When the apostle Paul wrote to the Church in Corinth he was writing to a community that was both diverse and divided. One of the powerful messages he gave them was that God made us for community and that God’s hope for us is that we live together in a way that reflects the love and justice of God. To help the church grasp this vision Paul uses a simple and clear metaphor. He says that the church is like a human body. The body is made up of many different parts but they are all connected and all have a vital part to play in keeping the body healthy and strong. This metaphor is stronger than the idea of a team working together, and it’s a stronger image than that of a household which Paul uses in another place. Paul’s vision of the Church as the Body of Christ with Christ as the head of the body is closest to Jesus’ image of the vine when he said, ‘I am the Vine, you are the branches’.

Our reading from 1 Corinthians this Sunday picks up this theme, and of course it has a lot of implications for how we live and act as the Church. This week I rang my colleague and friend, the Rev Feke Kamitoni who is the chair of the Tongan Conference within the Uniting Church. I rang him to offer our support and prayers for the Tongan community both in Australia and in Tonga as they respond to the volcanic eruption that has caused such devastation. I encouraged him to contact the Synod and Assembly to invite the whole church to act in solidarity through prayer and financial aid, and I know that he was greatly encouraged by this.

In our gospel reading today Jesus chooses to read a portion of the writings of the Prophet Isaiah that holds before us a kind of mission statement for the people of God. Jesus claims this vision of transformation as a manifesto about himself.

‘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 favour.’

And that’s exactly what Jesus goes on to embody in his ministry and which he calls his disciples to continue.

In times of natural disasters such as Tonga is experiencing, nations and churches in our Pacific region naturally seek to respond by supporting and caring for those who are impacted by this eruption and the tsunamis this has caused. Our government and our church have already begun to respond, and we all have an opportunity to play our part.

Our Church Council has agreed to limit our annual appeals to three each year, where we seek to respond to local, national and international concerns. We want to be realistic about what we can support with our limited resources. However, our Church Council has also recognised that alongside our three annual appeals there will be times when natural disasters such as Tonga is experiencing will come up and we will need to respond as best we can.

There are many ways in which the church can embody Isaiah’s vision. As one example, I have been encouraged by the initiative taken by friends who over the years have sailed out to various pacific islands every two years with a doctor and nurse and an optometrist in an eyecare program that also trains local people to carry on this ministry.

What ways can we at St John’s embody Isaiah’s vision?


Photo by Moritz Knöringer from Pexels