The one and the many
1st Corinthians 12:12-31
1st Corinthians 12:12-31
Unity or diversity? The one or the many?
Challenges to a family, a company or a church should, in the best of all possible worlds, be met with a great show of unity amongst the members. The phone calls are made which need to be made, the decisions taken and the resources marshalled to see the group through its rough patch. A show of unity. Divisions and differences are minimized. We come to recognize what we have in common.
Unity can occasionally be a crippling thing as well. There is something comforting about hearing our own words and opinions echoed back to us. We might feel ourselves to be fairly cosmopolitan people - able to navigate foreign cities and speak a few words in another language but when we choose our friends they may well be those who are like-minded people. We might have bent to our family’s will and followed in our family’s footsteps when we chose a profession. We might have heard from a parent or another family member that the Smiths or the Joneses aren’t that sort of person. We don’t do that.
That part of the world which is big and expansive escaped us because we conformed to the supposed unity of our family, our nation or our clan. We took on the family narrative. We lost out on horizons.
St Paul describes the society – and he would say that the Church is the greatest society of all because it is the one that God himself has built – as being made up of many nations, languages and even religious backgrounds which have been brought together and baptized into one Spirit. From the many, one people. Jews, Greeks and Barbarians, Male and Female, Rich and poor are gathered into a unity which must defy the prejudice and clan loyalties with which each viewed the other previously.
We are one body. But does that mean that we are the same? No and this is where Paul continues. What troops out of that Ark of baptism are all the different creatures and varieties which make the world of the Church an interesting place to be. Our gift to the world is that some of us move one way and some in other directions. We use the gifts which God has given us and we discover gifts we did not know we had.
This is an interesting time for the Church and for churches like ours. Gathered as we are from a variety of places we find that we have much in common. We are able to work together. In fact, we find ourselves today in a place where the future of our small congregation requires that we pull together as never before. What is required, though, of each of us is not the same offering of a common gift. It begins with the “Same Spirit” - it moves to the quite unique contribution that only you can make. God has something for you to do. God is lifting up ministries in his Church. Which one is yours?