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Several weeks ago I experienced, once again, a problem with my lower back.  I’ve had minor lower back problems since I was 25-years-old and there seems to be no logical reason for the sudden feeling that several vertebrae are shifting out of their usual place.  So, despite exercise and careful planning – so that I’m not sitting at my computer for too long a time each day without a “walk-about” break – I will suddenly be a little less, physically, than usual.

In the scheme of life this is a minor, very minor, thing to experience.  And many of you suffer much more than this.  For me, it is, after all, not my hands.  I use my hands every day to do all sorts of work.  It’s not my voice, which makes me money, or my legs which carry me about.  In the scope of my physical body, the place that hurts and cripples me is a small area, not even as large as my fist.

However, I am stunned at the realization that even that small place, when “out of place” affects absolutely every part of my body and part of my life.  I find myself “re-thinking” about that walk down the hall, or getting in and out of chairs.  How long will I have to sit?  Will I be able to get up, if I fall down?  How much sleep will I lose because I can’t find a comfortable position?  If I lose that much sleep, will I be able to do everything I need to do tomorrow?  How much ibuprofen can I take without jeopardizing my kidneys or what-not?  I’ll bet that many of us have had ALL and more of these kind of thoughts. 

And have you noticed how even the smallest discomfort, pain, or brokenness affects the rest of the body?

And here is the lesson: In this “body” of this community of faith, there are many people with many different gifts to offer.  There are many ways that each of us fit into the “brickwork” of this Body of Christ…some are obvious and some are not…and no one is unimportant or less connected than another.  AND, like our physical bodies, if the “toe hurts”, the arm may not feel the pain, but the arm will be affected by what the toe cannot do.  When one of us hurts, we all are affected, whether we feel it or not. 

Once again, one cannot be a believer and follower of Jesus in the abstract.  Faith is a community eventour BELIEF is nothing without ACTION.  ACTION is played out as we love each other as Jesus loves us:  totally, sacrificially, and sometimes unrequitedly.

Why do we take the time and trouble to ask for and publish prayer requests?  First, because prayer works.  Secondly, because we care.  Thirdly, and most selfishly…because YOUR pain affects ME and all of us.

John Donne, another one of my favorite writers; the poet-priest who lived in a time when the church bell tolled three times at the death of a villager, wrote this God-inspired and familiar collection of lines:

 No man is an island,
Entire of itself.
Each is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manor of thine own
Or of thine friend’s were.
Each man’s death diminishes me,
For I am involved in mankind.
Therefore, send not to know
For whom the bell tolls,
It tolls for thee.

And, the Apostle Paul (another one of my favorite writers) said:

Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ.  For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.  Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many. Now if the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body.  And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body.  If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be?  But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be.  If they were all one part, where would the body be?  As it is, there are many parts, but one body.