1 Corinthians 12:22-26
Something to read
On the contrary, the members of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and those members of the body that we think less honourable we clothe with greater honour, and our less respectable members are treated with greater respect; whereas our more respectable members do not need this. But God has so arranged the body, giving the greater honour 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 honoured, all rejoice together with it.
New Revised Standard Version
Something to think about
In this passage, Paul insists that all the members of the church are worthy of great honour, great respect and are to be deemed indispensable - no matter their condition, disability or social standing. If one member suffers, all suffer.
In 2003, over 100 activists stood outside the Nidaros Cathedral in Trondheim as people arrived to attend the Sunday Høymesse ('High Mass') holding a large banner stating 'The Bishop is HIV-positive!'
Churchgoers, entering the principal cathedral of the Church of Norway, were shocked. Many were angry that these demonstrators would insult their bishop in this way. Many asked the demonstrators why they were being so cruel to such a good man.
However, inside the cathedral where Norwegian monarchs were once crowned, the Right Rev. Finn Wagle, Bishop of Nidaros, who agreed in advance to participate in the campaign, preached a sermon against the stigmatisation of those who are HIV-positive.
After the service, the congregation understood the point of the demonstration. The bishop was not HIV-positive, but the event highlighted that even in a wealthy and liberal society like Norway, many people, including active churchgoers, held stigmatising attitudes about people living with HIV. The bishop's message was that persons living with HIV are, as Paul insists, honourable, respectable and indispensable.
Something to do
Visit the stigmatised. It is tempting at times to think of some people in society or in the world as unwanted, worthless or even better off dead. These might include dangerous criminals, persons in hopeless poverty, people living with life-threatening contagious illness or corrupt dictators. There are lots of categories to choose from.
However, as Christians we are called to be with those no one else deems worthy. There are many ways to do this. You could volunteer to visit prisoners serving long or life sentences for serious crimes. You could volunteer with the VSO and work among the world's poorest. You could work with an organisation that helps sex workers in London find new forms of employment.
You may find that those who seemed of no worth are indeed worthy as bearers of God's image.
Something to pray
A prayer of the late Maya Angelou
Father, Mother God,
Thank you for your presence
during the hard and mean days.
For then we have you to lean upon.
Thank you for your presence
during the bright and sunny days,
for then we can share that which we have
with those who have less.
And thank you for your presence
during the Holy Days, for then we are able
to celebrate you and our families
and our friends.
For those who have no voice,
we ask you to speak.
For those who feel unworthy,
we ask you to pour your love out
in waterfalls of tenderness.
For those who live in pain,
we ask you to bathe them
in the river of your healing.
For those who are lonely, we ask
you to keep them company.
For those who are depressed,
we ask you to shower upon them
the light of hope.
Dear Creator, You, the borderless
sea of substance, we ask you to give all the
world that which we need most - Peace.
Today's contributor is the Rev James Matarazzo Jr, a United Church of Christ (USA) minister from Boston, Massachusetts. He moved to London in 2007. Jim is a founding member of INERELA+ (International Network of Religious Leaders Living with and Affected by HIV and AIDS), a Christian Aid partner. He is now working on a DPhil in Systematic Theology at Oxford University.