By: Sandra Hedrick, Presbytery Stated Clerk
“Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.” 1 Corinthians 12:27
Many of the families of faith in the Presbytery of St. Augustine heard God’s word on Sunday from 1 Corinthians 12:12-31. In a passage that feels both playful and convicting, Paul shares one of his favorite metaphors for the body of Christ – the human body, which we now know has almost 40 trillion cells!
As I prepared to share the message about the body of Christ at Kirkwood Presbyterian Church on Sunday, I began to focus on the idea of “belonging.”
During the children’s message, the youngest ones were asked to point to the grownups in the congregation to whom they belong. Then they eagerly welcomed the good news that they belong to Christ and to every member of the congregation as well.
We are not our own. We belong body (and soul) to Jesus Christ (Heidelberg Catechism, Q&A 1). And as members of the body of Christ, we belong to one another. Belonging is a central theme of our denomination’s children’s catechism that has the title “Belonging to God.”
One of my dreams for the Presbytery of St. Augustine is that everyone participating in our ministries has a strong and certain sense of belonging to Christ and to one another. As a teenager, I was in a youth group at our Lutheran church that once held a joint event with another Lutheran youth group across the city. We laughed, we studied the Bible, we played! It was so much fun! After it was over, I asked the pastor why we couldn’t do it more often. And I suggested that Lutheran adults from different churches could meet together as well. The pastor responded, “you just don’t understand, do you?” I didn’t understand. I still don’t understand! Today when I hear of events shared by our families of faith and our teaching and ruling elders, I get very excited and very hopeful.
One of the biggest things we do together as a presbytery is gather at our three stated presbytery meetings each year (February, May and October). When I attended my first presbytery meeting as a ruling elder from South Jacksonville in 2005 (before I started seminary in 2006), I was a little shy and overwhelmed and did not have a good sense of belonging. It seemed like people who knew one another stuck together, and there were some “inside jokes” that I did not understand.
I have a dream that we foster a strong and certain sense of belonging at every presbytery meeting in 2016. In my dream, I can see us reaching out to brand new commissioners with warm greetings of welcome. I can see us making sure that all voices are heard, regardless of church size or geographic location (“that there may be no dissension within the body, but the members may have the same care for one another” – 1 Corinthians 12:25). We sit at lunch tables with Presbyterians we don’t know. We share prayer requests (“if one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honored, all rejoice together with it” – 1 Corinthians 12:26). We make new friends and set a date to get together for a meal in the future.
We are not our own. We belong to Jesus Christ, and through Christ we belong to one another. We follow God into the world in mission together. I am so grateful for these Bible truths. And I am so grateful for our presbytery. My dream for the Presbytery of St. Augustine is that God’s word of belonging is visible in the years to come, a body that is beautiful “inside and out.” Glory be to God – Father, Son and Spirit!