One Body - Many Parts

The Rev. Katherine G. Dougherty
Sermon Text: 

Third Sunday After Epiphany

January 27, 2019 – Year C1 Cor. 12:12-31

One Body – Our Christian Community of All Souls

One Body – Many Parts

Our Christian Community of All Souls

         I have three stories and a poem for you today.  The first story happened about 18 months ago. 18 months ago I came for my first Vestry meeting, my first Sunday service, and my first official All Souls Potluck Picnic.  As the lawn filled with cars on that warm July day, so did the tables in the breezeway with a feast of summer dishes.  Folks arrived and busily set up their camp chairs under the arms of the big tree out back and prepared to settle in for a bit.  Everywhere I looked folks were greeting one another, hugging, laughing, catching up and soaking in the summer day.  Children were running to and fro, weaving in and out of all the adults clearly at home in this sweet, yellow farmhouse and on its land. 

         Every once in awhile I would pause and take in my surroundings.  Throughout the tables and camp chairs a variety of conversations were happening.  People looked relaxed and happy to be spending time with friends…not just “church friends,” but friends.  As the afternoon went by, I loved watching children being swept up in the arms of adults and hugged or played with or chased.  Two little girls, who I later came to know as Julia and Nina, ran through the labyrinth as Donna chased behind as Scottie played in the dirt as his mama chatted with friends.  Clearly this was a place where people became friends and friends stayed for a long time. 

         My second story is about a chilly, November day when a number of folks gathered together for Morning Prayer and service.  It is a story about coming together in our jeans and sweatshirts with coffee in hand and preparing for a day of work.  It was another first for me as a member of All Souls, and I had no idea what to expect.  Would enough folks show up?  Would the work all get done in one day?  And once Morning Prayer ended, how did we figure out who went where…was there a chart or “Next Steps” written anywhere?  All I really had clear in my head was today was Home Winterization Day!

         What I witnessed next was amazing!  Morning Prayer ended, Don’s booming voice described the houses to be winterized and the jobs to be done.  There was a scurry of bodies everywhere and just as I was shifting out of my worship headspace, Andy was asking for my car keys.  “Where are your car keys boss?  Gotta load your car. I’ll warm it up for you too.”  What was happening?  Did I need to know next steps or did I need to trust the process?  Next thing I know, I’m climbing into my warm car, which was full of the food baskets for the families, with Kim as my faithful guide and partner. 

         I’m pretty sure I have the best job of anyone on Home Winterization Day, and anyone is welcome to join me next year.  See my job is to travel from house to house and visit with the family and bring them the food All Souls collected for them.  How awesome is that?  As we arrived at each house, there were All Souls folks working hard clearing leaves and debris, covering drafty windows with plastic sheeting, wrapping pipes with insulation, and whatever else you can imagine.  Everyone was working together, chatting away and often times chuckling about something said or done.  It was amazing!  And before we knew it, three families had a home that was ready for winter and a bit cozier and the makings for a Thanksgiving meal was tucked away in their fridge. 

Just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body--Jews or Greeks, slaves or free--and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.

         My last story is a bit harder to tell.  It’s not of a loud and joyous afternoon or a wild Sunday morning filled with duck tape, ladders, and rakes.  It’s about what it’s like to be the pastor and priest of All Souls.  It’s not a story of just one day but it’s a story of numerous moments and bits of days woven together. 

         Over the last 18 months it has been my honor to be with you all.  It has been my honor and it has touched my heart deeply to look into your eyes as I hand you the body of our dear Savior Jesus Christ knowing what it means to us as Christians.  It has been my honor to meet you at the hospital before an early surgery or to sit with your family as we await the good news that the surgery is over.  It makes my heart sing to have someone call or text or stop by and say, “By any chance can we chat for a bit?” 

         Though I wish pain on no one, it has been my privilege to walk through difficult times with you.  That space we hold together

when saying goodbye to someone you love or coping with losing someone dear, is a holy place.  It is a time when I, as your priest, can stand or sit and remind us all…that God is near.  It is for all the moments that I get to serve God and serve this community of All Souls that I give thanks for. 

         My job as your priest and pastor is not a ‘job’ in any traditional way.  It is the work I’m called to do – the work I am blessed to do. 

         In our New Testament reading today, we heard Paul speaking to the people of Corinth.  In his letter, he reminds them that we are all the body of Christ.  He tells them that though we may hold differing views or come from different backgrounds, we are a community in Christ. 

         I’m sure you have many stories too of your time here at All Souls.  I’m sure you too have those moments when you’ve seen God’s face in another or you’ve experienced what felt like a holy moment.  By coming together and sharing ourselves and our gifts with one another, we strengthen God’s presence in the world, and we find a place of belonging. 

         My last piece is a poem.  It’s about a Barn Raising in Pennsylvania.  Though I’m guessing most of us have not participated in a Barn Raising, this community knows what it means to come together and create something wonderful. 

Pennsylvania Barn Raising

                           by Robert Charles Howard (c) 2016

They gathered by Williamson Road at sun-up
      from neighboring spreads across the Tioga valley.
They came with carts laden with lumber stacks -
      with saws, adzes, hammers and sundry tools.

They gathered with the homesteaders bond.
      to co-build their neighbor's' dreams.

Sweet music of community echoed off the hills.
     Chisels clanged into rock, shaping the foundation,
saws sang into boards to frame a timbered skeleton.
     The staccato syncopation of hammers fastened walls
that soon would shelter plowshares, stock and grain.
      A smithy leaned over his fire and forge -
chiming iron into sturdy latches and hinges. 

     Children scurried about mixing squeals and laughter
with exuberant fetching and lifting whenever called. 
In two short passings of the sun the deed was done
      and a handsome new barn, decked out in a wash of red 
was silhouetted tall and proud against the fading light.

Homesteaders gathered at a celebration table
      to share a hearty meal adorned by the music 
of fiddles, grateful smiles and easy laughter.
Then one by one they steered their wagons home
      gazing back at what their labors had wrought - 
knowing to the depth of their communal souls
      that we are more together than we are apart

Listen up, America!  This is the music of community.
      We are more together than we are apart.

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