"Do you believe in miracles?"
That was the question Al Michaels screamed into the microphone as the 1980 US Olympic Hockey team did what everyone figured was impossible — they beat the Russians. The only explanations the sports world could come up with for the upset were a great coach, a flawless game plan, an inspirational captain and above all else, perfect teamwork. The coach picked the right guys to play the right positions, and they worked together to produce a miracle. But that’s just sports.
In First Corinthians 12, Paul describes a much more significant miracle that has far greater ramifications. And this one involves you. Paul describes a team, a collection of very different individuals that our coach (God) has put together — a team that must work together in difficult circumstances, against overwhelming challenges. This team is the church — that divine collection of all believers. To describe this team, Paul uses the picture of the body: "The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body — whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free — and we were all given the one Spirit to drink."
God has put us together — you, me and every other believer out there. He’s made us a team — made up of individuals as different as an eyeball is from a toenail — but just as necessary. And he starts by showing just how important each part is. That means that you are important. Don’t diminish your role by looking down on it. God doesn’t. Just like my body uses its hands just as much as it uses the ligaments connecting my knee — God has made you for a specific purpose, and he wants you connected to your body and fulfilling your purpose.
Of course, in our text, God describes how so often we get in the way of that. Either our sinful self likes to be jealous of the gifts someone else has, or we get stuck up thinking that we are far more important than some other body part. And when we do either, we put the "I" in church — and really take Jesus out of it. We forget that God has connected us to his body for a specific reason.
Here’s where the grace comes in. Even when we mess up like that, God has done something about it. He has given our body health by giving our body life – through his son, that inspirational team captain. And he gives life by being more than just a guy to go to for a pep talk.
Jesus became one of us. He lived a life that none of us could ever live, a perfect one. He died a death that none of us could ever die, a death that paid for the sins of the world. He rose from a grave from which none of us could ever escape — a grave that could not hold the son of God, a grave that, because of its emptiness, is now a foreshadowing of ours.
Talk about a miracle. God took us from worthless sinners, and through the work of his son, made us champions of grace, and parts of his body accomplishing what the head (Christ) wants it to right here where we are. Now, just like that hockey team, we have a flawless game plan. It’s called the Bible. Come join the rest of your body to grow in your understanding of that game plan and see how powerful it can be in your life, how you can fulfill your body part’s purpose.
That’s the kind of miracle you get to be a part of, far greater than any hockey game. Do you believe in miracles? Al Michael’s answer in 1980 and ours in 2009 is the same… Yes.
In Christ, Amen.
Rev. Jonathan Scharf is pastor of Abiding Grace Lutheran Church in Covington. Full sermons and more information can be found at www.abidinggrace.com.