1 Corinthians 12:12-31a (NRSV)
Verse 12For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. Verse 13For in the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body-Jews or Greeks, slaves or free-and we were all made to drink of one Spirit. Verse 14Indeed, the body does not consist of one member but of many. Verse 15If the foot would say, "Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body," that would not make it any less a part of the body. Verse 16And if the ear would say, "Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body," that would not make it any less a part of the body. Verse 17If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole body were hearing, where would the sense of smell be? Verse 18But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. Verse 19If all were a single member, where would the body be? Verse 20As it is, there are many members, yet one body. Verse 21The eye cannot say to the hand, "I have no need of you," nor again the head to the feet, "I have no need of you." Verse 22On the contrary, the members of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, Verse 23and those members of the body that we think less honorable we clothe with greater honor, and our less respectable members are treated with greater respect; Verse 24whereas our more respectable members do not need this. But God has so arranged the body, giving the greater honor to the inferior member, Verse 25that there may be no dissension within the body, but the members may have the same care for one another. Verse 26If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honored, all rejoice together with it.
Verse 27Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. Verse 28And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers; then deeds of power, then gifts of healing, forms of assistance, forms of leadership, various kinds of tongues. Verse 29Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? Verse 30Do all possess gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret? Verse 31But strive for the greater gifts. And I will show you a still more excellent way.
Paul's congregation in Corinth was a fractured group. If you've ever been part of a church family experiencing dissension or division, know you're in good company. This letter is Paul's appeal for unity. Like Nehemiah in this week's Old Testament lesson, Paul will call God's people back to the basics. He'll preach that more unites them than divides them. He'll remind them of their baptism, that they are all brothers and sisters—one in the Spirit, one in the Lord, one in mission. He'll tell them that this is Christ's church, where there is a place for everybody—no exceptions. All are welcome.
Paul reminds us that we are the body of Christ, that we all have gifts. We celebrate this unity in diversity. We acknowledge that at the foot of the cross we are all the same. There God gives us one another; we need each other, and we can always do far more together than alone.
O God, may your Spirit move every human heart, that the barriers dividing us may crumble, suspicions disappear, and hatreds cease, and that, with our divisions healed, we might live in justice and peace. Amen. (adapted from ELW prayers)