Won’t You Be My Neighbor? Everything Grows Together

by Jacob Juncker

This message was offered at Lee Memorial United Methodist Church on Sunday, August 30, 2015.

Reading: 1 Corinthians 12:12-27

Welcome, neighbor.

Did you know that I used to be little.  I know it might be hard to believe, but I haven’t always been 6 foot 3 inches and 237 pounds.  I used to be little.  I was a baby once. What happened?

Check out these pictures–proof that I used to be little (sorry blog readers, I don’t have these digitized–they are in color, but not digital).

So what happened? I grew. Did you know everyone grows? And, that as you get bigger each part of you gets bigger too.

It’s true. It’d be pretty silly if your ears were the only thing that grew.

As you get bigger, every part of you grows. Everything grows together, because you’re all one piece.

Everything grows together
Because you’re all one piece.
Your nose grows
As the rest of you grows because you’re all one piece.

Everything grows together
Because you’re all one piece.
Your ears grows as your nose grows
As the rest of you grows because you’re all one piece.

Additional body parts (add cumulatively):

  1. (nose)
  2. (ears)
  3. Arms
  4. Hands
  5. Fingers
  6. Legs
  7. Feet
  8. Toes [1]

Everything grows together.

When one part of the body grows faster than another—when one part of the body gets unproportionally big—then there’s usually something wrong. An enlarged heart or liver, for instance, can be a sign of infection or disease that, if left untreated, can lead to serious health complications and even death. In a healthy body, each part of the body does its job supporting the other and the body grows together: each part in proportion to the others.

“Christ is just like the human body—a body is a unit and has many parts; and all the parts of the body are one body, even though there are many. We were all baptized by one Spirit into one body, whether Jew or Greek, or slave or free, and we all were given one Spirit to drink. Certainly the body isn’t one part but many” (1 Corinthians 12:12-14, Common English Bible).

Each of us has a role to play in making the Church—the body of Christ—move and grow. Consider that for just a moment. That idea is really important. You’re more than just a placeholder in the pew on Sunday morning, you have a vital role to play in giving the body of Christ life and vitality; in fact, the body of Christ, the Church, is dependent upon you to do your part. Without you, the body is incomplete. Without you the body cannot move. Without you the body cannot grow.

Everything grows together because we’re all one piece. My personal growth and development as a follower of Jesus is dependent upon your growth. We’re connected. My growth—my salvation—is linked to yours. Faith is not something you can have or live out in a bubble. We need each other. We need the community of faith to move us beyond ourselves and our own understandings. We need the community to keep us from self-validating our motives and faith. We need the community to hold us accountable to the highest ideals and standards of Christ.. We need one another I can’t faithfully follow Jesus without you. I can’t grow in God’s grace and be a faithful disciple alone. And, neither can you.

In the church, everyone grows together. Daily prayer and scripture reading, participating regularly in worship and the sacraments, sharing a meal with other Christians, joining a small group or Sunday School class: participating in these activities are not just for your growth; they’re how we grow together. And, I’m convinced that failure to do these things fails to grow the church. Everyone grows together or none of us grow as we should.

When you join into membership—becoming an official part of the local church—you are agreeing to help the body grow. Unlike when you join the Country Club or pay your dues at the Legion, membership in the church isn’t about perks. Membership in the church isn’t about what you receive. You don’t need to join the church in order for me to baptize, confirm, marry and bury you or your children; and, you shouldn’t join the church with the hopes that you’ll be given a reduced rate to use the facility (that’s not a guarantee because it costs the same no matter who we open the facility for). Membership is about responsibility.

¶131. The Unity of Ministry in Christ – There is but one ministry in Christ, but there are diverse gifts and evidences of God’s grace in the body of Christ (Ephesians 4:4-16). The ministry of all Christians is complementary. No ministry is subservient to another. All United Methodists are summoned and sent by Christ to live and work together in mutual interdependence and to be guided by the Spirit into the truth that frees and the love that reconciles.[2]

As one of my clergy peers has said, when you join in membership, you trade in your bib for an apron. When you join the body of Christ it’s no longer about your being fed, it’s about serving others. It’s about doing your part, building up the body so that it might, in the words of Paul to the church at Ephesus, “grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work” (Ephesians 4:15b-16, Common English Bible).

Everyone grows together because we’re all one piece.

Everyone grows together
Because we’re all one piece.
You as I grow
As we all grow because we’re all one piece.

[1] “Everything Grows Together”, words and music by Fred M. Rogers.  To hear this song, go to: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=piKpNPt1sGg.  Accessed August 24, 2015.

[2] “The Unity of Ministry in Christ,” The United Methodist Book of Discipline—2012 (Nashville: The United Methodist Publishing House, 2012), ¶131 (p96).