Dear friends in Christ, grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  Amen.

In the Classical period of ancient Greece, sculptors achieved what no artist had ever attempted. They created life-size and life-like sculptures which glorified the form of the human body, and marble turned out to be a wonderful medium for their rendering. The sculptures seemed to be  carved from the inside rather than chiseled from the outside. Figures became sensuous and appeared frozen in time and movement.  Faces were given more expression and whole figures struck a particular mood. This is certainly true of the Parthian Prisoner which was once located at the Prison Façade in Corinth. The Greeks were indeed fixated with the human body, and to them the perfect body was an athletic body.

Which is why it is so surprising, when tourists visiting modern day Greece encounter a collection of headless statues, such as in the Archeological Museum in Corinth. Of course, they ask why. Interestingly, in spite of their deep appreciation and admiration for the human body, Romans and Greeks in ancient times purposely made statues with detachable heads. If the sculpture of a hero, eminent person, or ruler lost its name, honor, or died, the head was easily removed and replaced by a new hero, a better-known person, or a new ruler. In these cases, the sculptures with detachable heads had typically and ideally impersonal bodies, mostly clad in robes.

The Apostle Paul was shocked by this every day custom. After all, he too accepted the Greek notion of the body as perfect and divine, so he embraced this understanding to describe the church as the body of Christ. For Paul the image of the body showed the unity and diversity which was to be found in the church where every member was interdependent with the others.  Indeed, no member was to be regarded as more important or insignificant.  The body was perfect when all the members worked together.

But that was also where Paul diverged from the Greek understanding of the body. The body of Christ was more than simply the unified being of individual members gathered into one void of a soul and purpose. Paul regarded the church as the true living, and holy representation of Christ himself for all the world to see.  The Church was the Temple of God. And every time church members publicly rebelled or fought with one another, they were demonstrating the imperfection of Christ and they were tearing down the Temple of God.  Divisions were not to be celebrated and accepted. Whenever one member of the Body of Christ practiced corruption, greed or evil, the entire body was responsible for these actions.

The specific problem that drew Paul’s attention to Corinth seemed to be about fraudulent business affairs.  It was a common practice in ancient Corinth to resolve these matters by bringing a suit to the court, but Paul regarded this practice within the church as a sin within the Body of Christ.  The members of the church in Corinth were called to treat one another as brothers and sisters.  How could they bring one another to court?  For Paul, the entire body of Christ was on trial. In principle, he maintained, there should be no lawsuits.  Why?  They were all members of the Body of Christ. For one to sue another was as idiotic as an arm suing its own leg.  How can one  sue oneself?

For Paul, this notion of being one body, also defined the moral, ethical behavior required of the members of the church. As the body of Christ, you and I are not entitled to do simply as we  please to fit our own taste and preference.  “Yes, all things are lawful, but not all things are beneficial.” A member of the Body of Christ cannot simply act on their own disregarding the rest of the body. One member’s actions will be perceived as the actions of the whole body. “If one member sins, the whole body sins. But anyone united in the Lord becomes one spirit with him.”

Regretfully, we live in a world today where many church members feel without regret that they can freely do as they please.  They believe their actions don’t really affect or hurt their neighbors or the Body of Christ. In fact that don’t even see themselves as a member of the Body of Christ.  Their relationship is between themselves and God and no one else.

Our current culture is no different than Paul discovered in ancient Corinth, and its world of sculpture. We replace the heads on statues just as conveniently. And we do so with the same kind of misplaced devotion and allegiance. We “exchange the head” for the cultural and political leaders with whom we agree, hoping that everything will be better, but we never ask whether our own actions as members of the body need to changed and whether our lives are representing the Body of Christ.

As followers of Jesus, you and I we are called to place our faith and trust in a God whose perfect body never leaves nor forsakes us, no matter how troubled the world might seem. We simply follow in the footsteps of the One who loved us and gave himself for us. So my friends, let us resist following the headless statues of lesser gods, who cannot save, and instead continue to find our place in the Body of Christ.  Amen.

May the peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.  Amen.