Monday, January 19, 2015

Epiphany 2B

“All things are lawful for me, but not all things are beneficial. All things are lawful for me,” but I will not be dominated by anything. 13“Food is meant for the stomach and the stomach for food,” and God will destroy both one and the other. The body is meant not for fornication but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. 14And God raised the Lord and will also raise us by his power. 15Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? 19Or 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? 20For you were bought with a price; therefore glorify God in your body.” (1 Corinthians 6: 9-15a, 19-20)

That word just kind of jumps out of you, doesn’t it? You know which one I’m talking about. It’s starts with an “f.” That “f” word evokes images of forbidden sensuality and carnal escapades that we only dream about in our most savage imaginations.

It’s right smack dab in verse 13, staring at us. And the “f” word I’m talking about, of course, is...”food.”

Why? What did you think I meant?

Well, I suppose the “other” “f-word” will make my point just as easily, if more colourfully. Because as I’ve been reflecting on the theme of “stewardship” I feel that we often neglect to include our most valuable resource - our bodies - as something we need to “steward”. How we treat our bodies can be just as important to our stewardship mandate as how we sustain the land, clean the oceans, capture carbon, or manage our finances.

As you can see I’m not exactly a poster boy for healthy eating. If anything I’m a cautionary tale of how poor nutritional habits and a sedentary lifestyle can wreak havoc on one’s life.

I’m a stress eater. And let’s just say that the last few years have been VERY stressful. And my habits thus far have not helped me in dealing with the stresses of the last half decade. If anything my late-night encounters with the drive thru and Monday Night Football cans of beer have made my stress levels worsen. And by extension, the quality of my life.

And it’s not as if I hadn’t been warned. Information on diet and exercise, the stuff of a healthy lifestyle, isn’t exactly scarce. I fact it’s always in your face, waving a condemning finger, giving you the stink eye.

I knew that 30 minutes on the elliptical is just as effective at battling anxiety and depression as prozac. I knew that getting 5-10 servings of fruits and veggies a day is just as useful at elevating my mood and giving me energy as any high octane caffeine explosion I can get at Starbucks. I knew that the two of them together would help me put my life back on track better than many counsellors or life coaches.

But I chose other, easier, options. And it wasn’t until I had a recent health scare that I realized what I was doing, not only to my body, but to my life. And to those around me.

I began to realize why Paul asks us to honour our bodies. I realized that what I was doing to my body and to myself, was keeping me from living in the faithfulness that God wants from me. What I was doing to my physical self wasn’t allowing me to assert my best self. It’s like Paul looked me up and down, grabbed me by the shoulders, shook me, and said,

“Are you kidding me? 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? For you were bought with a price; therefore glorify God in your body.”

When I read that it was like Paul smacked me across the back of the head. And I knew something had to change. Status quo was not an option.

So, I’ve started making changes in my diet and exercise routine. I’m eating lots more veggies then ever, and I’ve been giving my Fitbit a good run for the money. And right away I’ve noticed my energy levels increase, my mood brighten, and my thinking become clearer. I’ve lost 20 pounds since arriving in Calgary.

And yesterday, I was given a terrible reminder of the consequences of poor lifestyle choices when my mom called to tell me that my sister’s husband’s brother, age 55, died yesterday of a heart attack while out for a walk.

Yes, choices have consequences.

So, eating healthily and exercising is becoming, for me, as important a spiritual discipline as prayer. It’s becoming clear to me that, as I shed unhealthy weight, I grow more fully into who God wants me to be.

“ 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? For you were bought with a price; therefore glorify God in your body.”

But this shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone who knows their way around the bible. Bible stories tell us a lot more about life here on earth than it does about an eternity in heaven.

Right from page one, God creates a physical earth out of nothing, and God calls that physical earth “good.” And at Christmas, we celebrate a God who came to join us in our physicalness, as God came to meet us human beings as a human being in Jesus.

Somewhere down the line we forgot the point. And we decided that “spirit” was good and “flesh” was bad. And that has led us to mistrust what God has so lovingly created. We were born physical creatures to glorify God in our bodies. But we decided that we’d rather be “spiritual” without reflecting on what that might mean.

Having just finished a course on Spirituality and Music for my doctoral degree, I’ve become keenly aware how hard it is to define “spirituality” in a way that honours the biblical story by keeping it’s feet firmly planted on planet earth.

The temptation to think of “spirituality” as an escape from creaturely being is very real. Placing “spirituality” in the other worldly column may have started with the ancient Greek philosophers, but we Christians have taken up their cause and made it our own.

We sing more about heaven than we do about earth. Our songs are often for a longing for a disembodied future than they are about life with a God who is known through other people. We praise a God who is “high and lifted up” more than we join our voices with the God who became flesh in Jesus and shared our fragile limitations.

And not just in the church. It’s taken over our lives. We’re trying to escape out bodies.

Technology is created so we don’t have to use our bodies as much as we normally would. So-called “labour saving devices” reduce the amount of physical activity as much as they reduce the amount of time spent doing those chores.

While I’m delighted that I have a washer and dryer in my apartment, and I did a happy dance when I saw that my kitchen had a dishwasher, I also know that they are reminders for me, backward reminders of my physicality. Signs to remember to move my body because that’s what it’s there for.

And our newest technologies keep us better connected, I’m not denying the good. I am a text messaging fiend. While not nearly as much as my 13-year-old daughter, I text with friends all over the world.

I have maintained cherished friendships through words. It’s all that we have because we live so far apart. We keep up with each other’s daily lives in ways that wouldn’t have been possible before cell phones.

And apps like Skype, Facetime, and Snapchat can help bridge the distance, but as I’m sure you well know, an image on a screen is a barely adequate replacement for someone’s personal presence.

Technology is a constant reminder that we aren’t together physically, but it’s a connection nonetheless. And the danger is that words and images can’t be fully felt on the screen. Words can describe and express the moment, but they have limitations. And those limitations are deeply felt.

When we finally do meet in person, the words stop, or at least step aside for a moment, even when we’re speaking. It’s not the words that are communicating. But the physical presence. The energy we exude to each other. The facial expressions that enhance the meaning of our words. The tonality of voice. The movement of the body. The eye contact that says more than any word every could.

And in that moment of physical presence, we glorify God in our bodies even if we do not touch. We glorify God in our bodies because we are not alone. We are honouring each other by being fully present, knowing that this presence is a gift. And the longing for physical presence is God’s way of saying “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?”

You are a temple of the Holy Spirit, you are a sacred space, you are a holy sanctuary, where God lives with you and in you, so that you can best live with others, in that same kind of intimacy.

Spirituality isn’t meant to be an escape from the world, but a deeper engagement with it. To connect with the Spirit is to connect with the God who is redeeming the world, not destroying it. Spirituality is knowing that there is more to life that we can sense with our bodies, but also knowing deep within our flesh and our bones, that through the Spirit those lives merge. Heaven enters earth.

We glorify God in our bodies through exercise and healthy eating so that we can assert our best selves to others, and offer our gifts to enhance the world.

We glorify God in our bodies when our sexuality is primal, honest, intimate, life-giving in the best and broadest sense of the word, where two people unite to lose themselves in order to find themselves.

We glorify God in our bodies when we respect the earth’s fragile abundance, which God says that we honour and care for, taking from it that which need to live and thrive, but ensuring that the cycle continues for the generations to come.

We glorify God in our bodies by creating and maintaining strong relationships, because we were not meant to be alone, we have been created to connect, to share, to offer, to receive, to be together.

We glorify God in our bodies when together, as the Body of Christ, we love others and we care for the world God made, being God’s hands, feet, and heart in a world that needs God’s healing power and presence.

“Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? 19Or 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? For you were bought with a price; therefore glorify God in your body.”

I didn’t know that before. But I know that now. I know that good news isn’t just spiritual, but it’s also physical. In fact, the two can’t be separated. Heaven came to earth in Jesus. And we are his living body in the world.

In a moment we will receive Christ in the physical expression of bread and wine, Christ’s own body and blood, so that, as we receive him, our body joins with his. And we are nourished in order to feed others in our body.

It all starts with ourselves, and the Spirit who takes up residence inside of us, making our bodies Holy, the very dwelling place of God. The temple out of which God changes everything.

Congregation repeat after me:

“My body is a temple of the Holy Spirit.”

“I have been bought with a price.”

“I will glorify God in my body.”

May this be so among us.


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