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Knoxville, TN, United States
Interim Pastor of Evergreen Presbyterian Church (USA), Dothan, AL.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

I Am Joe's Body

2016-01-24 1Corinthians 12 12-31a I Am Joe's Body


Chapter 1: I Am Joe's Body

Our family subscribed to Reader's Digest, mainly, I think, for the sake of my Grandmother, who lived with us.

But I liked them, too.

When I was, say, ten, I'd read them cover to cover.

Reader's Digest is awesome.

Pick one up the next time you're at the doctor's office or your Grandma's. Or Great-grandma's.

The RD selects the important stories, and then cuts out the boring parts for you.

It's like Google News on paper.

It's like finding a book somebody's already highlighted.

It's like knowing when to fast forward in a movie.

It's like how most of us read the Bible.


"Oh, forget that stuff about loving our enemies.

Let's skip straight to slaying the Philistines."


Back in the 1970's – which is yesterday to some of you, and prehistoric to others – Reader's Digest had a series of very informative essays, called, "I Am Joe's Body."

Remember those?

They also had a companion series about his wife, called, "I Am So Tired of Joe's Body."

Actually, it was, "I Am Jane's Body."

Joe and Jane were a married, heterosexual, white couple, because, this was the 1970's, and your Grandma.

Every month would feature a different part of Joe's body, or Jane's when biologically necessary.

"I Am Joe's Eye."

"I Am Joe's Ear."

"I Am Joe's Nose."

"I Am Joe's Intestine."

"I Am Joe's Hypothalamus."

There were essays by 33 body parts in all, counting Jane's, which were very scandalous if you were a ten-year-old boy.

As the titles suggest, each part spoke for itself.


I am Joe's brain.

Compared to me, other wonders of the universe pale into insignificance.

I am a one and a half-kilo mushroom of gray and white tissue of gelatinous consistency.

No computer exists that can duplicate all my myriad functions.

My component parts are staggering in number: some 30 billion neurons and five to ten times that number of glial cells.

And all this fitted into the crown of a size 7 hat! I am Joe's brain.

Most parts of Joe's body were just as proud of themselves.

I am Joe's eye: "no other organ in Joe's body can equal me."

I am Joe's ear: "I am a triumph…."

"I am Joe's thyroid. I am a powerhouse."

Each part knew it was simply a miracle.

Joe was one awesome guy.





Chapter 2: I Am Not Christ's Body

The Apostle Paul wrote, "You are Christ's body."

Indeed, the body does not consist of one member but of many. Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. – First Corinthians 12:14, 27.

Once, at our annual retreat, our church played a game.

Not this church. Another church.

Someone drew a chalk outline of a body, really big on the tile floor.

After listening to Paul's scripture, we were to go stand at the part of the body we thought we were.


Some were hands.

They liked doing stuff for the church.

They planted flowers.

They built houses.

They changed light bulbs.


Some were feet.

They ran around and took care of people.


Some were the heart.

They prayed and cooked casseroles, both of which are vital to a church's health.

Some were the head.

They went to meetings and made decisions.


Some wanted a back pocket drawn, so they could be the wallet.

Because we were Presbyterians.


Some congregated near the hind end.

I have no idea what they were trying to say.


It was a fun exercise.

We all got to see where we thought we fit best.

We were all a little proud of ourselves for being a part of the church together.

But the Apostle Paul wasn't working with a church that functioned well or had much fun.

The church in Corinth was pretty dysfunctional.

The parts were not harmonious.

They barely knew how to even BE a church.

They could barely work together at all to build up the Body of Christ, which is, a sweet, euphemistic name for a church.

Paul used the image of a body to teach them how they should behave well, instead of like a bunch of anti-bodies fighting off one another.


Paul said,

Indeed, the body does not consist of one member but of many.

If the foot would say, "Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body," that would not make it any less a part of the body.

And if the ear would say, "Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body," that would not make it any less a part of the body.

If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be?

If the whole body were hearing, where would the sense of smell be?

But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose.

If all were a single member, where would the body be?

If all the members thought alike, and looked alike, and functioned alike, there wouldn't even BE a body.

It would just be a big pile of noses.

Or fingers.

Or something.


Like Joe's Body, the Corinthian church was all about the parts, each declaring which was the best, the most important, the one without which the whole thing would fall apart.

But Paul was trying to make the opposite point:

That without each and every part, together, there would be no Body of Christ.

Sure, you could get by without a few parts.

There would still be something.

Something different.

Something less.

But not a body.

And not of Christ.




Chapter 3: You Are Christ's (Living) Body.

Peyton Manning's playing football next Sunday.

Peyton's body has changed.

He has no feeling in his fingertips.

His legs can't evade the tackle like he did at UT.

After all, his parts are the ripe old age of 39.

You and I might wish we were as strong and as agile as we were back in the day, but we're not.

We might wish the world's body was as straightforward as it used to be, but it's not.

It changes.

Like our bodies, everything on the face of the earth – and above it, and beneath it – is changing.

It keeps changing.

And it's complicated.

It can't be condensed into a simple digest.

The more you try to squish the world into simplicity, the more it fights back.

Same for your body.

Same for the church.

Nothing about it is ever simple.

The Body of Christ changes.

I don't know if that's a bad thing, or a good thing.

But it's definitely a thing.

And it's real.

God does not call us to crow about how fantastic and irreplaceable we each are.

Instead, God calls us to see that without each other we're just a pile of useless parts.

We – the church – are called to life.

We're NOT called to be a motionless chalk outline where a body used to be.

We – the church – are called to be vital, literally, a vital living body sent to bring the balm of humility and grace to a world whose parts are wearing thin, and wearing out.


Not one of us alone is Jesus.

That's pretty obvious.

To everyone else.

Not one of us alone is Jesus who saves the world, or our family, or ourselves.


But all of us together?

Only together we can say, "I am Christ's Body." I am a part.

You are a part.

We are parts of Christ, but only when we stand together.

Paul tells us, we can't say to any part, "I have no need of you." If we stand apart, we're something else.

Something less.


But here's the thing: bodies change.




Chapter 4: Joe's (and Christ's) Changing Body.

It has been a long time since the 1970s.

Joe has some new parts.

They sound a little different.

"Saya perentak jantung Joe. Saya sedang dibuat oleh orang Islam di Singapura."

(I am Joe's pacemaker. I am made by Muslims in Singapore.)

"Soy rodilla artificial de Jose desde México. Por favor no me deportar."

(I am Joe's Artificial Knee from Mexico. Please do not deport me.)

A physical therapist named Shawnita checks on Joe twice a week, keeps his body moving, and brings him cookies.

Joe doesn't know what he'd do without her.


Joe misses Jane.

A few years back, cancer invaded Jane's breasts faster than the treatment could save her.

It was like losing a part of his own body.


Joe Jr. calls. Sporadically.

Joe Jr.'s kind of a mess.

His checkered record of relationships might be explained by an obsession with bodies.


But it's not all bad.

This summer, Daughter Mary Jane is taking Joe, along with her family, to DisneyWorld.

Joe's going to get a scooter. That's part of his body, now, too.

He's looking forward to seeing the grandkids dance with Cinderella, and run full-speed to the next ride.

They're part of Joe's body.

The mobile, jumping, giggling part.

They're Joe's flesh and blood.

Without them, he wouldn't be who he is.


Seeing life with some distance, Joe knows now that his body is far more than the sum of its parts.

He knows his body is way more than bone and muscle.

He, Joe, is those grandkids, and his kids, and his memories of Jane, and his neighbors, and his church, too.


I am Joe's Body.

I am multinational.

I am multiracial.

I am multi-generational.

Joe has no idea how diverse I am getting.

I am not who I once was.

Some of my parts don't get along.

But overall, we're just happy to still be here.

Still being Joe.

We're not the Joe we used to be.

That Joe is gone.

I am different now.

I am Joe's Body.

No, WE are Joe's body.

We are Joe.



We are Christ's body.

We are still Christ's body.

Together, we are Christ's body and will continue to be Christ's body.

We are Christ's body for the world.

The world may not know it needs us.

That's ok.

We will be Christ's body because that's what God made us to be, together.





A PDF of the articles of "I Am Joe's Body" is found at http://www.arvindguptatoys.com/arvindgupta/joebody.pdf