Sunday, March 19, 2017

A Lenten Meditation: The Body

"While they were eating, Jesus took bread, and when He had given thanks, He broke it and gave it to His disciples, saying, "Take and eat; this is My body." (Matthew 26:26)

These words are what we refer to in the communion service as the words of institution. The words that were spoken by Jesus on that last night as He shared the Passover meal with His disciples before His betrayal and crucifixion. These words are repeated by followers of Christ on a daily, weekly, monthly, and even yearly basis. Along with baptism, the Lord's Supper is recognized as one of the two observances that the church was to follow until Christ's second coming. Often times the rituals and liturgies of the church can become for some over time just another routine. We repeat the words by heart and know all the procedures that go along with observing the particular sacrament. I am currently reading a book entitled, "Liturgy of the Ordinary:Sacred Practices in Everyday Life." by Tish Harrison Warren. In the book she points out how activities of daily living can become opportunities for worship. So it is with the body. Have often do we think about our bodies in a way that opens up our hearts to worship God? Many of us have been raised to think about our bodies from the perspective of our the culture. What we do to take care of our bodies is seen as part of the mundane routine of our daily existence. (i.e. brushing our teeth, taking a shower, etc.) However, what if these so called "mundane activities" were seen as opportunities for worship? We tend to believe that our bodies exist according to our culture to engage in activities that we define as either good or bad or see as something imperfect that needs to be changed or fixed. How many advertisements do we watch on television for cosmetic surgeries that will give you the perfectly sculpted body? How much money is spent on cosmetics that are designed to ward off the effects of aging? How many of us can stand in front of a mirror and be totally satisfied with the appearance of our bodies? Sometimes the bodily functions that are a part of our humanity are not seen as acceptable and often downright embarrassing. Yet, Jesus came in a body. It was a human body with all the functions that define and set us apart from the rest of creation. God in the beginning fashioned the human body out of the dust of the earth and breathed life into the man. (Genesis 2:7) God declared all that he had made "good." In fact it was so good that God saw that it was not good for the man to be alone and He created another human body, a woman, to be the man's companion. (Genesis 2:18-23) At no time did God see the need to improve upon what He had created or fix some perceived defect. How often do we take the time to meditate on the complex nature of the body from the inside out? The uniqueness of our internal organs and the blood that sustains our life, not to mention the skeletal frame which holds everything in place. Furthermore, the outer layer of skin which protects our internal organs from harm. In fact the imagery of the body is so powerful that God calls it a temple and that temple is so sacred that negative consequences will result from anyone destroying our bodies. (1 Corinthians 3:16-17) When we seek to bring physical harm and destruction to another human being we are desecrating the temple of God. God always sought to be close to His people, to dwell or abide with them. Prior to the construction of the physical temple by the Jewish people, the Lord met with His people at the Tent of Meeting or the Tabernacle which God commanded Moses to construct according to a specific set of plans. (Exodus 35-40) God's glory dwelt within the Tabernacle. After the construction of the physical temple, by Solomon, (1 Kings 6) the Jews set the temple apart as the sacred "residence" of Yahweh. However, God wanted to be even closer to His people and God used a human body to accomplish His purpose. Jesus declares it so in the Gospels when His accusers testify that Jesus stated, "...I am able to destroy the temple of God and rebuild it in three days." (Matthew 26:61) What Jesus' accusers failed to understand is that He was speaking about His physical body which was going to be crucified and rise again as guess what...a body! Although Christ's resurrected body was unique, with new capabilities and properties, He was still recognizable as a human being, bearing the scars of crucifixion. And when Christ returns He will come as the King of Kings and Lord of Lords in a body! Paul emphasizes the sacredness of the body, "Do you not know that your bodies are temples 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 bodies." (1 Corinthians 6:19) If this was not enough, Jesus did not call His people a group, a committee, or a gang. He calls us His body of which He is the Head. (1 Corinthians 12:12-31) So sacred is the body that Christ offers us His own body using the imagery in describing the bread of communion. So during this time of Lent when so many "give up" certain practices or behaviors, let us commit to "giving up" the world's definition of the body and seeing our bodies as God sees and has created them--holy and sacred vessels for His honor and glory. My prayer is for all of us to be able to look in the mirror and meditate on our bodies, the temple which is inhabited by the Spirit of the living God and to humbly bow down and worship!
"Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God---this is your true and proper worship." (Romans 12:1)
Pastor Sheree