“THE BODY” PARTS
A couple of weeks ago I experienced the joy of a body slowly falling apart. While on vacation I had the audacity to sit in a chair, you heard me correctly, I SAT in a CHAIR. I didn’t twist, I didn’t turn, I did nothing out of the ordinary. And yet, my right knee (the right side of my body, where nothing works well) suddenly was injured in some way. It has ached ever since, although a little better every day with some walking and stretching…good grief (as my sainted mother would say).
In the scheme of life this is a minor, very minor, thing to experience. And many of my friends 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. And although I have arthritis in my right hand (again with the right side of my body) I can deal with that. The knee is not my voice. 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 EVERY part of my life. I find myself “re-thinking” about walking down the hall, or getting in and out of chairs, or going up and down stairs. How long will I have to sit? Will I be able to stretch out my right leg? Will I be able to get up? 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, should I just go ahead and switch to morphine (kidding)? I’ll bet that many of us have had ALL and more of these kinds 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 our collective “body”, 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 event…our 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. YOUR pain, and MY pain, affects 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 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.
I CORINTHIANS 12: 12-20
Let’s continue to be “connected”, especially when there is no pain, where there is no imminent reason, but just because we need to be connected. Then, when there IS pain to share or pain requiring comfort, we have already been practicing the action of love required by us if we are to call ourselves a community of faith, a congregation.