Let us pray: Dear Savior, how wonderful it is to have been picked off the scrap-heap of sinners and made a part of Your holy family through baptism! How wonderful it is to have a sense of purpose and belonging! How wonderful it is to be able to live for something bigger and better than our own narrow world—Your eternal kingdom of love and mercy! May we never tire, nor grow apathetic about the eternal role that You have placed us into: ambassadors of Your grace! Amen
GRACE MERCY AND PEACE ARE YOURS FROM CHRIST, THE WINNER WHO GIVES HIS TRIUMPH TO YOU!
TEXT: 1 Corinthians 12: 12-21, 26,27
Fellow Redeemed Sinners:
Late this afternoon many televisions in New England will be turned on to watch the Patriots play the Colts with the winner going to the Super Bowl. For the past few years Patriot’s fever has gripped the Hub. Go into the grocery today and I’m sure you’ll see fans wearing the team garb. Why this fascination? Well, everyone likes a winner. We all need a mental break from the harshness of winter and our humdrum schedules. And perhaps most intriguing, in our selfish world the unity and total team concept exhibited by the Patriots strikes a chord in our hearts. What fan will ever forget them coming out on the field for their first winning Super Bowl and refusing to be introduced individually and opting for a “team introduction” instead?
That “team concept” didn’t begin with Bill Belichek. In fact, one man, St. Paul, promoted it over 1950 years ago when describing the Holy Christian Church. And his point was and is this:
TEAM CHRIST ALWAYS WINS!
Why do all coaches have such trouble molding and blending their players into a team? Think about that. Think of how many teams you have known or been a part of that struggled even though their individual talent was head and shoulders above their opponent? I can recall two different teams from my youth—both softball teams—that illustrate the point. The “Mean Machine” was one such team. We had a load of talent. On paper we should have walked away from each game we played, winners by a blowout score. And yet, we never won the championship because we weren’t a team at all. We had a bunch of talented, arrogant, selfish players who liked to finger point more than congratulate and encourage. On the other hand, our church youth softball team was much like the Patriots today. We had talent and ability, yes. But what made us into a 5 time area champion was the closeness and unity, born from an appreciation of each other, and fathered by our Christian unity. We submerged pride and ego. We never stressed “me” first. And we won! Again, again, again, again, and again.
“The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ.” People are naturally attracted to team events because we all feel a deep need for belonging. I’m sure the anthropologist would say it stems from our “hunter/gatherer cave man background” but of course, you know better. It stems from wanting to regain something we lost when Adam and Eve alienated themselves from God. The problem is: such longing for unity and oneness is at direct odds with the selfish nature we inherited from our first parents. And so we often find ourselves at war with ourselves and with each other.
Jesus came to put an end to such strife—both internal and external. He came to give His life up to death to save our souls. He came to make peace between God and man on a cross. And one vital result of Him saving our individual souls was our being drafted onto His team through faith. That eternal draft took place when we were baptized. “For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink”—savoring the water of eternal life in Christ!
Paul goes on to use the graphic image of the human body and its various parts to illustrate the vital need for being a team player. He speaks of how the foot dare not be jealous of the hand, or the eye of the nose or ear. For in order to be a complete person who can appreciate all aspects of life you need each part of the body to work in unison in order to benefit the rest. And then he concludes by reminding us to beware of selfishness. “If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.”
Why have you come to church today? You’ve come to have your faith strengthened by Christ, to have Him honor you with His love and forgiveness, and to receive His guidance as you begin a new week. Those are all individually important reasons for your presence. But here St. Paul also reminds us of another reason: “Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.” In other words, your collective presence makes each of you stronger. You honor and uplift each other by your words of encouragement, your prayers, and your group praising of God. Unlike this world, it doesn’t matter to God whether you are male or female, young or old, rich or poor, black or white, German or Italian, white collar or blue collar. Each of you is valuable to each other because together you make a complete whole—the body of Christ! You belong to Him. You’re a member of “Team Christ!” And with Him as the Owner, Coach, Trainer, and Quarterback you’ll never be a loser in the game of life! That’s because Christ is the Ultimate Winner Who beat back the pain and suffering of the devil, the world, and our own sinful flesh with His death and glorious resurrection!
The only thing that can derail Team Christ is infighting among its members. The only thing that can turn us into losers is being more concerned about ourselves instead of each other. So, listen to your Coach! Trust His game plan for your life. Put it into practice. Work together to build up each other’s faith. And never forget: TEAM Christ Always Wins! Amen