Day 25: Wednesday in the Fourth Week of Lent
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.
There were people in my friend Paul’s congregation in rural Ohio who had three generations of family members in the graveyard beside the church. As you can imagine, change didn’t come easily there. When I asked Paul how he got them to use a common cup for communion, he said they had never stopped. They had never adopted the innovation of the little individual glasses.
It’s hard to imagine any of those people saying, “I do not belong.” I knew a woman whose pastor had been there 30 years. She didn’t like him. I asked why she stayed. She answered, “I was here before him and I will be here after him.” She wasn’t the kind of person to say, “I do not belong to the body.”
But I have also known people who came and sat at the margins of the congregation’s life. They didn’t speak up. They didn’t assert an opinion about the ministry of the community. They came, they worshipped, they were nourished, but they picked up the message that the congregation belonged to others. I heard someone once say at a public meeting, “I know I’m new to this community, I have only been here fifteen years….” He deserved respect for daring to speak, but he was right. After he sat down the community continued on as if he had never spoken.
There were those in the Corinthian congregation with exceptional gifts, dramatic and public gifts of tongues and other ecstatic manifestations of the Spirit. Those who possessed such gifts apparently reveled in them, imagining they were superior in some way. Others clearly got the message. They were second-class citizens. Or maybe steerage. Paul is building a metaphor, but these words have special grace for those on the margins: “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.”
You are part of the body because Christ has made you part of the body. You have been joined with Christ. You have come through the baptismal waters. You have received the Holy Spirit. You have passed from death into life. There is no children’s table. You are not consigned to a balcony. You are part of this body that is Christ in the world.
in the waters of baptism you made us members of your body.
Renew in us this day the bonds of affection
that we may love one another as you have loved us.
– A prayer for the fourth week of Lent