“You are the body of Christ and individually members of one another.”
One of my college courses was a class on church history. The professor was a well-known theologian who participated in the Lutheran\Orthodox dialogs. As a result much of the course focused on Eastern Orthodox Christianity. A fellow classmate and I became curious. So, early one Sunday, I mean REALLY early, about 3AM on a frigid morning in February, we headed north from Moorhead, Minnesota to make the 10AM service at the Serbian Orthodox Church in Winnipeg, Manitoba. We arrived in plenty of time. I will never forget walking into the sanctuary and for the next two hours being caught up in the great liturgy of the Orthodox Church. It was the first and most powerful vision I had ever experienced of the Church universal.
“You are the body of Christ and individually members of one another.” These words are so simple, direct and unequivocal it almost takes your breath away. There is no talk of here of a private Jesus in your heart, though that language may have it’s place. There is no language here of the church as a patch of real estate and a few buildings on a street corner, for these are utterly unecessary where the body of Christ is concerned. There is only “You” in the plural. The Church consists of “living stones’, the people, the community gathered around word and sacrament. The Church is the Living Christ in and among His people.
The nasty atmosphere in which we find ourselves these days is characterized by a prickly defensiveness that uses the slightest differences between Christians as an excuse to repudiate Paul’s words. The last thing many in the churches want is to be “members of one another”. Furthermore, there are plenty of Christians who are more than willing to let you know, in no uncertain terms, that because you disagree with them you are going to hell.
For my part, the question that the presence of other Christian communities raises is not ‘Who is a Christian?’ Rather, as I sat among those Serbian brothers and sisters years ago, the question that came to me and that has been with me ever since was this; ‘What is a Christian?’ Following this question into Scripture, the Confessions, tradition, the Church and the world has been a fruitful, challenging and humbling journey. It has taught me to be content with letting Jesus be the Lord of His people, the Church, even as I struggle to understand what it means to belong to Him – and to all those who confess His name.
“May the peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord.”