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    Mar 04, 2018

    The Body of Christ

    The Body of Christ

    Passage: John 2:13-22

    Speaker: Father Will Lowry

    Series: All

    Category: All

    Keywords: lent

    Lent is a body anointed, a body beaten, a body broken - 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.

    What sign can you show us for doing this?

    Destroy this temple and I will raise it up in 3 days!

    What?

    But Jesus wasn’t speaking of the actual temple. He was talking about himself, his own body (and ours too perhaps).

    Bodies. We all have them. We inhabit them.

    Ivee and I have recently begun watching a show on Netflix called “Altered Carbon.” I don’t know that I should recommend it because of its risqué nature, but the premise of the show is useful here. The idea of the show, which is set in some distant future and alternate reality, is that the human body is essentially a vessel for our brains/souls/whatever it is that makes us US. All of us are contained in some genetically programed hard drive called a “stack.” Essentially, it contains our brains, personality, life experiences and souls. As I said, it is what makes us...US.   

    The kicker in this show is that our bodies can just be replaced, as long as our “stack” remains unharmed. People can essentially live for hundreds if not thousands of years - when your “sleeve” as they call it - gets too old or ugly or damaged, you can get a new one. Of course there is a catch, “sleeves” are expensive. The more “beautiful”, athletic, well put together, the more expensive. “Good sleeves ain’t cheap,” so to speak.

    Now, a little bit of a science lesson. Carbon is the 15th most abundant element in the Earth's crust, and the fourth most abundant element in the universe by mass after hydrogen, helium, and oxygen. Carbon's abundance, its unique diversity of organic compounds, and its unusual ability to form polymers at the temperatures commonly encountered on Earth, enables this element to serve as a common element of all known life. It is also the second most abundant element in the human body by mass (about 18.5%) after oxygen. So, hence the name for the show Altered Carbon.

    We all have bodies. We often desperately want to change them, even you good-looking folks out there do things to try and change you bodies. We all try to improve them in some way; by shrinking them, hiding them, tightening them…. And then, we compare them to others.

    We compare them to fruit shapes - pears, potatoes - it’s interesting that we compare them to fruit - especially when we consider the apple - we all know the apple’s significance in our Judeo-Christian story.

    The point is, we pay a lot of attention to our bodies, scrutinizing them in one way or another, most of the time wanting to change something.

    We often take them for granted, we expose them, we turn off lights to keep them from being seen. We have embalmers, and undertakers make our bodies look “normal” before we bury them, although they seldom look like they ought.

    “What sign can you show us for doing this?”

    Destroy this temple and I will raise it up in 3 days!

    What?

    But Jesus wasn’t speaking of the actual temple. He was talking about himself - his own body (and ours too perhaps).

    We know that this temple incident from John is quite different from the other three Gospels. We know there is a definite theological claim that John has Jesus making in his telling of this grand story of Jesus’ righteous eruption.

    We know that the circumstances of the temple incident in John are different from the other Gospels, too. We also know the different theological claim that Jesus is making in this attention grabbing story. (Who among us can deny that we haven’t wanted to “cleanse the temple” Indian Jones style as Jesus did?) And certainly, a sermon about any of these idiosyncrasies in John’s story could be worth our time.

    But what really caught my eye was thinking about bodies -- the temple of Jesus’ body. That God chose to make love paramount in the form of a human body. That God decided becoming human was a good idea.

    You see, since God made the decision to be incarnated, it seems to me that God was probably not choosy about bodies. Sure, God became a man rather than a woman, but that has little, if any significance - that God became human is the point. If we take the Incarnation seriously, and that God loves the world, then the full expression of human bodies is at stake. If not, then Incarnation is not so important. You can’t be partly human or selectively human. If you are human, well then, it means the whole thing.

    Why does this matter for me as a preacher? For you as a person? For us as Christians?

    Because when was the last time you thought about how your body expresses the Gospel? How our bodies communicate our faith?

    Often, we as preachers -- and as listeners -- tend to be so caught up in words.

    Who we are as witnesses to God’s love in the world is not just about the words we say. Who we are -- Christians, the Church, the BODY of Christ -- is also about embodiment. A tangible, visible form of who God is.

    Being Christian is not just telling people about Jesus, but embodying Jesus for others. Following Jesus is not only about your words and actions, but about how your actual body communicates the love of God, the presence of God.

    Bodies matter. Your body matters. Incarnational living is not only talking, it is how your body embodies the truth of the Gospel; how your body has felt what it feels like to experience grace upon grace.

    What does it feel like to be held by God? What does it feel like to receive a hug from someone when you need it most - even though you don’t think you do? What does if feel like to lie in a hospital room and have someone hold your hand and tell you that everything is okay?

    Lent is a body anointed, a body beaten, a body broken - 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. We must experience the living God we proclaim physically.

    I told this story at our first Wednesday evening gathering in Lent and it fits here too.

    A cartoon I once saw shows two doorways, one marked “Heaven” and one marked “Lecture on Heaven.” There was a long line of people waiting to enter the door to the lecture, but only a few in front of the door leading to the direct experience of God.

    We are in many ways afraid of encountering God in our imperfect bodies. But, Lent can invite us into a deep reflection on the role of bodies in faith.

    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 human body came to an end on that cross - for a time. Jesus’ body was resurrected and later ascended to be with God - but he left ours here on earth to continue His work.   

    This week, embody your body. Explore how your body ministers as much as your word. Does your body preach what is in your heart? When it does, the Word becomes flesh - over and over - again and again.

    Amen.