This blog offers a meditation on the Common Lectionary daily readings along with a headline from world news:
GOVERNMENT TO BLAME FOR VIOLENCE IN VENEZUELA, SAY BISHOPS
1 Corinthians 12
New English Translation (NET)
12 With regard to spiritual gifts, brothers and sisters, I do not want you to be uninformed. 2 You know that when you were pagans you were often led astray by speechless idols, however you were led. 3 So I want you to understand that no one speaking by the Spirit of God says, “Jesus is cursed,” and no one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit.
4 Now there are different gifts, but the same Spirit. 5 And there are different ministries, but the same Lord. 6 And there are different results, but the same God who produces all of them in everyone. 7 To each person the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the benefit of all. 8 For one person is given through the Spirit the message of wisdom, and another the message of knowledge according to the same Spirit, 9 to another faith by the same Spirit, and to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, 10 to another performance of miracles, to another prophecy, and to another discernment of spirits, to another different kinds of tongues, and to another the interpretation of tongues. 11 It is one and the same Spirit, distributing as he decides to each person, who produces all these things.
Different Members in One Body
12 For just as the body is one and yet has many members, and all the members of the body—though many—are one body, so too is Christ. 13 For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body. Whether Jews or Greeks or slaves or free, we were all made to drink of the one Spirit. 14 For in fact the body is not a single member, but many. 15 If the foot says, “Since I am not a hand, I am not part of the body,” it does not lose its membership in the body because of that. 16 And if the ear says, “Since I am not an eye, I am not part of the body,” it does not lose its membership in the body because of that. 17 If the whole body were an eye, what part would do the hearing? If the whole were an ear, what part would exercise the sense of smell? 18 But as a matter of fact, God has placed each of the members in the body just as he decided. 19 If they were all the same member, where would the body be? 20 So now there are many members, but one body. 21 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I do not need you,” nor in turn can the head say to the foot, “I do not need you.” 22 On the contrary, those members that seem to be weaker are essential, 23 and those members we consider less honorable we clothe with greater honor, and our unpresentable members are clothed with dignity, 24 but our presentable members do not need this. Instead, God has blended together the body, giving greater honor to the lesser member, 25 so that there may be no division in the body, but the members may have mutual concern for one another. 26 If one member suffers, everyone suffers with it. If a member is honored, all rejoice with it.
27 Now you are Christ’s body, and each of you is a member of it. 28 And God has placed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, gifts of healing, helps, gifts of leadership, different kinds of tongues. 29 Not all are apostles, are they? Not all are prophets, are they? Not all are teachers, are they? Not all perform miracles, do they? 30 Not all have gifts of healing, do they? Not all speak in tongues, do they? Not all interpret, do they? 31 But you should be eager for the greater gifts.
And now I will show you a way that is beyond comparison.
Firstly Paul talks about the one spirit which is the breath of God evident in the lives of believers. Like other divine realities this is experienced in earthly realities: in the case of the Holy Spirit it means a shared openness to the goodness demonstrated in Jesus Messiah. This involves an openness to each other and to one”s own nature. Paul urges them to see that the individual ministries that bind the community together are gifts not achievements. Because the Spirit is not some kind of supernatural infusion it does not produce the same abilities in all people, but rather uses the abilities latent in each person for the benefit of all.
Paul was faced with an overestimation of dramatic ministries such as “speaking in divine language”, and an underestimation of more mundane ministries like caring or organisation. He emphasises that all have special abilities and functions within the one body of Jesus Messiah. Those who “speak in tongues” are no more important than those who teach. He uses the metaphor of the members of the body which was a common in Graeco-Roman culture, to mount a critique of boastful Corinthians and of the hierarchy of power in the Empire. The weaker members (the poor, the poorly educated, the slaves, the manual workers, the women) are as essential to the well-being of the community as the strong (the wealthy, the cultured, the Roman officials, the men). They have different functions but enjoy equal status. And just as less presentable parts are “honoured” by being well-covered so the less presentable members of the community ( the disabled, the children, the prostitutes, the drifters) are given special attention in the body of Christ. This sounds like an attractive community which might well draw people out of the imperial hierarchy into a new life. We should recognise how radical it is and what a critical light it shines on our social hierarchies today. If you were describing it, you might come up with “From each according to ability; to each according to need.” Karl Marx’s slogan was already embodied in these early Christian communities.
Paul adds that when the men and women of the community are open to sharing God’s goodness, they can be called the Body of Messiah, discovering their own gifts and offering them to each other as apostles, prophets, teachers and so on. Its an ideal of community which dos not focus on what the conmmunity already shares (such as social status or trade skills) but on the goodness beyond its grasp, which it can only receive as a gift. As yet it does not fully share this goodness, but its capacity increases with every new person welcomed into it.