On the contrary, the members of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and those members of the body that we think less honorable we clothe with greater honor, and our less respectable members are treated with greater respect; whereas our more respectable members do not need this. But God has so arranged the body, giving the greater honor to the inferior member, that there may be no disession within the body, but the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honored, all rejoice together with it.
In this scripture, Paul writes that “if one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honored, all rejoice together with it.” We know this to be true in our own experience of our own bodies, yes? If one part is hurting, the rest of the body will be pretty miserable, too. We can’t just cordon off our stomach ache or a headache and go about the rest of our day like nothing is wrong, can we? One part suffers, and the whole body suffers.
I used to have a teacher in junior high school, Mr. Siepmann, who made the same joke in class any time someone complained about having an ache or pain. If you told him you had a headache, he’d offer to drop an anvil on your foot. “It will make you forget about your headache!” he would say with a laugh. It was always met with a mixture of laughter and groans, because we knew, of course, that that wouldn’t really help. Just because one part now suffers worse than another doesn’t mean that initial pain has gone away.
So how do we respond? How do we start to care for the whole body of Christ? First, we pray. We pray for God to break down the walls that we have put up in our hearts, and the walls we have put up in our world. We pray for God to gives us the eyes we need to see the suffering around us, and the courage to do something about it.
Second, we put that prayer into action. Pope Francis once said, “You pray for the hungry. Then you feed them. That’s how prayer works.” The book of Matthew chapter 25 gives us guidance about what actions we can take - welcome the strangers, feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit those who are sick and in prison. We start by paying attention to the parts of the body closest to us, that we know we have the power to heal.
Where are the skinned knees and the sprained ankles and the bruises on the body of Christ? Perhaps we can find a way to heal those first. And then, when we have started to feel our power that comes from the presence of the Holy Spirit, we start to draw the circle wider. We begin to look outside of our sanctuary, down the block, through the neighborhood, through the town, and on and on. Then we can look for the bigger hurts, and we can begin to heal those, too. When we work together as a body of Christ, with the power of the Holy Spirit, there is nothing we cannot do.
Loving and gracious God, thank you for creating me to be a part of the body of Christ. Help me to be the best part of the body that I can be. Help me to pay attention to all the other parts of the body, to notice where there is suffering and pain, and to do everything I can to relieve it. In the power of Jesus Christ, our Lord, Amen.