Are we the Body of Christ?

by Fr. Dana Jackson
31 January 2021

The week before I had COVID, our parish had just begun meeting in a church again after five years in a hall.  We’d celebrated the third Sunday of Advent, and the Lord was giving me a word for the fourth Sunday and Christmas Eve.  We light candles to remind us of the gifts Christ brings to the world; I believe the enemy of souls intentionally derailed our celebration just before the love candle. 

Love is more than a candle

Our liturgy says, “God’s love is a perfect love.  It holds nothing back.  Love never ends.  We light the candle of Love to remind us that Jesus brings us God’s love and shows us how to love others.”  And on Christmas Eve: “The centre candle of Advent is the Christ candle.  All other candles of Advent are realized [given actual or physical form] in the coming of Jesus Christ.  All promises are kept, all hopes are fulfilled, and all needs are met in Him.  Jesus said, ‘I am the light of the world.  He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.’”

Our Christ candle is broader and taller and burns brighter than the Advent candles.  Jesus didn’t only bring peace, hope, joy, and love; He gave us the ultimate gift, Himself, in which all the other gifts are given.  He didn’t just bring us love; He gave us Himself – love incarnate, in the flesh – to change us and make it possible to become like Him.

Later, the Celebrant lights a small candle and carries his light to the people; they pass it on to one another until the whole church is filled with light.  The only light worth passing on, that will make a difference in people’s lives, isn’t the gift of love from the Advent candle, but the light of Christ – who is love – from the Christ candle.

Sadly, in the midst of ceremonial beauty, sometimes we forget: we mistake the candle for Christ Himself.  We honour the light; but Christ’s love isn’t the light or the candle.  It represents Christ’s love, but doesn’t contain it.  Love is far more than a candle.

Fulfil the love of Christ

Christ’s love is our mainspring, the driving force in the life of every mature Christian (II Corinthians 5:14-15).  Those who live in Christ – who are saved by grace through faith – shouldn’t live for ourselves but for Him.  With that Scripture the Holy Spirit expanded His word to the Church – not just the worldwide Body of Christ, but the local Body – you and me in our local church.  Our reason for existing, our primary calling, is to fulfil the Apostles’ calling which Jesus Himself laid out very plainly before ascending into heaven (Matthew 28:19-20): Go, make disciples, baptize, and teach.  Driven by the love of Christ, empowered by the love of Christ, fulfil the love of Christ!

How do we possibly do that?  It’s much too difficult for any individual human being or church.  It requires a much larger body – the Body of Christ.  Each Christian and each local church is part of the worldwide Body of Christ.  We can’t be part of the big body without being part of the smaller body.  The local church may be a hand, eye or lung; each individual is a member of that part.  Being part of His Body is what enables us to fulfil the calling He gives each of us individually and all of us collectively: to make disciples, baptise them in the name of the Trinity, and teach them – not rules to obey but how to live the life of Christ. 

Becoming a body

What does this have to do with “Love is more than a candle?”  It’s a similar progression from the symbol or representation to the truth. 

  • A local church often begins as a “fellowship”: an association of people who share a common interest, a similar heritage, holding some goals in common even in the midst of their differences.
  • Over time they grow together in the Lord and become a family: a closer-knit group of people, now with a common heritage, who enjoy one another, come together to discover what has been happening in one another’s lives, share common meals of favourite foods, and whose bond goes far beyond “fellowship”. Unfortunately, families also develop disagreements and divisions, prompted by internal strife or outside pressures, such that one part of the family avoids or even refuses to have contact with another part.  This can lead to offenses and wounds that are maintained long after the original family members are gone.
  • In many ways a church is a fellowship and a family. But just as love is far more than a candle, Christ’s church – not only the worldwide Church, but even a local parish – is far more than either.  It’s a body: the local Body of Christ in the area where it resides.

What is a body?  How does it operate?  Paul describes this in some detail in I Corinthians 12:

  • The members are unique, yet part of the same body
  • Different gifts are given to different members, but the purpose of every gift is for the profit of all
  • Every member is as important as any other, regardless of their gifts or functions
  • If one member suffers, all suffer; if one member is honoured, all rejoice

A body, and most essentially of all the Body of Christ, works for the benefit of the body – not the profit, health, or wealth of the individual member.  Only when the Body works this way is there any possibility of fulfilling Jesus’ call to make disciples.

The Holy Spirit asked me: Are you a fellowship?  Are you a family?  Are you the Body of Christ? 

  • Do we see ourselves as a body, each part working for the health of the whole?
  • Do we sacrifice our own desires and schedules to do Christ’s work together?
  • Do we walk as faithfully on “plain”, “normal” Sundays when everything we do is for Jesus alone – no high feast day, “fellowship meal” or visiting bishop or patriarch to be seen by?
  • Is Jesus as worthy of our best efforts as any other human being?
  • Who are we when no one sees but Jesus and a few other members?

These are questions we each need to answer for ourselves and our churches.

How does this relate to COVID? 

COIVD is a real physical virus with real consequences: I know that from personal experience.  But there’s a spiritual aspect in the virus and the world’s response which threatens to undermine our call to be the local Body of Christ.  The virus and the world are speaking, and the enemy is speaking.

 

  • To those suffering from the virus,

the overwhelming message is the temptation of the snake:

It was only when the Holy Spirit told me,

lie down, rest, don’t fight, don’t resist, let it pass.  When I listened to that, I lost half my energy, 20lb of body weight, and it greatly altered my metabolism. 

“Get up! Get active!” that my body and mind turned around (James 4:7).

 

  • To those working with victims in an official capacity,

the message is the exact opposite of what it means to be the Body of Christ:

– when Jesus says,

Separate the contaminated completely: don’t allow anyone access; don’t allow loved ones to be present, encourage and pray; don’t allow ministers of the Gospel and the Sacraments to bring salvation and healing to those in the greatest and most immediate need

Matthew 25:34-36

 

  • To the general public,

the overwhelming message from health services, governments and politicians is the opposite of Christ’s call:

Scripture says:

“Protect yourself, keep away from others.  Put up a barrier: masks, distance, plastic walls…”

John 15:13 (risk your life)

“You’re forbidden to open churches for public worship; doing so is a criminal offence”

Hebrews 10:24-25

“Report your neighbours when you think they’re violating the rules”

Matthew 7:1-2

 

I’m not telling you to ignore everything you’re told by civil authorities, assume you know better than everyone else, or be arrogant in your actions (“God will protect me, no matter what I do” – that’s not true)I am calling you to discern the spiritual messages underneath what you hear, reject the lies of the enemy, and be the Body of Christ you individually and your church collectively are called to be. 

 

That’s more than a “thumbs up” or heart “emoji” on a “social media” “post” – it’s being the living, breathing, acting, hands-and-feet Body of Christ.  Technology is no substitute for physical presence.  God has given us technology (internet, “social media”, live-streaming) as tools for this time; but don’t expect them to become normal or the new way.  The companies and governments that provided them can easily take them away.  There’s already extensive censorship of Christian truth and teaching from Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Amazon and Google.  Don’t be lulled to sleep, lie down and rest, or close your eyes.

 

Just as COVID patients need physical engagement for encouragement and health – the touch of a loved one, physical assistance to get up and get moving – so does the Body of Christ.  Whatever the “legal” restrictions are, we must find ways of engaging personally, and wherever possible, physically, strengthen the weak, heal the sick, minister to the dying, and comfort those who mourn.  Just as resting too long sapped my strength and ability, if our churches remain lying down for too long, we’ll have great difficulty getting up and becoming active again.  Christ’s ministry will have diminished and relationships will have suffered.  We’ll have to rebuild much of what was built before.

 

I received this word primarily for myself, with conviction.  There are places I need to change: habits, actions, ways I think.  I pray that wherever it applies, small or great, you’ll receive it as well.

© 2021 icceceurope.org

or

Log in with your credentials

Forgot your details?