Thanks to the apostle Paul, the body is a metaphor we use frequently to describe the church. “For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ ... Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it” (1 Corinthians 12:12, 27). And it’s a good metaphor, mostly. It celebrates our relationships, our interconnectedness, our need to be in community, our need to be active in being Christ-like - to be the hands and feet of Christ in doing, the eyes in seeing, the ears in listening, the mouth in proclaiming and so on.
And that's all great, as far as it goes. We hear that as an important way to understand our community. Any community, really. But Paul was a practical man in his advice to the Corinthians. So ask yourself this: which body part are you? I’m not trying to be flippant (though there’s a tonne of jokes here ...), but which part are you? Do you walk the walk, do you lend a hand or give your heart - or do you sit and close your eyes and cover your ears? Maybe we’re various parts at different times. After all, sometimes you walk, sometimes you sit, sometimes you lift and sometimes you rest.
And that's just the easy way to look at it. We often use the expression "the hands and feet of Christ" to describe how we should act. But we're more than hands and feet, or eyes and ears, and Paul extends the metaphor to include all the body parts, even that "those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honourable we treat with special honour. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, while our presentable parts need no special treatment" (1 Cor. 12:22-24). I don't want to suggest that anyone's a "weaker" part or a "less honourable" one or an "unpresentable" one, or even a "presentable" one for that matter. That's Paul's weighted language. But we are all different and we can only be a community by recognizing that, welcoming that, honouring that, encouraging that and protecting that. We cannot be a whole without all the parts. And, as Paul points out, God created the body to be a whole.
Jesus welcomed all to the body because Jesus knew that the appearance of the body wasn't as important as the wholeness of the body. And that wholeness included not just every body part, but the mind and spirit and heart also.
Just like our own body, the church will have a sense of self-esteem and its own perception of what it’s capable - and not capable - of doing. The church community will have a sense of body image. And a good, healthy body image in the church body isn’t just about appearance. It’s about our acceptance of each other for who we are and understanding that we each have unique gifts that we bring to share with our community. The sharing of those gifts is what makes the body what it is, a synergy: that “we who are many, and come from many places, are one.”