
The Church needs to work like a team?
Rev. Mike Michielin

Teamwork is the key to success in sports. Take for instance the New England Patriots football team. Once again they will be playing in the Super bowl. Unlike others teams in the NFL, there are no stars on their team. The players are all average players. The don’t have a flashy quarterback, receiver or linebacker. What makes them a successful team is their teamwork. Their coach has done a good job directing his players to - not only use their gifts - but use them in ways that best serves the team.

Teamwork is a central theme in Paul’s letter to the Corinthians. Paul tells us that, as Christians, we belong to the body of Christ. This body consists of all kinds of people – “Jews, Greeks, slaves or free,” poor, rich, young and old. What holds this body together is our baptism – that is our commitment to follow Jesus Christ and serve Him. In essence, Jesus is our coach and we are part of his team.

As members of His team, we have different roles to play. Paul describes the church as a body with many parts. Some are feet, some are hands, some are eyes and so on. Similarly, some of us have gifts of teaching, others have the gift of hospitality, others are good managers, others are musically inclined, others can pray, others visit shut-ins, others help the elderly come to church and the list goes on. We all have gifts – even though unrealized.

Notice what Paul says about the parts of the body. He tells us that no part of the body is less important than another. “ If the foot would say, ‘Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,’ that would not make it any less a part of the body.” Each part is of equal value. Each of us are of equal value in the body of Christ and so are our talents and gifts. In fact, each member of the body, along with his or her gifts is indispensable to the body. “The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you.’ On the contrary, the members of the body that seem weaker are indispensable …”

When Paul wrote his letter to the Corinthians, he was responding to a particular church, with particular problems. There were disputes over certain matters and the people were divided. The Corinthian Church is not that different from the church today. There are disputes and sometimes divisions in the church for different reasons. The financial challenges that face many churches – not only in our own parish – but across the diocese and Canada – can be a point of contention and divide us. But our financial difficulties need not divide us. Instead, it can be a wake up call.

When John Bowen spoke to our Diocese last fall he said, “Necessity may make us inventive, but necessity also helps us figure out what we should have known all along … The church is short of money, so we discover tithing – but we should have been tithing all along. Clergy knew long ago that they couldn’t do everything, so the church discovered baptismal ministry – but we should have been enabling baptismal ministry all along. Numbers are declining, so we discover evangelism – but we should have been sharing the Gospel all along.”

I believe that Paul is giving us a wake up call. As a wise friend once said to me, there is nothing you can do about what comes your way in life, but you can do something about how your respond. There is nothing we can do to change the past. But we can do something about how we face the future.

As John Bowen has suggested, we need to recapture our purpose. We exist to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We exists to let people know that God has forgiven them and that He can change their lives in new and exciting ways just as He has forgiven us and changed our lives in new and exciting ways. This is our purpose and our mission. One writer observed, “people live lives of ‘quiet desperation,’ but today a better description is ‘aimless distraction’. Many people are like gyroscopes, spinning around at a frantic pace but never going anywhere.” We exist to show people that they have a purpose.

Before we share this purpose with others, we need to get a grip of what Jesus wants us to do as well. For I sense a “quiet desperation” in our church. Rick Warren in his book, “A Purpose Driven Life,” says, “Without a clear purpose you have no foundation on which you base decisions, allocate your time, and use your resources. You will tend to make choices based on circumstances, pressures, and your mood at the moment.” This is what happens in the Church when it loses focus of its purpose. When we face problems – such as a financial shortfall – without a clear purpose, people become divided as to what are the solutions. Paul tells us, “let there be no dissension within the body, but the members may have care for one another.” No matter what the problems are that we face, we are expected to care for one another. As Paul tells us earlier in v. 7, “to each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.”

Why do we care for one another? We care for one another because we are on the same team.. To be a team player is not an easy think to do. It means going along with something that we might not agree with. It may mean stepping aside and letting someone else take certain responsibilities. Nevertheless, Paul calls all of us - as members of the body of this Church – to contribute our time, gifts and money for the common good. What you can offer will vary. Paul tells us in v. 4, “there are a variety of gifts.” What is important is not how much we give, but that our gifts are offered so “that there may be no dissension within the body.”
One summer when I was growing up in Kingston, I played in a city wide baseball tournament. Our team was a real mix of kids. There were small kids, big kids, fat kids, skinny kids, boys and girls on the team. Somehow we made it to the finals of the tournament. The team that we faced in the finals was big and all boys. We felt intimidated. At their first time at bat, they scored 3 runs. But we did not despair. We did not bicker. Led by our coach, we encouraged each other. Going into the 6th inning we were only a run behind. The other team started to grumble and blame each other for their mistakes. We won the game.

Paul encourages us to be “all for one and one for all.” Next Sunday, Michael Pollesel will be our guest preacher and between the services he will guide us in developing goals and objectives for a Long Range Plan. I hope you will all take this opportunity to come and share in the discussion. Once our Long Range Plan is developed, you will be asked, “How can you help in the implementation of this plan?” I pray your be part of the team. Amen.