We’re All In This Together

After the game was over, Baltimore held on to win over the 49ers, 34-31 (2012)

Super Bowl Sunday.

People all over the country will tune in for this one event unlike any other in sports.  It’s the only major professional sporting event that declares a champion on a single designated night.  Baseball, basketball, and hockey all have a 7-game series to determine the winner, but football gets it done in just one game.  That’s what makes it so exciting. People who don’t like the 49ers or the Ravens, people who don’t even like football will still watch it if for nothing else than the commercials!  The Super Bowl has become more than just the game.  It’s become a gathering place for American society.  In 2013 it was estimated that over 114 million people watched the game.  114 million!  It was the most watched television show ever!  One website estimates that nearly 7 million people will miss work due to Super Bowl related “activities.”[1]  This led to one online fantasy football site to officially petition the government to declare the Monday following the Super Bowl a national holiday.[2]  They’ve already got 11,000 signatures in just a week.  Now, that’s not likely to happen, but it does go to show you how much this one event has become part of our shared experience as a nation.  That’s why people have Super Bowl parties instead of just watching it in their own homes, they want to share the experience as it’s happening with other people.  That’s why tickets are going anywhere from $1,300 to over $10,000 a seat just to be in the stadium for this one game.[3]  There’s something special about being part of a group of people who set out to achieve a goal and share a common purpose. Even if you’re just watching from the stands.  And the closer you are, the more a part of it you feel.  We crave that kind of camaraderie that’s forged through common purpose.  It makes us feel alive and complete.  And that’s because, simply put, human beings are wired to be in community.  Human beings are wired to be in community. 

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That’s why social networks have exploded.

It was a brand new way to connect instantly with billions of other people.  We could join vast communities who all shared similar interests.  And all we had to do was hit the “like” button on our Facebook page or Twitter about it with some spontaneous hash tag that we slapped at the end of our tweet.  Instantly we were CONNECTED.  We crave connection.  That’s why in less than 8 years, Facebook went from 1 million users to over 1 billion users.[4]  In less than 8 years.  Because that’s how badly we want to connect with people.  That’s how badly we desire to be in a community we feel we can belong to.  We click “like” and somehow that contributes to the ways in which we define ourselves. Because social networks are not about friendship or deep relationship.  In some cases they help us reconnect with friends we’ve lost touch with and help us stay in touch quicker and faster with the friends we already have.  But Robin Dunbar who studied relationships in depth determined that the human brain can only handle about 150 relationships at a time.[5]  150.  So those people out there with over 5,000 and 8,000 “friends” will never really know most of them.  But that’s not why people join social networks anyway.  It’s to help define where we belong and we spend most of our lives in search of this answer, but maybe we’re asking the wrong question.  Instead of asking “where we belong” perhaps we should be asking “who do we belong to?”

Our lives are more interconnected than we realize.

One of the reasons we have trouble seeing it, is because we’re trained from birth to seek independence and self-reliance. That kind of attitude is prevalent in our lexicon.  We believe people should “pull themselves up by their bootstraps.”  We like to coin the phrase, “God helps those who help themselves,” even though you can’t find that quote or even that idea anywhere in the Bible.  In fact, the Bible tells us just the opposite – that we are all connected to one another in the Body of Christ and that as Christians, the best way for us to function is to help each other.  That’s what we are going to be talking about this morning, God’s ideas for living in community.  I think that as we explore this concept together you’ll see that God built us for community living.  So if you have a Bible or a Bible app on your phone and you’d like to follow along, we’re going to be reading from 1 Corinthians 12:12-26.  Now, in Paul’s letter to Corinth right before this passage, he’s talking to the church about how each of us has different gifts, but that those gifts all come from the same source, the Holy Spirit.  And that’s what unites us because it is through these gifts that we are connected to the Spirit to do good for one another.  But Paul makes it very clear that even though the gifts are different, they come from only one place – God.

12 Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. 14 Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many.

15 Now if the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. 16 And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? 18 But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. 19 If they were all one part, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many parts, but one body.

21 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” 22 On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23 and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, 24 while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, 25 so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. 26 If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.

From the Schoolhouse Rock song “Suffering Until Suffrage”

We are one body with many parts.

That’s a far different description of who we are than society gives us today.  Instead of the fiercely independent, “I don’t need anybody” mentality that races through our consciousness, the Bible tells us that we are all interconnected to one another through the Holy Spirit.  And more than just being connected, that we are interdependent whether we like it or not.  And just because we don’t like one of the parts or we believe that it doesn’t contribute as much as some of the other parts, doesn’t make it any less important.  Beginning in verse 22, Paul writes, “On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable…God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other.”  He then writes in verse 26, “If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.” If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.  This is true whether we acknowledge it or not.  Sometimes we like to pretend that what we do only affects ourselves, but life doesn’t happen in a vacuum.  What we do affects the world around us in small and sometimes large ways.  When we belittle someone, we aren’t just affecting that one person, but in a long chain we are affecting the people around us as well.  Look at the attitudes of racism, sexism, and ageism that we have been battling with for centuries.  It’s hard to believe that it wasn’t even 100 years ago that women didn’t have the right to vote.  Or that it was less than 200 years ago that African-Americans were considered as only 3/5ths of a person.  And that just a little over 60 years ago, we locked up people of Japanese descent in the middle of the desert behind barbed wire because of how they looked.  Today we fight against homophobia and xenophobia as we come to terms with who we are as the people of God.  Because whether we agree with them or not (whoever “they” are), whether we like them or not, every person who accepts Jesus in their heart is our brother and sister.  Every one of them belongs to the Body of Christ and as Paul wrote each one is valuable to God and to the Body.

We actually did have a bell tower at the top of First UMC Dinuba – electronic, but a bell tower none the less

John Donne once penned a famous writing called Meditation XVII.

And what it says is, “No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend’s or of thine own were: any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bells tolls; it tolls for thee.”[6]  Donne here mirrors the thoughts we just read about in the Bible.  He references the tolling of a funeral bell from a church and his comment is that we are all interconnected and so when one of us dies, there is a part of all of us that dies so when we hear the funeral bell, we don’t have to ask for whom it rings, because it rings for us all.[7]  No man is an island.  We are all part of the main.  We are all part of the body.  God made us that way.  All with different gifts, but united in the Spirit.  And so we must learn to live in community.  Community is part of our natural state.  It’s how God wants us to live.  And just as we would not be able to easily just cut off our hand or leg or any body part, we should also treat our brothers and sisters in Christ with honor and love and grace.  Instead of continuing to fracture ourselves based on our own personal like and dislikes, interpretations and understandings, we should find ways to keep coming back to this table that represents all Christ gave for us.  Because we are unified in one Body, in one Spirit, in one baptism and in one communion.  So when we asked earlier, “Who do we belong to?”  The answer is God.

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