For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith. For as we have many members in one body, and all members have not the same office: So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another… Be of the same mind one toward another. Mind not high things, but condescend to men of low estate. Having then gifts differing…
It is one thing to say that I ought not to think too highly of myself but rather to think soberly with regard to personal self-esteem, but it is another matter to understand that Paul literally expects each and every one of us to appropriate our ability to understand what he is saying. Furthermore he expects us to behave responsibly as Christians with regard to what we understand. The phrase translated as “think soberly” means not merely “clearheaded,” but more to Paul’s point “arriving at the right judgment by being attentive and careful.” Further more this verse is highly formal in structure — one could even say that Paul is handing over a formulary, a practice, or even activities. And these activities go back to the beginning of chapter 12 where the emphasis is upon the reasonable worship of the Creator that renews, refreshes, and transforms the mind of the worshipper. The mind of the worshipper is formed as a Christian mind so that it conforms to ultimate reality, which is the worship of Jesus Christ. The upshot is that the Christian can and must intellectually grasp God’s perfect will. One thing I want you to see is that far from endorsing a slack, anti-intellectualism that regards the Christian way in life as a leap in the dark, Paul is absolutely committed to the role of disciplined thinking as the very ground of Christian living. The Christian way has absolutely nothing in common with the anti-intellectual, lazy, conspiracy theories that dominate our day.
Paul knows that our desires and our minds need training and formation and he is robustly confident that the worship that pleases God will also form the desires of our hearts and the life of our minds. As I have reminded you before, the word “orthodox” does not mean believing the right thing — the word literally means worshiping the right way — (ortho) correct, (doxa) worship. Thus the worship of the Blessed Trinity may, by the grace of God, become remedial, corrective in the sense that worship is God’s instrument of choice for our salvation and for our perfecting in grace. Worship will correct our crooked hearts and mend our twisted thinking. This week I want us to see that orthodox worship is a matter of parishioners gathering around a specific altar in a specific parish church. Our lives are gathered up, collected, re-collected over and over again around a common altar, with untrammeled loyalty to Jesus Christ and non other, where we worship God the Father and where Christ comes to us objectively in the Holy Communion. And this is the perfect image and the perfect instantiation of our participation in Christ:
“For as we have many members in one body, and all members have not the same office: So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another…?
Paul drew the conclusion that perpetually eludes many Christians — though his is an utterly logical conclusion: If we are members of Christ we are also “every one members one of another.” The Greek is very strong and it is as though Paul is underscoring the reality of both the Body of Christ and the reality of the individual Christian who is, as it were, a body-part of Christ. Both are important: the union of the Body and the integrity of what we call the individual human person. To not think to highly of myself may begin by realizing that I am a member of you and you are a member of me and that is our reality as members of the Body of Christ, the Church and that is specifically, really and truly known in the parish. But honestly it is a hard thing to live up to and it is a hard thing to understand because I am not you and you are not me and all we have to go on regarding our ultimate concerns with regard to one another is what we say to one another, that Jesus Christ is Lord, and what we do, that we have been baptized and partake of the Holy Communion. And I warn you all that there is a gnostic tendency today that tries to dispense with demands and commitments of parish life by saying that what really matters is our commitment to American politics because that is where real differences are made and where real life is lived. Parish life is a nice place to raise your family and find some peace, but real Christians are Republicans and no way can a real Christian be a Democrat, or real Christians are Democrats and no way can a real Christian be a Republican. Both are lies because real Christians have no higher loyalty than God Almighty and our ultimate citizenship as St. Paul says, is in Heaven.
As we worship God the Father in the mass, standing at the Altar or kneeling in the pew, we are in Jesus and we are in one another in the most perfect manner possible for any of us in this life till he returns. This is the one perfection, the one perfect action, the one really, real act that makes an eternal difference for all creation, that we all may participate in repeatedly every time we celebrate the Holy Communion. And from our participation in the sacramental life of the Messiah the gifts flow into the life of the Body of Christ really and truly through the parish to all her children. And at the end of the mass, we recess out, led by the Cross of Christ held high enough for all to see by the crucifier — and we exit the parish Church and return home, to our neighborhoods and the workplace, through you, the loyal Christian parishioner, his gifts of life and light are carried into the world.