January 23, 2022

“Anointed as One” – Rev. Chelsea Page

(1 Corinthians 12:12-31a)

Luke 4:14-21
Then Jesus, filled with the power of the Spirit, returned to Galilee, and a report about him spread through
all the surrounding country. He began to teach in their synagogues and was praised by everyone.
When he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, as
was his custom. He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll
and found the place where it was written:
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent
me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” And he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down.
The eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. Then he began to say to them, “Today this scripture has
been fulfilled in your hearing.”

What amazing words to say in a synagogue, or in a church: “The Spirit of God is upon me, because God has anointed me to bring good news to the poor.” Can you imagine declaring yourself to be anointed? It sounds so fancy, if not downright messianic. “Hello, I am God’s anointed one.” We can give Jesus a pass on this – after all, that is who he was. But in our day and age, we tend to be skeptical of people who declare themselves to be prophets, and for good reason. There has been a lot of abuse done by people in the name of religion. Encounter a character called The Prophet in pretty much any novel and you can be pretty sure that that guy is going to be the villain.

Well, what if I were to tell you that you are anointed? On some level it must be true, for it is literally what the word Christian means. Christ was the anointed one, the messiah, and we are his body. The church was born after Jesus’s death out of the simple need to keep his ministry going on earth. People were needed to be his hands, his feet, to heal others and keep the movement going. There’s a beautiful translation of the passage in the Acts of the Apostles where it talks about the first people who joined the Jesus movement after this death. “Day by day God added to their number those who were being made safe.” Made safe – not as in, made safe for others to be around, like we think about in these COVID days, but as in, they were being given safety and protection from harm. This is usually translated as “those who were being saved,” but being “made safe” actually makes more sense. These were strangers, poor people, widows and orphans, slaves and former slaves who were being drawn into a new community. They were being invited to join something bigger than themselves where they could find safety and wholeness, maybe for the first time in their lives, and then they were called to pass it on by welcoming others.

As Pastor Brent explained last week, when the Apostle Paul wrote to the early Christian community in Corinth, he was writing to a community that brought together Jew and Greek, rich and poor. Paul counsels the poorer and weaker members against the temptation to say that they don’t truly belong to Christ’s body because they don’t feel good enough. He writes:

If the foot would say, Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body, that would not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear would say, Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body, that would not make it any less a part of the body.

So belonging does not depend on self-esteem or on fitting in. What is it based on, then? Well, what if belonging were simply a fact of our existence; what if we were made to belong? Even if this is the case, belonging still requires authentic community to be experienced. Paul continues in his letter:

God has so arranged the body, giving the greater honor to the inferior member, that there may be no dissension within the body, but the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honored, all rejoice together with it.

There is a word in the recent HUCC Anew Task Force report which describes this – solace. HUCC is a place of solace, for people who are looking for a safe place to explore their faith. If you look at the origin of this word in Latin, to console someone or give them solace is to do so much more than just bring them comfort. It is to give them a safe place to shine, a place where they can become happy or radiant, as the root word “sol” suggests. Far from being a refuge where people can come to hide out from the world, church is place where people can come to recover their shine – to rediscover the gifts they have to radiate for the sake of their world.

What kinds of things would cause someone to lose their shine? Unfortunately, like the bad behavior of a lone prophet, organized religion can be one of the main culprits. I was recently talking with a member here who left the dominant religion of Utah a number of years ago. Hearing her journey reminded me a lot of my own path leaving my first church home, the Catholic Church. To be in a church that doesn’t fully accept you because of your gender and sexuality – it is a disconnecting experience. I couldn’t imagine a future outside the church because my faith was such a huge part of who I was. Yet inside the church, I couldn’t be at peace about the other things that made me, me – like being a woman with a call to ministry. Faced with such a conundrum, you start to feel like this world has no place for you. But to find a church where you can be fully yourself – slowly, the inner division and disconnection is overcome, the parts of yourself come back together, and the lights turn back on.

Paul calls each of us “Christ’s body, and individually members of it.” We are individuals – a foot is a foot, not a hand. An ear is an ear, not an eye. Both are needed. Paul says that each and every one of us is “indispensable” just as we are. A foot should not try to be a hand, for walking is needed as much as holding. An ear should not pretend to be an eye, for hearing is needed as much as seeing. Paul writes, “The eye cannot say to the hand, I have no need of you, nor again the head to the feet, I have no need of you.” No one can say “I have no need of you” about anyone. Martin Luther King Jr. put it this way, in his famous letter From Birmingham Jail:

“All life is interrelated, and we are all caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of identity. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. For some strange reason I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be. And you can never be what I ought to be until I am what I ought to be – this is the interrelated structure of reality.”

Friends, without you, yes you, the body cannot be whole. You are necessary. So while it is sad for the individuals who are stuck in churches that do not allow them to be fully who they are – and for the individuals who have to leave their faith and lose that part of themselves – who it is really sad for is the church! Christ’s body cannot afford to lose the full light of all of its members.

Now, this is not to say that you need to be a member of HUCC. Christ’s body is much bigger than our congregation. You are indispensable to something far bigger than our small church. What you are indispensable to, is the world. The world needs your shine, your full and authentic self. Our church is called to be a place where you can shine – a place of solace for all. Amen.