In John 8.31-32, Jesus said, "If you hold to my teaching, you are my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free." The pool of gifted persons in the Household of Faith ebbs and flows as Christians leave, and others take their place. Harmony in the household of faith, however, is not affected. Newly acquired skills and training mature us little by little spiritually, so the group's balance develops. A sudden death precipitates an imbalance like a hand amputated from a human being's body. The group later reforms to the new reality without that person, and so the body's complete ministry re-emerges, and Household harmony continues. The frailer parts of the Household of Faith have a particular significance. Saint Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 12.21, "These parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable." In the Household of Faith, children have a particularly special place and honor there. Jesus emphasized this when his followers tried to discourage mothers from bringing their babies to him, but he insisted on blessing them.✞
Christians are called upon by Jesus to have a childlike Christian faith. Each part needs to work together for the body's greater good. Jesus' assertion rocked his listeners on their heels and challenges us today, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these." Jesus clearly taught here, by his word and in his actions, that babies and children always hold passports to the Kingdom of God. All adults also need to have a childlike Christian faith. We are all called to be like children in this respect. Mentally challenged persons, like infants, are too precious in God's eyes and so often exhibit the same kind of childlike innocent faith.✞
The various parts of the human body need one another, like a group of children playing together. Each piece requires the other for harmony. "The eye cannot say to the hand, "I don't need you!" Imagine strolling along the road, and a snarling dog races up behind you. Your ears hear the growling first and immediately flash a message to your brain. Your arm muscles react instantaneously and pull your hand to safety! In this way, your body protects your fragile fingers from the dog's teeth. The different parts act together in so many ways for the Body's greater good. The linked members of the Household Body work together in harmony for the greater good of both the faith community and also the people it ministers to.✞
The work of many members in the household body, irrespective of status, is required for success. Each part is different in the diagram of the human organs. As the organs and limbs of a human body, various members in the Household of Faith work best in combination irrespective of their household body status. Members are encouraged to support one another. In the English Standard Version, Galatians urges, "So then, as we have an opportunity, let us do good to everyone especially to those of the household of faith." Though each part is unique, they act together. Saint Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 12.12, "The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts, and though its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ." Like a bicycle wheel, the Body of Christ in the Household of Faith is most effective when its spokes are attached to the Jesus hub and their Christian friends at the rim.✞
There are no "stars" in the church for all are of equal status. Doctor Paul Brand (1914-2003) wrote, "In our society, a janitor has little status because he is so replaceable. Thus, we pay the janitor less and tend to look down upon him. But the body's division of labor is not based on status; status is, in fact, immaterial to the task performed. The body's janitors are indispensable."✞
Supporting household bodies are the place to build friendships in the Body of Christ as in a long-distance race. Two killer whales will swim alongside a third that has become sick and cradles it on their backs so it can breathe the air at the surface. Geese fly in a "V" shaped formation to slipstream one another. When the lead bird tires from the wind's buffeting, it drops back, and another takes its place. In mist or clouds, geese honk to locate each other. By flying together, rather than singly, they cover much greater distances and support each other in this way.✞
In the human body, limbs and organs also respond to each other's needs, like a conditioned runner in a long-distance race. The "Minneapolis Star and Tribune" described this process, "When the body begins to overheat, sweat glands release liquid to cool it. When it starts to run low on sugar, fuel for the muscles, a hormone from the pancreas tells the liver to release stored sugar into the bloodstream. As the legs need more oxygen, the brain signals the heart to beat faster. Blood flow to the internal organs and upper body is shut down by 80% so that more blood gets to the legs and the heart. Deep breathing brings in more air. Blood vessels in the legs dilate 400% to accommodate the increased flow of blood. All of this enables a person to run long distances." Like the human body, supporting household bodies are incredibly complex because Christ, who is their head and their brain orchestrates them.✞
The Saint Stephen icon reminds us that developing spiritual gifts is an essential part of the creation of a mature Christian and a healthy Body of Christ. Many Christians think that developing spiritual gifts is optional. They can try it or not. In the Household of Faith, developing spiritual gifts takes time and often comes with use. They are vital for Christian growth for the group as a whole just as plants grow gradually, so roles and gifts develop slowly as the Household of Faith matures.
In God's plan, Christians acquire new skills and develop spiritual gifts as part of the Household of Faith. The Acts of the Apostles describes Saint Stephen (5-34 AD) as one of seven deacons waiting on tables, but later we find him preaching in the open-air, this time as an evangelist. His name meant "wreath or crown." He has the honor of being the first martyr to the Christian faith, the first to be crowned for his Christian faith. His work altered profoundly as God blossomed forth the developing spiritual gifts within him. His role developed in the constantly changing kaleidoscope of the Body of Christ, cradled in the Household of Faith.✞
There is a tendency to want the very visible, upfront spiritual gifts of preaching or leading. However, the Household of Faith does not permit jealousy that may arise. Christians should not be proud because they possess individual spiritual gifts that someone else does not have. Nor should they become envious when another receives a prized talent. Saint Paul writes in Romans 12.6."We have different gifts according to the grace given to us," God gives spiritual gifts, and he knows best. Dr. Michael Green, the English evangelist, and author wrote, "While some of us might in all humility be able to see ourselves as hands and feet or yet more modestly as fingers and toes of a small local congregational body, any individual who claimed to be a foot of the church might rightly be regarded as too big for his boots!"✞
Kite flying is an illustration of people who share responsibility in the Household Body of Faith. The controller should be Jesus himself. Each of us should gather a group of committed Christians around us as Jesus did. Lewis Garnsworthy, when Bishop of the Anglican Diocese of Toronto, asked his clergy to follow our Lord's example and draw twelve lay people into leadership with them for mutual support and encouragement. He made the point very clearly that those in the Household of Faith needed one another. Consider the simple act of kite flying.✞
"Who flies the kite?"
"I," said the boy;
"It is my joy; I fly the kite."
"Who flies the kite?"
"I," said the wind;
"It is my whim, I fly the kite."
"Who flies the kite?"
"I," said the tail;
"I make it sail, I fly the kite."
"Who flies the kite?"
All are wrong, all are right.
All fly the kite.✞
Who "flies the kite" in your church? Is flying the kite a shared ministry?✞
Consoling and encouragement are the way to build household faith friendships and to strengthen individuals in the Body of Christ. Several members often combine their household faith friendships to help others in need. Saint Paul confirmed this in his writings, "If one part suffers, every part suffers with it, if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it" A new Christian in a Toronto parish, who suffered from alcoholism, stumbled into a drinking binge. When a Christian friend noticed her absence, a visit, and counseling followed. A third Christian paid the overdue rent. The prodigal eventually returned to her proper place in the household of faith. Combining efforts to help others often becomes a powerful witness to those outside the Christian Faith.✞
Friendships often strengthen individual faith. During the Vietnam Conflict, the Vietcong tried to break the spirit of American prisoners of war. Even under torture, it was not their patriotism or conviction that sustained them as much as friendships with other soldiers. Solitary confinement and disrupted friendships dragged down their fighting spirit more than physical hardship or torture. Members needed friendships to support each other. How does your congregation help the needy in your community?
How has God led several separate Christians to achieve a common goal?✞