Eighth Sunday after Pentecost – July 25, 2020 (Rev. Stan Temme)
Ninth Sunday after Pentecost – August 2, 2020 (Rev. Stan Temme)
Tenth Sunday after Pentecost – August 9, 2020 (Rev. Stan Temme)
Twelfth Sunday after Pentecost – August 23, 2020 (Rev. Stan Temme)
Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Our text is from the Epistle reading. So we, though many, are one body in Christ. Here ends our text.
Years ago, I used to work at a large company. It was the McDonnell Douglas Corporation in St. Louis. Now the word “corporation” is derived from the word “corpus” which means “body.” A corporation is a body formed by law to act as a single person although consisting of one or more persons. Now this corporation consisted of about 30,000 people working under one head or president. These 30,000 people weren’t all the same. They all had different gifts and talents and abilities. There were people skilled in math and engineering, people skilled with their hands and manufacturing, people skilled in contracts and law, people skilled in administration, management, marketing, sales, accounting, and customer relations. Many of them were brilliant, hardworking folks. Some people are amazed at an ant farm, how a colony of ants, workers and drones, can work together under one Queen. But it always amazed me that this body of so many different individuals could work together under one head to engineer, produce, and sell an airplane. They were many people united in one body for a purpose.
But the basis of the unity of this corporation, this body, was law. Yes, there were the articles of incorporation, the legal paperwork that brought the body into existence. But the unity of the individuals that worked in this body was also based on law. If you follow the rules and do your work, you’ll be rewarded with compensation. And the harder you work for the body, the more promotions and compensation you’ll receive. But if you do your work poorly, you won’t get a raise. You may be demoted, possibly even fired. People were motivated to work together by law. Now this unity based upon law may be effective in harnessing individuals to work together as one body, but it’s not without its strife and discontent.
In order to get that promotion and raise, individuals would toot their own horn, speak more highly of themselves then they ought. And if there were problems, point the finger of blame on someone else. Push themselves up by pushing others down. Department heads would argue over budgets. Our group is more important than that group. We need more manpower and money than they do. Of course, the worker ants were always complaining about the drones in upper management. We do all the work. Why do they get all the pay? They couldn’t complain too loudly, though, or they’d fall into disfavor. At one moment they’d use their tongue to gripe about the leadership and another moment they’d use the same tongue to lick their boots. There were times when sales were down, and individuals were laid off. Sometimes fired for poor performance. There were bitterness and heartache and resentment. It was painful, like hacking off a limb. The body would complain about the head. I don’t see the C.E.O. taking a pay cut. Maybe he should take the blame and be fired. Invariably, one of the workers at the bottom of the pile would say, “If I were in charge, if I were king, things would be different.” But would they?
Not long after I worked at the McDonnell Douglas Corporation, I started my own company, the Temme Mold and Engineering Corporation. I had a chance to be king. I filed the legal papers of incorporation that brought this body into existence. It was a small corporation. About a dozen employees. But they weren’t all the same. They too had different abilities in manufacturing, engineering, programming, computers, and accounting. Very skilled, hardworking people. This body had different management, but it was still a body whose unity was based on law. You do a good job, work this many hours at this position, and receive this compensation. And if you don’t, there’s the door. But with any body based on law, there’s always internal strife and discord. Competition for promotions and pay. Mistakes and finger pointing. Complaints about the management, no matter how hard it’s trying. And when the economy got tight, I wasn’t going to lay off myself. Painful as it was, I hacked off a limb of the body. But pretty soon, though, if you continue to hack off members of the body, it dies. It becomes a corpse. But that’s eventually what happens to any body of sinners whose only unity is based on law. It dies.
Now sometimes people think of the church as a business. After all, some sixty years ago we sent off our articles of incorporation to the state of Indiana and sent our constitution to the Indiana District office and became a recognized, legal body. And we do have individuals with all kinds of different skills and abilities. We have some management, a church council with a chairman and vice chairman, a secretary and a treasurer, board directors and committee chairs, and a pastor that fits in there somehow. We have a financial budget. But if the only thing that binds us together is a bunch of rules, if the basis of our unity is only the Law, then we can expect only strife and discontent. People thinking more of themselves than they ought. Mistakes made, followed by finger pointing. Complaints about the management. Disgruntled workers all wanting to be king. And how would you like being a member of such a body? If you keep all the rules and work hard, you’ll be rewarded with heaven. But if you perform poorly, you get hacked off the body. You get fired, literally. And since we’ve all broken God’s Law and had bad performance reviews, we’d all be cut off from the body. Our church would become a corpse. But that’s eventually what happens to any body of sinners whose only unity is based on the Law. It dies.
But thankfully, our church isn’t a business. It’s not a corporation formed by law. Rather it’s a corporation, a body, formed by God’s grace and mercy. It’s not a legal body formed by filing some stone tablets of Law in the ark of the covenant at Mt. Sinai. It’s a body brought into existence through the suffering, death, and resurrection of its head, Jesus Christ. And you didn’t become a member of this body by a contract, “If you follow the rules and work hard, you’ll be compensated.” But you became a member by God’s promise to you. By baptism and faith in his Word of promise, you were incorporated into the body of Christ. You became a member of Christ Incorporated.
And when you do make a mistake and perform poorly, the head of the body doesn’t say, “Your fired.” He doesn’t hack you off, because you’re part of his body. Rather he says, “I’ll take the blame for you.” Satan points his accusing finger at our sins, but Jesus says, “Point that finger at me. I’ll take the fall. I’ll take the cut. I’ll sacrifice everything I have even if it’s a pint of blood or two so that they can remain in the body.” And because he takes away your sin, he speaks highly of you before his Father, more highly then he ought. Not because of your work, but because of his work, Jesus blesses you with benefits and a pension plan. He gives you your daily bread here on earth and eternal life in heaven. We are a body of sinners whose unity is not based on law, but upon the grace and mercy of God. And any body unified by God’s grace and mercy is no longer a dead corpse but a living corpus, a body that lives. I don’t want to be king of this body. And with a leader like Jesus who laid down his life for us, I don’t think any of you want to be king either. Let Jesus be our king. Let Jesus be the head of his body the Church.
And because Jesus is the head of his body formed by the grace and mercy of God, we gladly participate in this body as his forgiven saints. The apostle Paul writes in the Epistle reading today, “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.” Paul appeals to us not on the basis of the Law – You have to do this – but on the basis of God’s mercy. God has been so merciful to you – Jesus has given his body unto death for you – that now you get to present your body to him as a living sacrifice. You don’t present to God a corpse, dead in sin, but a living body, ripe with good fruit and good deeds. This is your spiritual act of worship to him. Today in our service you receive God’s gift of forgiveness and respond with your worship. But you don’t just clock in and out for one hour a week. Your entire life is an act of spiritual worship. As you work in a secular corporation, as you work around home and family and neighbors, your godly service to them is how you also worship the Lord. You don’t act like the rest of the world, complaining, bitter, blaming, proud, or self-serving. You’re not motivated by the law or fear or greed. You’re motivated by the Gospel and love and gratitude to God. As a member of the body of Christ, your heart has been transformed from the ways of the world. Paul writes, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind.”
Here at Trinity Darmstadt you also worship God as you serve side by side with the members of his body. Paul writes, “For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.” The body of Christ has many members, and we thank the Lord that they are all different. How boring the body would be if we were all the same. Paul writes that “having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them.” Some have gifts for preaching or teaching. Others have gifts of serving. Some have gifts of contributing. Some have gifts of leadership while others do acts of mercy. And these acts aren’t done to toot one’s own horn or done with resentment or done for pay. They’re done in generosity with zeal and cheerfulness out of love. This is the most amazing thing of all that so many different members, millions of believers across the world, work together under one head, Jesus Christ, to further his kingdom. It’s a corporation consisting of many individuals acting with one heart. It’s not a body coerced to work together out of expectation of compensation or fear of being cut off. It’s not a body that resents and complains about its head. But it’s a body that works together in harmony out of gratitude to God and love for our head Jesus Christ. By God’s grace and mercy we have been incorporated into the body of Christ. By God’s grace and mercy, we are members of Christ Incorporated. Amen.
The peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.