the Body of
It is that time of year here in St Louis,
Missouri, USA. The momentum began at the beginning of April
as the day of Call Service grew closer. This is when the
announcements would be made of where the graduating ministerial and
deaconess students from Concordia Seminary would be headed.
On the same day vicarage and internship placements would be
announced – one year under clinical supervision for our students
following two years of classroom work.
Call Day arrived. Then, three weeks
later in mid-May graduation came. Now, during late spring and
summer, graduated ministerial candidates are being ordained and
installed. Graduated deaconess candidates are being
consecrated and installed all over the USA. For these people
it is a fulfilling and moving time after all those years of study
and practice. They have all been given gifts and talents to
use, and all are entering vocational service in and to the
St Paul wrote: [God] gave
some as apostles, others as prophets, others as evangelists, others
as pastors and teachers, to equip the holy ones for the work of
ministry, for building up the body of Christ … Living the truth in
love, we should grow in every way into him who is the head, Christ,
from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every
supporting ligament, with the proper functioning of each part,
brings about the body’s growth and builds itself up in
love. (Ephesians 4:11, 12, 15, 16)
The picture is clear. All church
vocations have a central function: to help prepare the people
of God for works of service and ministry so that in every way
possible the body of Christ can grow into Christ. And … the
principle energy for this is love.
If St Paul were to write in the
21st century he likely would add parish nurses to his
list, and some other church and churchly vocations as
I think of this picture especially at this
time of year as we send people out to be workers in the
church. I pray that this picture of the function of workers
in the church is their dominant and energizing picture. I
also hope it is yours, guided by the Holy Spirit.
The body of Christ builds itself up!
Every behavior of the members of the body is focused on things that
build up. This body comprises communities of people who part
by part, joint by joint, muscle by muscle, are building each other
up and growing into Christ so that the body itself grows and
In Romans 12:9-15 St Paul how this works:
Let love be sincere; hate what is evil; hold on
to what is good; love one another with mutual affection; anticipate
one another in showing honor. Do not grow slack in zeal, be
fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, endure
affliction, persevere in prayer. Contribute to the needs of
the holy ones, exercise hospitality. Bless those who
persecute you, bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with
those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.
It is clear that in the body of Christ church
vocations are never the end goal. Rather they are a means to
an end, to equip the holy ones for the work of
ministry, for building up the body of Christ.
(Ephesians 4: 12) The body of Christ is where people,
empowered by the love of God in Christ, gathered in worship
together, energized by God’s word and the sacraments, engaged in
the day-to-day helpfulness and strengthening of each other and
prayerfully supportive of each other, seek to strengthen and build
each other, and ultimately grow into Christ.
Every community does this imperfectly; every
community lives at the foot of Christ’s cross and in the power of
the resurrection of Christ and the gift of the Holy Spirit.
Thus, you and I come together with “building up” as our goal.
When we fail at this, as we will, Christ comes to build up us again
with his love, care and forgiveness and sends us his Spirit so we
are once again able to build up the body of Christ.
Bruce M. Hartung, Ph.D.
Concordia Seminary St. Louis
St. Louis, Missouri, USA