1 Corinthians 12:12-27
Rev. Adele K. Langworthy
October 3, 2021
A great illustration of what the quartet has just sung, “Free our hearts of hate and discord till our lives in concert blend,” comes to us from three animals—a lion cub named Leo, a Bengal tiger cub named Shere Kahn, and a black bear cub named Baloo. These three cubs had been owned by a drug dealer who didn’t take proper care of them. Each of the cubs had been abused and neglected. For example, Baloo’s harness had grown into its skin because the owner had not expanded the harness as the bear grew. In 2001, the three animals were rescued; and, upon rescue, the bear had to undergo surgery to remove the harness. Then Leo, Shere Kahn and Baloo made their home at Noah’s Ark Animal Sanctuary in Georgia where they made a complete recovery.
The Sanctuary staff separated the animals when they first arrived at their new home, thinking that the three large predators would fight each other if they were left together; but they actually became more agitated and aggressive while apart. So the staff decided to see what would happen if they were reunited. Much to the staff’s surprise, they calmed down and were well-behaved. Twelve years later, when this story was first written, Leo, Shere Kahn and Baloo were spending their days together playing ball, cuddling, chasing each other and sharing cookies. They acted kindly and generously toward each other. Their hearts had been freed to live together joyfully. They were better together than divided.
Is that not true for us? Are we not better together than divided? Are we not better claiming our unity in the body of Christ than going it alone? Are we not better united by the cross of Jesus that offers us the gifts of love, forgiveness, and everlasting life? Are we not better when we share God’s grace with each other and unite at ‘the table’ where the Lord’s Supper brings us acceptance, peace and joy beyond measure? Are we not better when we support one another as the members of a human body do?
If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole body were hearing, where would the sense of smell be? But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them as he chose. If all were a single member where would be the body be? As it is, there are many members, yet one body. (1 Corinthians 12:17-20) We are better off together than apart!
Christians were invited to unite at ‘the table’ in the power of the cross on the first Worldwide Communion Sunday in 1933 at Shadyside Presbyterian Church in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Shadyside instituted Worldwide Communion in an attempt to bring churches together in a service of Christian unity — in which everyone might receive both inspiration and information, and above all know how important the church of Jesus Christ is, and how each congregation is interconnected one with another, with the potential of making a bigger impact together than individually.
The concept spread slowly, and it wasn’t until World War II had been battling for over a year and was tearing the world apart, that a day set aside for Worldwide Communion gained an international foothold. It symbolized an effort to hold things together, in a spiritual sense. It emphasized that we, as Christians, are one in the Spirit and the Gospel of Jesus Christ across boundaries. And the power of Christians uniting in prayer from all the continents and partaking of Communion — whether it be with Nigerian flatbread, Irish soda bread, Japanese rice cakes, Mexican tortillas, French wine or Welch’s grape juice — would be more impactful for the world than if each congregation were left to observe the sacrament within just its own community.
For in the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body — Jews or Greeks, slaves or free — and we were all made to drink of one Spirit. (1 Corinthians 12:13)
During World War II, Aatami Kuortti, a Lutheran pastor in Russia, was sentenced to 10 years of hard labor in a concentration camp because of his refusal to become a spy for the government. A very large portion of the prisoners in the camp were Christians, whose only offense was their Christian faith. One of the Finnish believers received a package from home containing a little bread and a few apples. The first thing he thought of was that it would be possible now to celebrate the Lord’s Supper. He proposed this to Pastor Kuortti. The pastor thought it to be impossible. “The guards would certainly interfere.”
“But it is all arranged,” said Kajada. “I have already crushed the apples into juice in a mug and the crusts will serve as communion bread. We can have the holy ordinance in the corner where my brother and I have our place, and the Russians if they see us, will think we are drinking tea.”
The pastor gladly agreed with the proposal of his fellow Christian. After recitation of Scripture, he blessed the bread and the mug of apple juice, and they celebrated Holy Communion — the Russian Christians, the Finnish Christians and Christians from other countries being held captive. This holy and beautiful meal happened because each brought their unique gifts to bear in order to bless all: the Russian, his knowledge of the liturgy; the Finn, his apples and bread; and the others, their faith and eager open hearts — truly to become something more, together.
Indeed, the body does not consist of one member but of many. (1Corinthians 12:14)
And for us to fulfill God’s vision of what the church should be, it takes each of you, and myself, with Christians around the world, to
- commit to prayer for the world &
- come to ‘the table’ expectantly eager to encounter our Lord &
- come willing to unite in the One who calls us to be one body, Jesus our Lord.
Let us rise up and sing from the north and the south, the east and the west, and prepare our hearts to encounter our Redeemer Lord at this the Lord’s table.