I’ve been thinking about the body. How it works holistically. Especially in times of crisis. When a particular member is hurting, others will compensate to make up the difference. For instance, when I broke my right ankle some years ago and, right or wrong, hobbling along I shifted my weight onto my left side to counterbalance when going to and fro. Or when we get sick, the immune system will work to create antibodies to ward off illness. Part of this, I think, points to how beautifully and intimately we are crocheted together—more so than just the neck bone is connected to the back bone and the back bone is connected to the hip bone. The bones and skin, sinews and cartilage, veins and arteries, muscles and organs that hold us together are each and altogether part of one another. We encounter this sometimes with signs and symptoms of illness or injury. Something will become acutely present in one area of the body as another suffers silently. Pain is often distributed throughout the whole body—inside out—when a single spot suffers. A common example is when a person feels a sharp pain in their left arm, which can serve as an indicator of what is happening or about to take place in the heart.
The wonderfully gifted nurse to whom I’m married, if asked, would say I am no physician—far from it. That being so, it doesn’t take an M.D. to see how the body is cohesively unified even amidst its diverse members. The body is a strange and yet wonderfully complex creation. It baffles, and in the next moment amazes us. I’ve heard medical practitioners and laity alike say that looking at how the human body functions and perseveres through times of extreme trauma is reason enough to believe in a higher power. It’s truly a wonder to behold. For us in the church, when we hear talk about the body our minds immediately go to the Apostle Paul’s discussion in 1 Corinthians 12 on the gathered believers being the body of Christ. This metaphor is core to how we understand ourselves as the church. It unifies us in our diversity, while also affirming the varied multitude of gifts and vocations among the community. None is above or better than another. The whole is less than whole when any one member is disregarded or dismissed. A body functions most effectively—dare I say, faithfully—when it sees and understands its interconnectivity, and affirms that in building up and supporting all members. When one is weak, the others become strong to compensate for them. Where a few are in need, the rest intervene with love and support. The pain and suffering of a particular individual is not theirs alone, but becomes—as it should be—something compassionately shared by the greater group gathered together.
The thing about a body is that no matter how hard we try to ignore or compartmentalize the pain and overmedicate ourselves into numbness, at the end of the day we cannot avoid feeling. Such is the case not just with our individual selves, but also the community as a whole. Too often our society seeks to sterilize itself from pain and suffering—hiding that which hurts and covering up the wounds in denial. Yet, we know deep down inside that the source of the signs and symptoms cannot be hidden forever. At the core of who we are as the church is a living, breathing, hurting, and comforting body. More than just people gathered in a building a few times a week, we are altogether formed by the Spirit into the body of Christ. This means we are connected. With one another. Across the aisle. Across town. Across boundaries and barriers. Across race, heritage, and age. Even across denominations. From head to toe. We feel the pain when someone among or around us is hurting. Physically. Emotionally. Spiritually. Relationally. Christ calls us to not run or hide from the suffering of others, but instead go to it, be with those in pain, and serve as healing balm for their hurts as best as we can. The whole body is called upon—both individual members and the entire organism—to respond to others in crisis. Dwelling with our neighbor in the depth of their distress. Responding with compassion, which means literally suffering (passio) with (com) them. To be the body is to feel and fight the pain together. When one among us hurts—whomever they are—it becomes the pain of us all. As Paul so clearly says: “If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honored, all rejoice together with it” (12:26). Who do you see and hear hurting among the community? What can we do to build up and care for those suffering and in pain? To where is Christ calling you to compensate or counterbalance for another? How might we serve to be a more faithful body in the world? We, though many, are one body.
– Pastor Andrew