Written by Courtney McHill, United Methodist Pastor
“Yet here we sit, with our souls away in this marvelous luggage, mostly insensible to the ways in which every spiritual practice begins with the body. Our bodies have shaped our views of the world, just as the world has shaped our views of our bodies. Each of us has a unique body ‘signature,’ which consists not only of our distinctive physical characteristics but also of our posture, our gait, our way of using our hands.” – Barbara BrownTaylor, An Altar in the World
We all have a relationship with our bodies. A few years ago, I was to preach a sermon on body image and how we reflect God’s incarnation. I sent out an email to most of the congregation to ask them to reflect on their own bodies. I asked them to tell me what they loved, what they hated, and everything in between. The responses were overwhelming. Close to 80 percent of the congregation responded, male and female, young and old, and those who loved and hated their bodies.
This is a subject that we can all connect to in so many ways. We have complicated relationships with our bodies. Some of us love certain aspects of our bodies, like the way our eyes twinkle or that one curve. Some of us hate certain aspects of our bodies, like that toe that sticks out or that one curve. We can’t deny that we are packaged in this one body.
Throughout the centuries, somehow some parts of religion have put negative aspects on the body. Somewhere along the line, we somehow believed that we should ignore the body and forget the body and our scripture today highlights just the opposite of all of that. Jesus is standing before us, risen, and fully reclaiming his flesh. He doesn’t come back as a spirit or a ghost; he comes back wearing his skin and fully aware of his flesh. He even invites us to touch the flesh as proof.
When we talk about the Incarnation, we cannot forget the most important part, that Jesus came in the form of a human body with pains, aches, groans, likes and dislikes, feelings of elation, lightness, and blood flowing through. It would follow that perhaps one of the deepest spiritual practices is actually being aware of the fact that wear skin. We feel, we move, we ache, we feel blood coursing through our veins and God resides there.
Quotes for the Week
“Wearing my skin is not a solitary practice, but one that brings me into communion with all those other embodied souls. It is what we have most in common with one another.” Barbara Brown Taylor
“If any thing is sacred, the human body is sacred.” Walt Whitman
“Compassion is the sometimes fatal capacity for feeling what it is like to live inside somebody else’s skin. It’s the knowledge that there can never really be any peace and joy for me until there is peace and joy finally for you too. ” Frederick Buechner
“For too long, and despite what people told me, I had fallen for what the culture said about beauty, youth, features, heights, weights, hair textures, upper arms.” Anne Lamott
“You are imperfect, permanently and inevitably flawed. And you are beautiful.” Amy Bloom
1 John 1:1-2:2 (NRSV)
We declare to you what was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the word of life— this life was revealed, and we have seen it and testify to it, and declare to you the eternal life that was with the Father and was revealed to us— we declare to you what we have seen and heard so that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. We are writing these things so that our* joy may be complete.
This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light and in him there is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with him while we are walking in darkness, we lie and do not do what is true; but if we walk in the light as he himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he who is faithful and just will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us. My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; and he is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.
John 20:19-31 (NRSV)
When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.” But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.”
A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.” Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.” Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. 31But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.
Questions for the Week
What do you love about your body? What would you change?
Are you aware of what your body needs?
When do you spend time getting in tune with your body?