By Rev. Joan Kessler
1 Corinthians 12:12-31
Snow has most definitely been on our minds, under feet, across our doorsteps, melting off our rooftops these past days. I took every opportunity I could to go out snowshoeing on the hillside across from where I live. The conditions for snowshoeing were perfect. The top layer of the deep snow was in a packed, solid state rather than fluffy accumulation, and it allowed the snowshoes to just gracefully traverse over it. It was much like the sensation of floating. To have walked the path I took without the snowshoes, I surely would have been buried up to my knees in some spots and lifting my boots out to carry onward would have been most difficult. The design of the snowshoe creates the right amount of surface coverage to hold me up and have a wonderful hike in the woods and connect with the outdoor sanctuary I feel blessed to live near.
This past week I was introduced to the work of late 19th/early 20th century meteorologist W.A. Bentley. Bentley had a fascination from an early age, maybe even an obsession we could say, with snowflakes. He caught them and viewed them under a microscope his mother had given him. I think we can all appreciate the skill and speed needed to undertake this study. Initially, he drew the intricate images by hand but later convinced his father to buy him a bellows camera that would enable him to take pictures of the snowflakes through the microscope. On January 15, 1885 at the age of 20, Bentley was the first person to photograph a single snow crystal. Snowflake Bentley, as he would come to be known, would go on to pioneer photomicrography and take some 5000 photos of snowflakes, each unique and no two the same. Bentley wrote of his study…
“Under the microscope, I found that snowflakes were miracles of beauty and it seemed a shame that this beauty should not be seen and appreciated by others. Every crystal was a masterpiece of design and no one design was ever repeated. When a snowflake melted, that design was forever lost. Just that much beauty was gone without leaving any record behind.”
So today, I’m thinking of images of unity.
In our reading this morning, we hear Paul’s message to a relatively new church in Corinth that was experiencing much division and conflict over a multitude of issues in their life together… around leadership, questions about marriage and divorce, different approaches to theology and the organization of worship. This early form of church saw people coming from many different backgrounds and traditions. But not only were there differences of opinion, the society of their time saw great economic disparity… a considerable portion of the population lived in poverty and constant hunger. LIfe in ancient Corinth was a constant struggle for survival.
So Paul presents the Corinthian community with an image of the body, the body of Christ. Every feature of this body is unique and has its own function, Paul writes, but all have an integral part to play in bringing this body to life so it can move. No part of this Body is unimportant. Every part is linked to another part, no matter how humble or inconsequential it may seem to be.
In this body, all things that are important to the Spirit-inspired community we find ourselves part of too. We are intentional about valuing all members and the uniqueness we arrive with, the experiences we’ve had, the places we’ve lived and other communities of faith we have been part of… all these things converge like beautiful snowflakes to make a blanket of snow.
Our diversity is not a problem to be solved or managed but rather a gift of Grace and a sign of the Spirit at work among us. We each bring our own unique gifts to this work and they form this body we call Winfield United Church and we remember that we belong to one another and we need one another.
These past two COVID years have reimagined our “body”… inter-connection has taken on new meaning and experiences. We have adapted to share life with one another in remote ways that we know don’t replace in-person physical contact, but our body still has a presence, and we see one another’s faces every time we gather on Zoom. I also think COVID has shown us our community is more than a presence in a building, but we are curious about how we can get to know the wider community better, and COVID has us taking none of our mission for granted.
The earth is the very body of the Creator of which we are an integral part. If the earth suffers, we suffer; when the earth rejoices, we rejoice with it. It all boils down to this… we are all interrelated. We are all caught in this inescapable network of mutual care and concern… what affects one affects the whole… we are made to live together. And simple kindness, when things get hard and the future is unknown, is the best medicine for a body that wonders and is perhaps worried about the future.
I’m still thinking about snowflakes… their intricate and delicate beauty that come from the heavens far above us and make their way down to the ground. They join up with other snowflakes and in so doing, help preserve one another. It’s a beautiful image of what it means to be a community.
Maybe you have your own picture of unity…there are so many when you stop to consider. The church is always local. It is part of a neighborhood and a wider community. It consists of real people gathered in real places with ideals and opinions that are part of their worldview. Things are bound to not always be neat and tidy and unity is not ever a foregone conclusion. Disagreements happen… but what makes the body unique and sets it apart is the grace that is found within… to be able to say to another, “oh, I hadn’t thought of that before”, or “I’m sorry if I hurt your feelings and will you please forgive me”. We are ever changing, even if we think things are always the same, they are not…may we celebrate our beauty and unity as a body that cares for one another and our place in the world.
May it be so and Amen.