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Members One of Another

Message for worship at West Richmond Friends Meeting, 6th of Third Month, 2022

Speaker: Stephanie Crumley-Effinger

Scripture: Romans 12: 1-5 (NRSV, MSG)

Jackie: I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.

Eric: So here's what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life - your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life - and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for God.

Jackie: Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect.

Eric: Don't become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You'll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what God wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.

Jackie: For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of yourself more highly than you ought to think, but to think with sober judgement, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.

Eric: I'm speaking to you out of deep gratitude for all that God has given me, and especially as I have responsibilities in relation to you. Living then, as every one of you does, in pure grace, it's important that you not misinterpret yourselves as people who are bringing this goodness to God. No, God brings it all to you. The only accurate way to understand ourselves is by what God is and by what God does for us, not by what we are and what we do for God.

Jackie: For as in one body we have many members, and not all the members have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually we are members one of another.

Eric: In this way we are like the various parts of a human body. Each part gets its meaning from the body as a whole, not the other way around. The body we're talking about is Christ's body of chosen people. Each of us finds our meaning and function as a part of this body. But as a chopped-off finger or cut-off toe we wouldn't amount to much, would we? So since we find ourselves fashioned into all these excellently formed and marvelously functioning parts in Christ's body, let's just go ahead and be what we were made to be, without enviously or pridefully comparing ourselves with each other, or trying to be something we aren't.

“. . . We, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually we are members one of another” (Romans 12:5, NRSV)

“. . . We find ourselves fashioned into all these excellently formed and marvelously functioning parts in Christ's body.” (Romans 12:5, MSG)

The phrase, “members one of another,” has been living in me for many months now. So, in early December when Lyn asked me to speak, I had the sense that this was to be the heart of the message. But I also wrote to her, “We shall see if that has staying power or gets replaced by something else!”

So here we are, three months later, and, rather than being replaced, this phrase, “members one of another,” has not only had “staying power,” but has continued to grow in strength and clarity.

Three months ago, however, none of this had the grim context of one European country invading another as Russia is doing in Ukraine. Nor did it come amid some Americans on the political right increasingly expressing admiration for Russian president Vladimir Putin’s ideology of “Christian nationalism” and wishing for that in place of US democratic form of government.

The bloodbath in Ukraine, and state-sponsored violence occurring in various forms in other places, some of it, most regrettably, sponsored by our own government, are harsh reminders not to take for granted our freedom to gather in safety to worship. We are called to be faithful stewards of our privilege while others who wish to be together and in safety are separated and suffering. And in contrast to despicable and frightening viewpoints about nationalistic Christianity held by some powerful persons and interests, instead to witness to Jesus’ call to beloved community rather than to exercise power over others and use violence against those from whom we differ.

So, who are we, as one household of beloved community, West Richmond Meeting, this particular group of people, some of us here for decades, some here for a season of life, and some taking part occasio