“Indeed, the body does not consist of one member but of many … the members of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable” Paul, 1 Corr. 12:14, 22
Paul was responding to a church filled with conflict; at other points he writes of ‘quarrels’ and divisions: I belong to Paul, I belong to Apollos, I belong to Cephas, and so forth. This is true of course, not only of the Corinthian church but existed early on in the wider Christian community. Paul himself speaks of a gathering in Jerusalem of followers – including Peter – and the ‘difference of opinion’ (to put it mildly) regarding their belief and practice. The Christian church has theological diversity written in its scripture – a revelation Unitarians should be willing to speak of more often.
For today’s reflection, though, Paul’s reminder here, then, is that there is something greater, something wider, some bond wherein we live and to which we contribute. The gifts we bring, talents we have been given, should not rest in isolation, but rather should emanate into our communities. Stephen Lingwood recently commented on the need to be a community, rather than a group or organisation. We really must be invested in each other’s lives, contributing what we have and receiving gratefully.
Furthermore (returning to Paul), if we are part of some larger whole, then we are allowed to be incomplete. What we might consider a fault or absence may actually be that which is accomplished by another. It is only the whole body that is complete, in Paul’s analogy; we will have weaknesses, skills that shine and others that feel dulled. In his flower communion, Rev’d Norbert Capek reminds us not to become jealous of other’s talents, but remember that we each hold some potential and action that benefits the world. We all have something to give, and the whole world is not dependent on us alone.
Paul’s final note that the weaker members are in fact indispensable may ensure those who are doubting their abilities that they are necessary and wanted. There is a word, recently coined (as in 20-30 years ago): upcycle – the re-use of some item that makes its second life seemingly more valuable than its original intended use. One of the first times I heard it used was by the TV presenter Kevin McCloud, who turned a 1980s British phone-box into an outdoor shower. He was insistent that he should not use the iconic phone-box, dating from the 1920s. The goal was to take something that was likely unloved in life, considered unlovable (aesthetically at least), and remind it that it had value and purpose still to give.
I hope we can love each other as much as he loved that phone-box (I did not think I would ever say that sentence); but genuinely, may we all remember we hold different blessings, which in our sharing, help to make the world whole, and lift the dispirited. For they, as we all are, are needed and ultimately loved.