A new way, a new life, this is what has been offered by Christ. This is what Jesus signifies in his visit to his home synagogue with his comments after reading the scriptures? This is what we see reiterated in Paul’s description of the gifts of the spirit. With the coming of the Messiah, with the fulfillment of the prophesies, the people were being given a promise. A promise that something drastic was going to happen, God was going to turn the whole world upside down. It was supposed to not only to be a sign saying “Hello, I’m here and I am going to shake things up a bit” but also a sign of hope to those who were feeling hopeless. Jesus was giving the people who lived on the margins of society a sign that there was going to be a new life offered to all peoples.
When I went through confirmation classes, I was the first class in close to ten years. We were not a large class, but there were a good seven of us. The first thing my minister asked us was “Why are you here”? Then we had to go around the classroom and answer this question. I was fourteen along with some of my friends but we were the oldest in the class. I will be honest. We were mostly there because our parents made us. We had finished Sunday school and this was the next step in our Christian education. For most of us there, this was not an option. The same applied to me.
Looking back on it now, I believe that my minister knew exactly why most of us were there. He knew that we were being forced to attend classes on those Wednesday nights. But it was an important way to start the class. We would complain before class about the homework and how boring the history lessons were. And Rev. Dole inevitably, would go off on a tangent and we knew we weren’t getting out on time. But with each week, as we did the homework, I kept coming back to why do I want to be a member.
There had to be a good reason. Because my mom told me to, was not a good enough reason to be taken into the membership of the church. I always felt like there had to be something more to it. I was fourteen. I hadn’t done anything in my life. I had no idea what I was good at and I had nothing financially to add to the church. And I began to wonder, well why do they want someone like me? What had I to offer as a young person in membership? I felt like I offered very little at that point. But as the weeks of our study dragged on, the minister spoke to us about stewardship. Not just financial stewardship either, but a stewardship of our talents and time. It was this last point that really stuck out to me. In my family we did not receive an allowance and I made very little in babysitting. So I couldn’t give more than my dollar a week.
I was too young to hold a job so I had plenty of time. I realized that I was needed and not just for my pledge but for my ability to learn and to give of my time. There was an equal need for me in the church or as Paul would say in the body of Christ. I realized that when you become a member you’re signing your name onto the realization that with Christ everything was changing, with membership in his church we are all offered a new life: a feeling of belonging, of being important, and of hope. We are being offered hope for a better tomorrow and a unity with other Christians that tells us that we belong where ever Christ is. This meant a lot to a fourteen year girl who struggled with all the girl drama at school, bullying, and teasing at home. It meant that even though I was still very unsure of the special gifts that God had planned for me that with the Christian Community I belonged and I was safe to experiment and use my talents in that church.
That knowledge helped me gain confidence, learn new skills, and find companionship and community in a way that school, sports and other activities couldn’t do for me. Church was where I discovered myself and in the process discovered God and his work in my life and the lives of others. Church was a place where I always belonged. Jesus let the world know that God was bringing about big changes to his message and for his people in a way that made sure that all people belonged. Paul drove this message home with his first letter to the Christians in the city of Corinth when he said, “But 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. Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it”.
Christ came to this world so that all people would know that because of him all people were welcomed by God. All people were equally as important and equally as honored. We show this in our church congregations by welcoming all people and their talents and gifts allowing for individuals to have a place to call home and a place where they can grow spiritually and emotionally. So as we go forth into another week, as we prepare our hearts to face whatever we encounter on this life’s journey, we are being reassured that we have a place where we belong and we are called to invite others to find that same sense of belonging, of companionship, of being cared for, of God’s love in our church.
 1 Corinthians 12: 24-27, NRSV.
(based on Luke 4: 14-21 and 1 Corinthians 12: 12-31)