Bodies based on a reflection by Karoline Lewis (Professor and the Marbury E. Anderson Chair of Biblical Preaching, Luther Seminary, Saint Paul, Minnesota)
Bodies We have them. We inhabit them. But often we do not know what to do with them.
We desperately want to change them, improve them, shrink them, hide them. We want to tighten them, shape them, mold them. We compare ours to others. We describe them with odd categories, like fruit. We analyse them, take them apart, and we like some parts more than others.
We take them for granted. We look at them in the mirror with disgust or with modest admiration. We keep the lights off so that they cannot be seen. We expose them in ways that leave little to the imagination.
Most of us have felt like this about our body at some point in our life.
Many of us have watched an loved one gradually fade away from a terminal illness or old age. It is not easy to stand by as their once strong and vibrant body goes through to the process of dying. Karoline reflects that we may not realize the beauty of our bodies until our bodies are no longer.
“But he was speaking of the temple of his body.” We know that the circumstances of the temple incident in John are different from the other Gospels. We know the theological claim that Jesus is making in this very different temple skirmish story. And certainly, reflection on or a sermon about any of these points of specificity in John’s version would be worthwhile.
What does it mean for us — the temple of his body. That God chooses to localize love in a human body? That God decides becoming human is a good idea?
Now if God makes the decision to be incarnated, it is logical to assume that God is probably not choosy about bodies. OK, God does became a man. But if we take the incarnation seriously, and that God loves the world, the full expression of human bodies is at stake. Otherwise, incarnation is only partial and not the finished product. You can’t be partly human, selectively human. If you are human, well then, it means the whole thing.
When was the last time you thought about how your body expresses the Gospel? How your body communicates the message of your sermon as much as your words? How your body reveals the truth about the truth you preach?
Lent will be a body anointed, a body beaten, a body on the cross, a body laid in a tomb. What does that feel like? The only way we can get at that is to embrace our own bodies. Lent, Easter, even theology, cannot be fully captured or experienced in our heady confessions, our lofty logic, or our need for knowledge. Lent invites a deep reflection on the role of bodies in faith, in theology, in life.
In the end, Jesus is saying that his body is the location of God. Yours is, too. It has to be. God is counting on it because God loves the world. Jesus is counting on it because his incarnation came to an end on that cross. This week, embody your body. Explore how your body expresses the Gospel. Imagine how your body might reflect as much about Jesus’ journey to the cross as your words. Because then the Word becomes flesh — again and again.