“He is the head of the body, the church;…”
Our faith is personal and corporate. Both are well-represented in the Bible. Noah, for example, was commanded to build an ark – in the desert. Needless to say, his reaction was less than enthusiastic. Why did he do it? Obviously, his relationship with God was something intense and personal. So much so, he overcame his reluctance and set to work.
At the same time, Noah was commanded to fill the ark with critters and to bring the family. A new beginning would emerge from the flood for the creation and the covenant people.
Isaiah had a profound, personal vision of the Holy One. That vision brought him face to face with his sin. “I am a man of unclean lips”, he was brought to confess.
At the same time, Isaiah’s vision brought him to see the larger implications. “…and I dwell among a people with unclean lips”, he concluded. Sin is personal and corporate.
The prophets, generally, were perceived to have a unique word from God. At the same time, that word was always for the people of God. The word was personal and corporate.
Our Lord Jesus called Matthew at the toll gate, the first of twelve. Each disciple was singled out. At the same time, Jesus made of them the nucleus of a new Israel. Twelve disciples, representing the twelve tribes of the covenant people.
St. Paul was singled out on the road to Damascus. Christ appeared to him, called him, set him apart. At the same time, bearing witness to this experience was neither the burden nor the focus of Paul’s message. He rarely mentions his dramatic, personal encounter with Christ. His letters were written, in large measure, for the sake of congregations, Christian communities, the body of Christ.
We have just celebrated the Resurrection of our Lord. We believe He lives. But this risen Lord is not the private property of the individual. Through Word and sacrament He makes us His own, one by one, to be sure. At the same time, Christ Jesus never leaves it at that. He makes us members of His body. That’s what the Resurrection looks like here and now; persons called by the grace of Christ into community. We are each a unique, living member of the body. This means faith is personal but not private. Like it or not, we belong to one another.
“May the peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord.”