Have you been watching the NBC show Heroes? The premise is this: All of a sudden, a small percentage of “normal” human beings discover they have superpowers. The high school cheerleader Claire learns that her body heals instantly after being wounded. The politician Nathan discovers, much to his chagrin, that he can fly. The artist Isaac discovers he can paint the future. Matt, the police officer, can read minds. The office worker Hiro, can travel through time. Most interesting, perhaps, is Peter, who can pick up the superpower of whomever he is around. When he is around Claire, his body can regenerate. When he’s around Nathan, he can fly, and so on.
The first part of the season has been about each of these characters discovering their superpowers. Some, like Hiro, are thrilled, and can’t wait to fulfill his superhero duties. Some, like Claire the cheerleader are really scared about being different. And some, like Nathan, are just angry because they are afraid their superpower will diminish their political or social power. All of them are confused about why they have been given these powers and for what purpose they should use them.
I suspect over the rest of the series some will use their power for good, some for evil, but ultimately these individual heroes will have to come together as a team to vanquish some as of yet unknown evil.
None of these heroes have the power to defeat much of anything on their own, but together they will make an incredible team.
Does any of this sound familiar? If you change superpowers to spiritual gifts, you’ve got our reading from Paul’s letter to the Corinthians today!
The church at Corinth, like all churches in Paul’s time, was just a few years old. People from all walks of life, all different backgrounds found themselves thrown together by their common faith in Christ. Like any group of people trying to come together in a community, they faced bickering, power plays, and mistrust. In this part of his letter to them, Paul is trying to convey what it means to be a community rooted in Christ.
No matter how different the members-some were Greek, some were Jewish, some were free and some were slaves-they all had the same standing in Paul’s eyes. And success as a community was rooted in its members ability to see each other as important equals.
For Paul, any Christian community represents the body of Christ. We represent Christ, manifest Christ in the world. Because we are all part of this body, there are no unimportant parts.
We all have different gifts. Some of us are great at hospitality. Others are wonderful listeners. Some are gifted in financial management. Some are gifted in prayer. Some are gifted in leadership. Some are gifted in teaching. Some are gifted in inspiring speech.
Some of us know our gifts, and some of us, like the characters in Heroes, need to spend some time discerning what our gifts are and how we can best use them.
Even when we do each know our gifts, none of these gifts are enough on their own. Paul’s point is, that, like a group of superheroes, each member of the Body of Christ needs the other. Being a Christian means being a part of a community. And there are no unimportant parts of the community.
Many Christians, women in particular struggle, with doubt that they have any gifts worth contributing to the Church. We all have days where we feel more like a hang nail than a heart, more appendix than brain. But Paul reminds us that every part of the Body of Christ is just as important as any other.
Remember, all Christians are the body of Christ-and that is an amazing, powerful image. When Christ was on this earth, people followed him around for days just to get a glimpse of that body, or to touch a hand or the hem of his garment. Christ’s body was incredibly powerful. It embodied God.
Together, we can embody Christ to each other and to the community around us.
Today, as we meet together as a congregation during our annual meeting, we make decisions together about how we want to embody Christ. Each of us are important both to the ministries of our church and in our decision making as a church body.
We may not be tasked with saving the world, like the characters on Heroes. But we are tasked to the wonderful privilege of being in community together. Sometimes that looks like bountiful potlucks, sometimes it looks like worshipping together, and sometimes it looks like the rather unglamorous, but important task of meeting together as a decision making body.
I look forward to seeing you at the annual meeting.