F-1.02 Jesus Christ is Head of the Church
God has put all things under the Lordship of Jesus Christ and has made Christ Head of the Church, which is his body…Christ calls the Church into being, giving it all that is necessary for its mission in the world, for its sanctification, and for its service to God…Scripture teaches us of Christ’s will for the Church, which is to be obeyed. In the worship and service of God and the government of the church, matters are to be ordered according to the Word by reason and sound judgment, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit…In affirming with the earliest Christians that Jesus is Lord, the Church confesses that he is its hope, and that the Church, as Christ’s body, is bound to his authority and thus free to live in the lively, joyous reality of the grace of God…In Christ the Church receives its truth and appeal, its holiness ̧ and its unity.
I have never met anyone who has disputed (effectively) that when the Apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthians that we are the “Body of Christ” he named our relationship to one another and Christ in a way that cannot be bested. No other way of describing who it is we are has stood the test of scrutiny. No other designation even comes close.
Explicit in Paul’s writing is the way we are in relationship to one another. The passage is famous for its rhetorical questions of who can or cannot be a part of the Body. I love how the passage from 1 Corinthians attacks both the assumptions we make of ourselves as well as the ones we make about others. I’m sure you have heard countless sermons or Sunday School lessons about this passage.
But how many have you heard about Christ as the Head of this Body called the Church? I can’t think of a one myself. Those of you that can probably counted the instances on one hand.
The quotes above from the Book of Order are true, and I doubt any of us need to defend or even explain them. We all affirm that everything is under the Lordship of Christ (“Jesus is Lord” is the ultimate and only necessary confession of faith). It makes sense to us that, if Christ is Lord, we are given all we need to accomplish the mission we have been given. It also makes sense that if we are bound to Christ we will experience the freedom of God and will be reconciled to God through Christ.
But what has recently become startlingly clear to me is not just that Christ is the head of the Church, but how.
I don’t know why it took me so long to read Edwin Friedman’s A Failure of Nerve, but since I did a couple months ago, I have had my entire perspective on the world changed. Friedman says many good and true things, but the one that affected me the most was his brief explanation of the relationship between the head and the body. On pages 16-17, he writes:
Recent findings about the brain-body connection have potential to revolutionize our concept of hierarchy. For they suggest that to a large extent we have a liquid nervous system. The brain turns out to function like a gland. It is the largest organ of secretion, communicating simultaneously with various parts of the body, both near and far, through reciprocal transmission of substances known as neurotransmitters. In other words, the head is present in the body!
So, too, the connection between a “head” and its body in any family or institution is not necessarily a function of proximity. The functioning of a “head” can systematically influence all parts of a body, and totally bypass linear, “head-bone-connected-to-the-neck-bone” thinking. What counts is the leader’s presence and being, not technique and know-how. (emphasis mine)
When I read that, my jaw dropped, and I immediately thought of how God “has made Christ Head of the Church, which is his body.” Friedman claims that the connection is not based on physical proximity. It doesn’t matter that we can’t see a physical Jesus standing before us. What counts is that Christ has risen – He is risen, indeed. - and that his being is in our consciousness. This is why the BOO makes it clear that it is Scripture which provides the connection to Christ. It is through Scripture that we know of the being of Christ and are reminded of his presence with us.
And does anyone else see some parallels between the “brain communicating with various parts of the body, both near and far, through secretions” and “Christ communing with various parts of the body, both near and far, through the Holy Spirit which has proceeded from the Father and the Son”?
No? Just me?