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"Honoring the Weakest"

I Corinthians 12:12-31

Rev. Alan Taylor

Epiphany 3, series C
St. John Lutheran Church  
Galveston, Texas

Sun, Jan 27, 2013 

In the name of Jesus.  Amen.

One of the last things a preacher should ever do is to use a text of Scripture as a pretext for a sermon.  In other words, you don't want to write a sermon and then search the Scriptures looking for a passage that has something to do with your topic.  The practice tends to try to make the Bible say something it isn't saying.

That said, though the Scriptures offer council to address a specific issue within the Church or the culture, that council is also applicable in broader contexts as well.  For instance, Jesus said "I have come that they may have life and that they may have it abundantly."  Christians know the abundant life is one in which their sins are forgiven, where their life has purpose and meaning and their home is ultimately with God in the glory of heaven.  When Jesus says that He came "that we might have life" those are the things we think about. 

The passage also sets up a contrast though between what God calls an abundant life and what the world outside of Christ calls an abundant life.  Outside of Christ, abundance is in things like money and power, perhaps even happiness.  Since none of those things ultimately fulfill the deepest human need, which is to have fellowship with God, there is, in the final analysis no such thing as an abundant life outside of Christ.

Perhaps better than most, Shakespeare summed up the brevity and futility of life from a purely human perspective.  "Out, out, brief candle!  Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player that struts and frets his hour upon the stage, and then is heard no more; it is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing."

Annually, the congregations of the LCMS are asked to observe life Sunday during the month of January.  Many of the congregations of our Synod did so last Sunday.  We do so today.  In this morning's reading from I Corinthians 12, Paul follows up on the passage from last week, in which he assured the Christians in Corinth that God gave His Church the gifts of His Spirit necessary for her to be the Church.  In this morning's reading he deals with those who are jealous of other's gifts, as well as with those who consider their gifts to be greater than others.  In his admonition to the Corinthians regarding the body, the Church, Paul touches on a valuable principle regarding life and our responsibility to honor the weakest among us.

"The parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, which our more presentable parts do not require.  But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together. " The gist of Paul's argument is that all parts of the body are necessary and to be honored, and if one part of the body is dishonored the whole body suffers. 

It has often been said, "you can tell a great deal about a society by the way it treats its weakest members."  I agree with that sentiment wholeheartedly.  Unfortunately, measured by that standard, our society has been weigh in the balance and found wanting.  It is to our shame that we treat the weakest among us with contempt rather than honor and respect.  In some cases, we, as a matter of law, even deny their right to exist.  The unborn are afforded no right of citizenship.  At the same time, death, when it comes to the elderly and the infirm, is said to be a welcome friend because life without "quality" is not worth living. 

As a culture, when it comes to life issues, we often demonstrate a most ungodly hypocrisy.  We shutter and cringe at the death of some, while we scarcely blink an eye at the death of others.  Here I'm not just speaking in terms of the deaths of inner city impoverished teens and children vs. suburbanites.  No, a crazed man murders children in a school house and we rightfully so lament the loss of such precious lives.  And yet, those same children could have been murdered in the womb of their mother and scarcely would those aborted children have been thought "precious" by some.  To the contrary, as stated by a former professor of mine, the unborn child has no more status in the woman's body than a set a tonsils.  And this because, our narcissistic culture affords parents, even the unwed, who have the right not to conceive a child, the right to kill the child they have conceived.

Lest you and I see ourselves as guiltless in this matter, to abhor such culturally accepted abominations does not excuse you and me from any responsibility for our neighbor or his or her actions.  We have to own what our culture accepts because, if we don't, we'll never take it to God in prayer.  Pray that God would turn us, as a nation, away from such a wanton disdain for life.  And when you come out of your prayer closet, speak up for life among your friends and especially among those you know who err.  As a Christian, it is your responsibility to do so.  And finally, cast your vote at the ballot box for life. 

Even then though, when you've done all you can to honor and defend the weakest among us, you'll still stand before God as you always do, a sinner in need of His forgiveness and grace.  Thankfully God honors the weak too, "giving greater honor to the part of the body that lacked it."  If you find yourself then, as the Nation you love, wanting in purity and respect for life, remember that God has given you His greatest honor by giving you His own dear Son. 

In some ways it is ironic that God should establish the ultimate value of human life by giving up His Son unto death.  And yet, that is precisely what He does in giving Jesus up on the cross for us, the weakest in purity, the chief of sinners.  Like the widow of Zarephath and Naaman the Syrian, though we deserved nothing but God's wrath and judgment, He had pity on us.

One rainy Sunday afternoon, a father was babysitting his children and had the task of keeping them entertained.  He assigned specific tasks to each child.  To keep his 10-year-old son busy, he had torn a full-page map of the United States out of a magazine, cut it into small pieces, and told his son to reassemble it as a jigsaw puzzle.  To the father's amazement, his son presented him with the completed puzzle in just a few minutes.  "How did you do it, son?" he asked.  "It was easy," the boy replied.  "At first, when I tried to fit together all those little lines and dots and the small print on the map, it looked like an impossible job.  Then I saw part of a man's face on the back of one of the pieces.  So I turned the pieces over, and when I got the man together, the United States took care of itself."

Friends, the jigsaw puzzle of life makes sense and we get it all together when we live our life against the background of Christ.  That is, faith in Christ as Redeemer and Lord makes all the pieces of life fit together. 

God did the ironic.  He gave a life to honor the weak and to save millions.  His Son was rich, and yet, for your sake He became poor that you, through His poverty might be made rich.  In Jesus' name.  Amen.

The peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus unto life everlasting.  Amen.

+ Soli Deo Gloria +

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