Sunday, January 18, 2009

Epiphany 2 - Year B

“Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God, and that you are not your own?” (v. 19)

No, actually we don’t.

Paul wrote this letter to the Christians in Corinth, and they didn’t know what he was talking about. We’ve had this letter in our hands for 2000 years and we’re no closer to understanding what Paul was saying than the Corinthian Christians were.

Whether our problem is mis-use of sexual relationships, care for the poor and hungry, or failing to keep our bodies healthy, carrying around all this redundant protoplasm from eating to satisfy hungers other than bodily needs, Paul smacks us right between the peepers:

“Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit?”

I don’t think we know how to talk about our bodies. I think many of us are completely disengaged from them, seeing them as vehicles to carry our brains around in, only acknowledging them when it needs something: food, something to drink, a trip down the hall, first door on your left.

And so, we get caught up in the rules of proper behaviour. We want to know what’s expected of us so that we can meet those demands. We want principles to follow, laws to guide us, steps to take, to achieve the ends that are expected of us.

Think about how Christians talk about our bodies. We’re big on rules and expectations.

People often get the impression that the church has one big “NO!” to say about sexuality, for example, that our primary focus is on limiting peoples’ pleasure, keeping it carefully confined, under wraps, behind a veil of Do’s and Don’t’s - well mainly Don’ts. And if you listen to any group of pastors chat, you’d think that sexuality was the ONLY thing we have to talk about.

What people could be hearing from us is the blessing that sexuality is; the act of creation, intimacy. Joy. Life.

And while the diet industry continues to suck in billions of dollars from chumps like me, encouraging me believe that my body is my own despite what Paul had to say in today’s second reading, offering a book entitled YOU: An Owner’s Manuel, appealing to my self-interest rather than my faith, forgetting that we are frail and mortal, and that many hungers emerge, not from lack of proper planning, but from our deepest needs not being met.

This isn’t to say that our bodies don’t need rule. They certainly do. “Shun fornication!” Paul writes. And he makes a good point. I’ve seen too many unwanted pregnancies in young people, and people pushed into unwanted sexual relationships. That rule has strength.

“Not all things are beneficial,” Paul continues, and who could argue with that? With our cancer and obesity rates continuing to soar, even as we know that we need more fruits and veggies, and fibre to help keep us healthy, we still find ourselves at the drive-thru rather than Farmer’s Market.

And yet, having rules doesn’t mean we’ll keep them. Knowing the right thing to do doesn’t mean we’ll do it, as Paul talks about in his letter to the Romans. “The things I want to do, I don’t do. And the very thing I DON’T want to do, I do.” It’s like he’s reading my mind.

“Not all things are beneficial,” Paul says. But there’s another way to translate it, Instead of saying “Not all things are beneficial,” it could read “Not all things BRING TOGETHER.” The Greek word here is sympherei, where we get our word symphony. The goal for Paul is not to regulate our lives, but to bring our lives together in harmony, as beautiful or powerful as symphonic strains, where each plays a part in creating the whole. Each unique instrument contributes to the beauty and power of the music.

Bringing us together, not just as individuals bodies, but as ONE body - the Body of Christ.

One commentator suggested that we use the world “Y’all” as they might in the southern US, as in “Do you not know that ‘y’alls’ one body is a temple of the Holy Spirit?” That’s why he could say their body was not their own, it belonged to God.

These Corinthian Christians knew temples. They knew that temples were places where gods and goddess lived. Temples were expensive to build and even worse to maintain. Temples were sacred, holy, awe inspiring places.

Paul was telling them that they -YOU - are sacred, holy, awe inspiring, because they - YOU - are temples. Or the better way of saying it: you are A temple. The Holy Spirit is dwelling within you, everyone together. That’s why you can never really be your own. You’ve been summoned into a life where you are responsible for others and others are responsible for you.

That’s the life into which Jesus called Philip in this morning’s gospel. The simple summons, “Follow me” created an earthquake within him, and he knew his life was not his own, that he was part of a bigger family, a larger community. He was - with the rest of God’s people, a temple of the Spirit of God, who calls, gathers, enlightens, and makes holy.

And that’s what Paul was trying to say to the Corinthian Christians, We are made in God’s image, and our bodies have been made into the body of Christ, Our lives are not to be about arrogant, self-serving freedom, demanding that our personal hungers be satisfied, but our lives are about loving and serving each other, knowing that our lives - and our life together - is a gift, that the Spirit lives and thrives deep within us, that there is not part of our lives that God does not dwell, no corner of our existence that God is not transforming. God lives in this body - a temple of the Spirit of God.

“Glorify God in your bodies,” Paul concludes. God lives in you and you live in God. So, be the dwelling place for the Almighty, welcome all into the Spirit’s Temple, swing the doors wide open and receive a broken, hurting, and sin-stained world. In THIS Temple there is forgiveness and healing. In THIS Temple life is renewed.

May this be so among us. Amen.


Blogger Sean Bell said...

YEAH for the Gospel proclaimed. I liked this one.

First, I love the use of the Greek... inspires me to dust mine off and start using it more before I have to start preaching more.

Second, yall can be singular or plural (I know sounds strange.) But a friend in the south said that you can tell the differenance becasue there is the 'y'all' singular and the 'all y'all' plural. Eg. "Don't you know that all y'all's bodies are temples of the holy spirit.

Language is such a puzzle...

Thanks again for the Gospel.

Sean Bell

9:13 AM  

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