Body Issues (Part 1)

Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it (1 Corinthians 12:27).

Read 1 Corinthians 12:27–13:3

These lines from the song ‘If We Are the Body’ by the Christian band Casting Crowns always come into my mind whenever I hear this passage:

But if we are the body

Why aren’t his arms reaching?

Why aren’t his hands healing?

Why aren’t his words teaching?

The reason they stick with me is because when I look around the church, I think these exact thoughts. Why aren’t his feet moving or his hands healing? Why does the body seem so dysfunctional?

I read this verse the morning before starting two weeks of youth camp leading. As often happens for me before camp, a lot of my insecurities were playing through my head. I wasn’t as funny as that other leader, good at making quick decisions or small talk, or as energetic or experienced with kids. It was then that I opened up this very passage we’re reading today. I realised how camping ministry is a perfect example of Christ’s body working. It’s a beautiful way to see just how God brings flawed people with different skills and abilities together. Some camp leaders are skilled at making campers comfortable, can do and fix just about anything, can get into deep theological conversations, notice the quiet kids, and so on.

If everyone fits that one specific leadership model I have always held up as the ‘ideal’ leader, then camp wouldn’t function. What’s more, the whole church wouldn’t function at all. And I know there are plenty of amazing body parts in the church that I don’t get to see and things that I’m involved in that other church members don’t know about, either.

I think the church needs to constantly look at itself and ask how we can better function as a body. But I also know that the body has many internal parts that keep working, even when the outside looks old, bruised or dysfunctional.

A body is never in perfect condition. But you’d be amazed at how adaptable the brain/head can make it. As the head, Christ guides us and knows exactly how to use each body part, no matter how broken.

I encourage you to celebrate a part of Christ’s body today that you might not have thought to appreciate before.

Dear Heavenly Father, today we lament that in the body of Christ, the arms aren’t always reaching, the hands are not always healing, and the words don’t always teach. Please forgive us when we fail in this. We find joy in knowing Christ is the head of our body, and we can trust that his hands do reach, heal and teach. Please show us this today. Amen.

Emma lives in Adelaide and is studying a Master of Divinity at Tabor College. She also works as a freelance videographer, filming weddings, events and factual videos. She’s currently trying to work out how these two passions can fit together. Emma has a heart for youth camping ministry and for effectively communicating Christian concepts to the younger generations. Despite being in her early 20s, she’s a self-confessed grandma who loves reading, gardening, embroidery, cardigans and drinking tea.

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Everyone has a role

Indeed, the body does not consist of one member but of many (1 Corinthians 12:14).

Read 1 Corinthians 12:12–26

St Paul uses the imagery of a human body – something we can all relate to. Every single part of our body has a role, even the bits that surgeons can remove without causing too many problems. (Just what are tonsils or adenoids useful for?) Different body parts seem to get used more often, and there are usually some parts we like more than others. It doesn’t matter what part it is: if anything is missing, the whole body suffers from its loss.

It is over 35 years since I did my army training. From the very first day, it was drilled into every recruit that you are part of a team. The whole team suffered if anyone failed in their role, was injured or unreliable. That sounds tough, and, at times, it was. But the opposite was also true. If the team succeeded at any given task, the whole team celebrated. Every individual was valued and important. Everyone had a role to perform. But we all worked together to make the entire unit successful.

The Christian body is called the church, and unlike the denominational bodies we construct, the true Christian church is that which the Holy Spirit calls and gathers into the one body of Jesus Christ, who remains the head. As St Paul wrote earlier in this chapter, every Christian is given the gift of the Holy Spirit. God may also give us different skills and abilities to serve as part of the body of Jesus here on earth.

Can you play music to support the worship of your local congregation? Are you good at welcoming people? Maybe you are good at explaining God’s word to those exploring the Christian faith. You could be one of those precious people who get into the menial tasks nobody really likes to do, but you recognise that they still need to be done. What you do is never as important as where you put your trust. Do you trust Jesus to lead the church as our head? Then that is enough for whatever work God has given you to do to be valued and important.

Heavenly Father, thank you for calling and equipping me as part of the body of Jesus. Please give me strength, courage and endurance for the work you have given me. Help me support others so we build up the one body of Jesus together, serving the world today. Amen.

Mathew is married to Sonja, and they are in the process of moving from the Barossa Valley in South Australia to Tabor in Western Victoria. They are blessed to have two adult sons, one married, but, as yet, no grandchildren. Mathew enjoys gardening, cycling, writing letters, and sharing adventures with Sonja.

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Where do you put your trust?

Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread (1 Corinthians 10:17).

Read 1 Corinthians 10:14–11:1

I have barracked for the Mighty Richmond Tigers since I first moved to Victoria, aged 10, in 1977. It is hard to imagine, but many other people support other football teams, codes, or even interests other than sports. That’s the freedom we have as individuals. Differences like this help create a diverse and interesting community.

We may have the freedom to follow and express our different preferences in our daily lives, but St Paul is very clear about where we must put our trust. We are to flee from idolatry. Martin Luther described what it means to have a god or idol: ‘A god means that from which we are to expect all good and in which we are to take refuge in all distress’.

Our senses are bombarded constantly with messages that imply our lives would be so much better and more fulfilling if only we used this product or if we followed this advice or avoided these foods. Put your trust in this product to give you less grey hair, lose weight, gain financial security, or be a little bit happier – the devil is trying to shift our attention from Christ alone to anything else that captures our interest, even if it is for a moment.

In most instances, the products or experiences offered are harmless in themselves. Things that support healthy and growing relationships can be received as good gifts from the one true God. This puts everything in the correct order, whereby we put our trust in God alone and receive from him all the experiences that make us unique in our own way.

Binding us together is the one body and blood of Jesus Christ. Joined together through receiving Jesus’ body and blood is where we experience true unity. This unity is an exclusive gift, however. We are called to put our trust in Jesus Christ alone. Paul warns that we cannot drink from both the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons.

Whoever you barrack for, or whatever your interests may be, enjoy these as God’s gifts to you. But put your trust in the Triune God, who is the giver of all that is good, especially this gift of eternal life.

Heavenly Father, thank you for binding us into the true unity of Jesus through his body and blood. Help us value the gifts you provide, using them to build up relationships with those around us. Amen.

Mathew is married to Sonja, and they are in the process of moving from the Barossa Valley in South Australia to Tabor in Western Victoria. They are blessed to have two adult sons, one married, but, as yet, no grandchildren. Mathew enjoys gardening, cycling, writing letters, and sharing adventures with Sonja.

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In The Cloud

God is faithful; He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear (1 Corinthians 10:13a).

Read 1 Corinthians 10:1–13

In modern times, we know about the cloud. It’s where all our personal information is stored. Everything we’ve searched, googled, or inquired into, documents we’ve saved: It would appear that nothing about our identity is private anymore. Yet technology, as amazing as it is, will never be able to emulate the omnipotence and omnipresence of our Creator God. Absolutely nothing in all of creation is hidden in any cloud from God’s sight. We read in today’s reading of another cloud: God’s cloud, which continues to guide and protect us. It is the same cloud that shielded Moses and the Israelites. It is a cloud that God has provided – one that will come in the clouds and always reigns far superior: Jesus Christ (Revelation 1:7).

In our troubled world, we see chaos and suffering. The media has made it all too accessible, and for many of us, our hearts are grieved by the affliction that others endure in this world. Yet we live protected as if living within a cloud. When we take up the armour of God daily, we can feel assured that Jesus walks beside us: our champion who has defeated the enemy. Though tempted to doubt, fear and live troubled by the many cares of this world, we can stand assured that our Saviour, Jesus Christ, is with us through all the battles that life throws us.

Loving Creator God, speak to us daily through your holy word, so we can ponder your wonderful gift and hear your calling without doubt, temptation or fear. Let us hear and listen to your voice and mind our thoughts, feelings and actions so we can respond in love to you and our neighbours through the reading and meditation of your word. Teach us to believe in your promises, so we need not be ashamed but grow in faith to stand atoned before you. Amen.

Tatiana is married to Jim, and they live in Largs North, a seaside location in Adelaide. They have two adult children and six grandchildren, who are a wonderful blessing to them both. Tatiana teaches full-time as an English, history and religion teacher; she gained a Bachelor of Arts in Theology from Australian Lutheran College in 1996, and in her spare time, she enjoys knitting, gardening, singing for church, writing and swimming. Her home congregation is Bethlehem Lutheran Church, Adelaide.

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Spiritual seed

Whoever plows should plow in hope and whoever threshes should thresh in hope of a share in the crop (1 Corinthians 9:10b).

Read 1 Corinthians 9:1–15

Today’s reading echoes the previous texts for this week: encouragement to have faith in the freedom that Christ offers us, the call to serve others and, in yesterday’s reading, the reminder of humility to consider others better than ourselves.

I enjoy having a lovely garden, and really I like the Edna Walling approach: wild and rambling. Some areas of my garden are neat and tidy, yet other areas remain randomly interspersed with herbs and vegetables among the flowers. I’m very interested in companion planting – plants that complement other plants, like planting garlic bulbs under roses. I have a curious interest in herbs for tea, medicine, and textile dyeing.

One area of gardening I’m not very good at is growing plants from seed. Cuttings? Sure, but seeds often fail me. One Scripture verse that has meant much to me is Luke 13:19, ‘Faith is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his garden. It grew and became a tree, and the birds perched in its branches’.

Now, of course, today’s devotion is not about growing actual trees or vegetables, herbs or flowers. It’s about God’s spiritual garden of faith, and we can read many analogies and parables in the Bible about this topic. In today’s reading, St Paul wants to see the fruit of the Corinthian believers and share in the harvest of their faith. We read earlier in 1 Corinthians, where he refers to his part of the spiritual gardening process, and we learn when God takes over. ‘I planted, Apollos watered, but God was causing the growth. So then neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but God who causes the growth’ (1 Corinthians 3:6,7). Later, in Galatians 5:22,23, Paul seeks to witness and experience the fruit of the Spirit at work among them.

We, too, are called, together with St Paul, to be ‘part of the spiritual seed-sowing process’ through our faith, testimony and witness. This seed is different, though: ‘for you have been born again not of seed which is perishable but imperishable, that is, through the living and enduring word of God’ (1 Peter 1:23). Will you join me in some gardening?

Holy God, creator of all things in heaven and on earth, help us to become better gardeners, sowing spiritual seed in your garden of love. We pray that we can draw on your word of truth to share your message of hope with others. May we continually seek to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit and work at cultivating your garden by sowing the seed of your word. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Tatiana is married to Jim, and they live in Largs North, a seaside location in Adelaide. They have two adult children and six grandchildren, who are a wonderful blessing to them both. Tatiana teaches full-time as an English, history and religion teacher; she gained a Bachelor of Arts in Theology from Australian Lutheran College in 1996, and in her spare time, she enjoys knitting, gardening, singing for church, writing and swimming. Her home congregation is Bethlehem Lutheran Church, Adelaide.

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What would St Paul know about marriage?

But those who marry will face many troubles in this life, and I want to spare you this (1 Corinthians 7:28b).

Read 1 Corinthians 7:25–31

With a wry smile on their face, I know quite a few people who would agree with these words. Others might add, ‘It’s too late. I’ve found out the hard way!’

St Paul never married, so what’s he doing commenting about something he knows nothing about in a personal way? It might be stating the obvious here, but upon closer reading, through to the end of this chapter (verse 40), he seems to have observed enough relationships that some godly wisdom can be found.

No one sins by getting married under normal circumstances. However, there’s more to any marriage than just the ceremony. Ideally, there are years of ‘wedded bliss’ ahead that will reveal the depths of love two people can share through all the ups and downs of life. Together, dreams can become realised, such as the blessing of children, establishing a home that reflects individual and collective aspirations, growing old(er), and sharing intimacy and special occasions that only they can cherish.

Paul’s comment, ‘those who marry will face many troubles in this life, and I want to spare you this’, provides a reality check everyone needs. Even Jesus commented on us experiencing trouble in this world: ‘I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world, you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world’ (John 16:33). Both Jesus and St Paul speak God’s truth that nothing we will experience is unknown to him.

We all enter this world not knowing what’s ahead of us. Usually, we want a smooth journey with no hidden surprises, but that isn’t always the case. Our spouse and those closest to us can be viewed as God’s gift in times of hardship. They may not be perfect, but they can remind us just how much we need quality relationships when the troubles of life arise. However, we need Jesus especially. Stay close to him.

Who do you blame, and who do you turn to when the troubles of this life arise?

Heavenly Father, thank you again for your word that reminds us that troubles in this life are inevitable. Give us the humility to cast all our burdens and cares onto you and see in those closest to us your hand at work to guide us through. In Jesus’ name, we pray. Amen.

Pastor Steve and his wife Angelyn are virtually empty nesters living in the beautiful southern Perth coastal suburbs near Warnbro Sound beach. He likes gardening, watching sports, working on home projects and spending time with his wife and children. He is constantly seeking ways to help connect people to Jesus in a meaningful way.

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Being more than what we were in the past

And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God (1 Corinthians 6:11).

Read 1 Corinthians 5:9–6:11

I have known many people who match the description of who Paul is talking about in this ‘in-your-face’ section of his letter to the Corinthian church. This world provides plenty of examples of people I am so glad I’m not like. The sexually immoral, the greedy, idolaters, a drunkard or two, and even brothers who have taken each other before the courts. What a list! Who’d want to be associated with people like that?

Then I need to pause for a moment and admit that some aspects of these people’s lives reflect some aspects of my life in times gone by. Come to think of it, those times have gone by rather recently – sadly. I have been guilty of having idols – putting things ahead of God, wanting my own way above what God wants. Oh, yes, and then there’s the moment in my life when I have been greedy in wanting more than I need instead of sharing or leaving something for others. And who wants to talk about sexual sins these days anyway? Everyone has done something ‘less than pure’ in their life, so I’ll not be the first to mention it if you don’t.

I love that Paul encourages this young, problem-filled church with that small past tense word ‘were’.

Being washed clean through the waters of baptism, sanctified (being made holy), and justified (being put right with God) in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, by the power of the Holy Spirit working in us, has meant that our past doesn’t need to define us into the future. Thank God for new beginnings through Jesus’ forgiveness and presence in your life.

How well prepared are you to meet Jesus, should this life’s deadline come tomorrow?

Gracious God, thank you for blessing me with a new start and better way of life as your word and Spirit have touched my life. Please help me every day in my struggle to leave behind ungodly ways so I can live for you as a witness of your grace. Amen.

Pastor Steve and his wife Angelyn are virtually empty nesters living in the beautiful southern Perth coastal suburbs near Warnbro Sound beach. He likes gardening, watching sports, working on home projects and spending time with his wife and children. He is constantly seeking ways to help connect people to Jesus in a meaningful way.

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Cleansing dead dough

Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? (1 Corinthians 5:6b).

Read 1 Corinthians 5:1–8

I always appreciate the concreteness of the illustrations Jesus gives us about the kingdom of heaven. On Sunday, we reflected Matthew 13:33 and how the kingdom of God is like yeast hidden in three measures of flour. Today, Paul uses leaven or yeast to describe how badly immorality affects the community of saints in the church. I think this is important for our Western and post-modern sensibilities to hear. We all know how scandal can lead to destructive gossip and unrest in the church, and it becomes important how the leaders in the church handle such matters. When these things happen, members can fall away as they become spiritually discouraged because of this public hypocrisy. We must soberly recognise this risk.

Here, Paul is saying that immoral behaviour has such dire consequences on the spiritual unity of the body that the whole cannot live. He says it is so bad that the dough has no hope of ever being good again, so he recommends it be cleansed. I find this interesting because when it comes to bread-baking, dead yeast, even if mixed in dough, cannot be salvaged. It is better to get rid of the dough and start again.

Paul proposes that the church be cleansed from within. He recommends that the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth is the only fitting way to celebrate the final Passover feast. Jesus’ blood shed on the cross for us is the only thing that truly cleanses us and the world from sin. So when public sin enters the church – which it will ­­–­ we in the church are wise to consider God’s grace that was given to us through Christ’s sacrifice and to sincerely trust in it. We can ask Jesus in prayer and through his sacrament to cleanse the body of our community so that it can be healthy again. As Christians, we are called to live our lives as holy and sanctified members of Christ’s body, always remembering that we, too, have been cleansed and taking care not to hinder the light of God’s grace as revealed in our behaviour that is always on display in the church and world.

Dear Heavenly Father, by your grace, you have redeemed us by the blood of Christ. Help us, by your Spirit, to live as your children in sincerity and truth. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Kimberley Pfeiffer is married to Joshua, and they have four children. She is a member of the Lutheran Church of Australia and has served in various forms of church work. Kimberley is currently studying in graduate school at Concordia Lutheran Seminary, St Louis, USA. She is enjoying the challenge and the adventure abroad.

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Christ is the very ground on which we stand

If what has been built survives, the builder will receive a reward (1 Corinthians 3:14).

Read 1 Corinthians 2:14 – 3:15

In today’s reading, the Apostle Paul was writing to the people at the church in Corinth. Paul had been away for some time, and his sapling church was struggling along. Things weren’t going very well, and upon hearing about the quarrels and conflict, Paul sent this message to encourage them and lead them into the mysteries of God.

Paul wanted to reveal to them a deeper understanding of the wisdom and power of God in the cross of Christ, but first, he needed to show them that their thinking was not being ruled by the Spirit of God. Paul pointed this out as he reflected on their concerns about which leader to follow – Paul or Apollos. This matter was causing them great unrest. As in every generation, we do well to reflect on how this relates to us in the challenges we face in our own church.

Paul showed them that they were thinking about their problems in the wrong way. They were relying on human wisdom. He said that the only way forward for the church is to seek the wisdom of God with the help of the Holy Spirit, who reveals and teaches spiritual truths (1 Corinthians 2:10–13).

Paul opened their minds to the wisdom of Christ by helping them to look beyond what they could see in the human sense. He showed them that the cross is the only way, and this would require patient endurance in their spiritual growth as a church. They could only do this by putting their trust in Christ as their spiritual foundation, their stable base. Paul goes on to say that this will be hard because it will go against everything they thought they knew – after all, the way of the cross is folly to the world.

As we read God’s word today, we, too, can be reminded of the importance of placing our trust in Christ as our only foundation. One blessing from this is that we are set free to appreciate our pastors for who they are and not pick them apart for what they are not. We can thank God that we have them and that God has given them to us for our growth in faith and love as we learn with the saints to walk in the way of Christ.

Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for sending your Son, Jesus Christ, to be your church’s firm foundation. Lord, you know how fragile our faith can be when we are fearful about the future. Teach us your ways, and raise up faithful servants to nourish your church with your life-giving word. We ask this with the help of the Holy Spirit and in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Kimberley Pfeiffer is married to Joshua, and they have four children. She is a member of the Lutheran Church of Australia and has served in various forms of church work. Kimberley is currently studying in graduate school at Concordia Lutheran Seminary, St Louis, USA. She is enjoying the challenge and the adventure abroad.

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