Friday, February 28, 2014

Being the body

Do you not know that your body
is a temple of the Holy Spirit,
who is in you, whom you have received from God?  
You are not your own; you were bought at a price.  
Therefore honor God with your body."

        — 1 Cor. 6:19-20

           "This is my body,” Jesus said as he broke the bread  at the Last Supper.  And as he passed around the cup of wine, he told his friends gathered there, “This is my blood.” 

            The disciples who were sharing that meal with their rabbi may not have had any idea what Jesus was trying to tell them, but to us those words are a graphic reminder that Jesus was a human being in a human body at the same time he was God. 
           Because we believe that God took on human flesh, being born of a human mother, issuing from a human womb, growing from crying baby to curious child to active teenager to thoughtful and responsible adulthood, inhabiting a human body subject to hunger, pain, and exhaustion — because our Lord and Savior is literally “God in the flesh,” we see the body as a holy vessel fashioned by God. 
           Jesus told us that our bodies are temples to the Holy Spirit.  A body is therefore a holy place, like a shrine or sanctuary.  When we worship it involves bodily movements, gestures and postures, lifting the eyes to heaven or closing them in prayer, singing hymns in a robust manner, filling and emptying our lungs in succession.  We take in God’s Word through our ears and eyes, we hug and shake hands with our fellow worshippers, we taste bread and wine, we wash bodies both big and little at the baptismal font. A person’s body is tied in with their identity — who we are is expressed in bodily ways.  A smile or frown, a touch, an embrace or a slap — any kind of communication comes from a certain way we use our own bodies.  And what we do with or to other people’s bodies can have a profound spiritual affect on them.  We can use our bodies to heal or to abuse others.   
           Like it or not, we’re stuck with these bodies God has given us, at least for this life.  Though more and more surgeries are available to alter, improve, or maintain our bodies, we know we won’t be here forever because these bodies just weren’t made to last.  And yet, the impermanence of these bodies is also our gateway to eternal life.  And as Jesus shows us in Matthew 25, the compassion and care we show with these bodies determines our fitness for the next world.
           And so it’s no wonder that we Christians pray for healing, set up hospitals, and send missionaries out with medicine.  It’s no wonder we take such care of the bodies of the deceased, and value the physical remains of a loved one’s body.  Bodies are not simply disposable vehicles that a soul tools around in.  Your body is not like your latest car, the one you are planning to replace as soon as you can afford it.  Your body is a definitive part of the you that you are.  The way your brain is physically structured along with the chemical balance your body maintains impacts your personality.  Though we are often at odds with our bodies, especially when they slow down or break down or distract us with urges and cravings we can’t ignore, we admire the harmony we see in a dancer or an athlete whose every move is graceful but deliberate and skilled. 

            This Lent, our series of mid-week worship services begins with Ash Wednesday on March 5, and brings us to reflect upon “The Body of Christ.”  Each Wednesday through April 9 as well as Maundy Thursday and Good Friday, we will meet at 7pm for a short service designed to bring into focus the amazing gift of our bodily existence, and the wondrous mystery that Jesus Christ shared our human existence.  The centerpiece of each service is a dialog focusing on a part of the body of Christ, including:

Å The feet of Christ         March 5 (Ash Wednesday)
Å The hands of Christ     March 12
Å The mouth of Christ    March 19
Å The ears of Christ        March 26
Å The eyes of Christ       
April 2
Å The heart of Christ      April 9
Å The blood of Christ     April 17 (Maundy Thursday)
Å The body of Christ      April 18 (Good Friday)

           The series concludes with a final service offered as our early worship option at 8am on Easter Sunday, April 20: “The Risen Christ.”

          Christians who observe Lent traditionally use it as a time of spiritual growth and reflection, and include some sort of discipline related to the body.  Often it is a “giving up” of a certain food or a “taking up” a healthy habit from Ash Wednesday up until Easter, with a view towards strengthening our self-control and overall health.  In their  “Make or Break” program, Thrivent suggests the following possible Lenten disciplines:
Add a healthy habit, such as:

Å Eating prayerfully, giving thanks before each meal
Å Fill half your plate with produce, making fruits and vegetables the star of your main meal each day
Å Track what you eat, keeping a record of your calories and nutrition
Å Fuel up with a healthy breakfast, including a variety of grains and lowfat protein and dairy

...or break a habit, such as:

Å Quitting processed foods
Å Going sugar free
Å Ditching unhealthy snacks
Å Skipping unhealthy beverages

More information on Thrivent’s “Make or Break” program, along with some great wellness activities and resource can be found online at:

Paul tells us all that, as believers, we are part of the body of Christ.  My prayer for you this Lent is that you experience that reality in worship and in the care and honor you give to your own body. 

Pastor Scott