27 January 2019
Ezra the priest brought the Law before the assembly, consisting of men, women, and children old enough to understand. This was the first day of the seventh month. On the square before the Water Gate, in the presence of the men and women, and children old enough to understand, he read from the book from early morning till noon; all the people listened attentively to the Book of the Law.
Ezra the scribe stood on a wooden dais erected for the purpose. In full view of all the people – since he stood higher than all the people – Ezra opened the book; and when he opened it all the people stood up. Then Ezra blessed the Lord, the great God, and all the people raised their hands and answered, ‘Amen! Amen!’; then they bowed down and, face to the ground, prostrated themselves before the Lord. And Ezra read from the Law of God, translating and giving the sense, so that the people understood what was read.
Then Nehemiah – His Excellency – and Ezra, priest and scribe and the Levites who were instructing the people said to all the people, ‘This day is sacred to the Lord your God. Do not be mournful, do not weep.’ For the people were all in tears as they listened to the words of the Law.
He then said, ‘Go, eat the fat, drink the sweet wine, and send a portion to the man who has nothing prepared ready. For this day is sacred to our Lord. Do not be sad: the joy of the Lord is your stronghold.’
1 Corinthians 12:12-30
Just as a human body, though it is made up of many parts, is a single unit because all these parts, though many, make one body, so it is with Christ. In the one Spirit we were all baptised, Jews as well as Greeks, slaves as well as citizens, and one Spirit was given to us all to drink.
Nor is the body to be identified with any one of its many parts. If the foot were to say, ‘I am not a hand and so I do not belong to the body’, would that mean that it stopped being part of the body? If the ear were to say, ‘I am not an eye, and so I do not belong to the body’, would that mean that it was not a part of the body? If your whole body was just one eye, how would you hear anything? If it was just one ear, how would you smell anything?
Instead of that, God put all the separate parts into the body on purpose. If all the parts were the same, how could it be a body? As it is, the parts are many but the body is one. The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I do not need you’, nor can the head say to the feet, ‘I do not need you.’
What is more, it is precisely the parts of the body that seem to be the weakest which are the indispensable ones; and it is the least honourable parts of the body that we clothe with the greatest care. So our more improper parts get decorated in a way that our more proper parts do not need. God has arranged the body so that more dignity is given to the parts which are without it, and that there may not be disagreements inside the body, but that each part may be equally concerned for all the others. If one part is hurt, all parts are hurt with it. If one part is given special honour, all parts enjoy it.
Now you together are Christ’s body; but each of you is a different part of it. In the Church, God has given the first place to apostles, the second to prophets, the third to teachers; after them, miracles, and after them the gift of healing; helpers, good leaders, those with many languages. Are all of them apostles, or all of them prophets, or all of them teachers? Do they all have the gift of miracles, or all have the gift of healing? Do all speak strange languages, and all interpret them?
Seeing that many others have undertaken to draw up accounts of the events that have taken place among us, exactly as these were handed down to us by those who from the outset were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word, I in my turn, after carefully going over the whole story from the beginning, have decided to write an ordered account for you, Theophilus, so that your Excellency may learn how well founded the teaching is that you have received.
Jesus, with the power of the Spirit in him, returned to Galilee; and his reputation spread throughout the countryside. He taught in their synagogues and everyone praised him.
He came to Nazara, where he had been brought up, and went into the synagogue on the sabbath day as he usually did. He stood up to read and they handed him the scroll of the prophet Isaiah. Unrolling the scroll he found the place where it is written:
The spirit of the Lord has been given to me,
for he has anointed me.
He has sent me to bring the good news to the poor,
to proclaim liberty to captives
and to the blind new sight,
to set the downtrodden free,
to proclaim the Lord’s year of favour.
He then rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the assistant and sat down. And all eyes in the synagogue were fixed on him. Then he began to speak to them, ‘This text is being fulfilled today even as you listen.’
“But God so created the body… that the parts may have the same concern for one another”
We are in a brand new year now – new goals and ambitions, renewed drive for life. However, I wish, as some of you probably will too, that as I begin the new year afresh, I have in hand all the answers for the questions that I had in 2018. Sadly, I don’t. And one of the most pressing questions that I had last year, which I am still asking, is what my purpose here is. What am I made for, because I know I am made for more. And while I ask God to reveal His grand plan to me, the answers I have received so far are like whispers in the wind. I don’t know what shape this plan is going to be, but as I keep searching, one thing has been made clear so far – that whatever it is that God wants me to do, it is for the betterment of people’s lives. To serve, to fill the void of those who have a need, with a generous spirit and a humble heart. For it is in serving, where we find a purpose in life, and fulfilment of spirit.
Today’s reading puts this notion into perspective — we represent different parts of God’s body, the community of Christ. As the reading puts it, on the one hand we have healers, on the other we have those who speak in tongues. Some of us have the gift of compassion, others the ability to preach, others still who are natural leaders. We each have a different talent or gift, but none of which is self-sustainable. None of which operates alone. God created us in such a manner because He knew exactly where He would slot us, to fill the gap where some other part was in need. The body needs each part to be functioning properly to be happy and healthy, so too is it with our community, our church, our families. And because the ‘body’ recognizes the harmony when all parts are working together, it feels it when one part is out of place, and strives to fix itself. Think about our natural antibodies present in our bodies that know when to spring into action to stave off an impending illness. If the body did not care about what goes on elsewhere, it wouldn’t try to fix itself.
Which is why most of us ask the million-dollar question at some point in our mid-lives, “What am I here for? What is my purpose?” We have a sudden urge or realization that we are built for something more, that there is more to life than our sleep-eat-work-repeat cycle. Our restlessness is that desire to serve that has yet to be fulfilled, that feeling that we ‘belong’ somewhere, that we are a missing piece in the puzzle somewhere. For our lives are empty if the work we do has no meaning or brings no joy to others. If we have made a positive difference somewhere, we would feel better for it, as though our contribution and existence mattered no matter how minute the form.
My friend, if you are feeling lost in life, asking the big question, seek God for the answer to present itself. Be comforted in knowing that as you search for the answer, God already knows where you fit in. As Robin Sharma says, “there are no spare humans here on earth”.
(Today’s Oxygen by Annette Soo)
Prayer: Lord, I lift up my gifts that you have given me and pray that you use them as you see fit, and for obedience and patience in carrying out your will.
Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord, for making me a part of your plan, for giving me a role to play. It may not come with awards and recognition, but I pray that I can make a positive difference somewhere.