Psalm 139:1-6, 13-18
1 Corinthians 6:12-20
(Sermon from Sunday, January 14, 2018)
These lessons for today have haunted me…challenged me.
The phrase that keeps coming back to me is…bodies matter.
Just two weeks ago we celebrated Christmas. Emmanuel – God with us. God chose to enter creation in a new way – embodied. God came to us in our own form, with our own challenges, joys and struggles of being human. This is a very personal gift. Intimate.
In today’s psalm we are reminded that we are marvelously made. (fearfully and wonderfully made) God’s works are wonderful. Our bodies and our days have been fashioned by God.
In the past, Faith held a human sexuality retreat for 5th and 6th graders. For many years, this verse was the focus of that retreat. It was a way to honor the changes as our bodies mature and in the same time acknowledge the awkward self-consciousness of puberty.
For adults, this is also comforting that as our bodies change and age….we can be assured that we are wonderfully made as God intends.
This feels good. Affirming.
Then Paul reminds us that the gift of Jesus, Embodied Love, is not just about me. It is not only personal. It is about us. Through the gift of the Holy Spirit, Embodied Love becomes the Body of Christ. That is less comfortable because in acknowledging that, we now have a responsibility for one another. We are all part of a One. The use and abuse of your body affects my body.
I imagine that in churches today where this second lesson is read, there is uncomfortable squirming in the seats. We don’t want to hear the words fornication or prostitution in church. I am sure Paul’s readers did not want to hear them either. Specifically, Paul was writing to the powerful men of that time. It was the custom of powerful rich men to flaunt their affluence by having sex with women other than their wives. These were not relationships. They were not about love. It was about power. The women, as individuals, were not important. They were just objects. They had no power, no say, nothing positive from the interaction.
I know! As I read this in my research, I couldn’t believe it, how relevant this is! In December, Time Magazine announced its Person of the Year – the #Metoo movement. This year women have been speaking up for themselves and for other women in record numbers. In speaking up, they are reclaiming their power over their bodies and their lives. They are being believed after many times years of silence in the fear of not being believed.
Their stories are right from the time of Paul. I have heard this moment in time called the “Harvey Weinstein moment” referring to the Hollywood producer who to date has had 84 women accuse him of sexual misconduct and abuse. Their stories have opened the floodgates. Stories of men, in all types of workplaces, treating women as objects for their own whim. These interactions are far from mutual. Men using their power to do what they want - in fact many times, threatening women to stay silent and compliant. Last weekend at the Golden Globes, women’s stories outshined the actual event. The conversation shifted from women as victims to women as powerful and valued – having a voice and story that needs to be heard.
Paul tells us that Bodies Matter. Sin and abuse to one body is sin and abuse to the whole body. We are to treat not only our bodies but OUR BODY as our most valuable possession. We don’t. It sometimes feels like we don’t even try.
· We ignore the presence of lead in water systems until whole town’s like Flint, Michigan (poor unimportant towns like Flint) have no clean water to drink. None.
· We ignore the cries of our brothers and sister of color when they are targeted by corrupt law enforcement – beaten, imprisoned, killed and then forgotten – remembered only as a hashtag.
· We demonize refugees - escaping certain death in their own country, coming with absolutely nothing just themselves to offer - only to greet them with suspicion.
What would Paul say to us today?
We know what Jesus would say: “Follow me.”
Nathaniel asked Jesus, “Where did you get to know me?” He had never met Jesus. Jesus didn’t know him and yet, somehow, he does.
Nathaniel does not know it yet but he will learn how deeply Jesus knows him. Jesus – the one who is Embodied Love – has called him and in time he will see great things. Nathaniel will learn that he is a part of the One Body in Jesus. Nathaniel will see that it will come at a cost.
Jesus’s invitation to “Come and follow me” is not a simple feel-good statement. It is not meant to be easy or comforting. It is an invitation to a radical way of living in the way of Jesus. It is an invitation to step over the line of polite do-gooder society and speak the truth and…share our power so that those who have no voice can speak their own truth as well.
If we believe the Body of Christ matters to our world, then we cannot help but believe that all the bodies in the Body of Christ matter too.
The Embodied One is here with us, feeding us, forgiving us so that we can take the Good News of Jesus into the world.
On Monday we remember and are strengthened by the work, faith and example of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. In 1963 he wrote:
"The Gospel at its best deals with the whole person, not only his or her soul but also his or her body, not only his or her spiritual well-being but also his or her material well-being. A religion that professes a concern for the souls of people and is not equally concerned about the slums that damn them, the economic conditions that strangle them, and the social conditions that cripple them, is a morally moribund religion."
Jesus’ words of “come and follow me” are an invitation for us at Faith. They are also a challenge as we imagine our future. In two weeks we will gather for our annual meeting. The business of the church may direct its focus at the bottom line, but the work of the church is about love. Embodied love.
How will we meet that invitation and challenge to be Embodied Love in this church, our community and the world?
Jesus knows us intimately from our mother’s womb, flaws and all, and still calls to us, “Come and follow me. Watch what I do. Learn.” Jesus says, “This work of reconciliation, healing, listening, feeding, noticing is not only my work. This is your work too.”
This is good news. This is THE Good News.