“Dear Body”

Sep 4, 2022

The Scripture

John 1: 1-14

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome[a] it.

There was a man sent from God whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all might believe. He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light.

The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. 10 He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. 11 He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. 12 Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— 13 children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.

14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

 

The Sermon

Dear Body is how Kate Bowler begins this chapter. I love this. She starts as if writing a letter to her body as you would write to a friend. The chapter is titled “To My Body.” I relate to this idea of writing to your body as I often find myself talking to my body. Do you ever talk to your body? You know what I mean, things like come on, body, get out of bed, you’ve got to get going! Or come on, fingers, why are you hurting today? The weather is fine. Or heck, knee, what’s up with you, you didn’t hurt yesterday, but today you keep bothering me. You get the message here, right? Sometimes our body and/or parts of our body simply don’t go along with the plan we have for the day.

Then there are those significant things that happen when our total body seems to be in shutdown mode. Bedridden for a period of time, hospitalized, in rehab…it happens to all of us, you know. Our bodies fail us, or maybe the word is betray. Our bodies betray us. And most of all, there are those times when we feel so alone in our faltering bodies. Every human being faces the consequences of a body that experiences discomfort once in a while. We can be comforted in knowing that we worship and celebrate the living God who knows what it is like to live in a body of flesh and blood. 

Indeed, the word became flesh and lived among us. Of course, we know that when we hear the phrase “the word,” this is in reference to Jesus. Jesus, the Son of God, came and walked on the earth, experiencing all that it means to be a human being living in a human body. Kate Bowler makes a point that is worth pondering a bit. She says, “God went to great, even incarnational, lengths to be born as a tiny infant.” Have you ever thought about that? About what it means that God came to earth as an infant, as a vulnerable, frail little being, totally dependent on his parents? I mean, God could have beamed down to earth as a full-grown adult or appeared as a celestial body; that would have turned some eyes, wouldn’t have? But God chose to come to meet us the same way we enter this world as infants. Experiencing what it is like to grow up, to have parents and siblings. I have to believe that God’s intention of coming to earth as an infant was not for God’s benefit but instead for our benefit. Kate Bowler went on to explore more of what it means that God came to earth as an infant. She says, “if God too lived in a body, then God knows the aches of growing pains and the feeling of goosebumps on a brisk day and the comfort of a warm embrace.” I can add Jesus knew hunger and thirst. He knew aches and pains, cold nights, and hot days. He fully experienced the human body! And while you hold on to this reality that Jesus experienced the full breadth of living in a physical body, we must also hold that Jesus experienced the entire emotional spectrum that goes along with living in community with one another. He experienced the death of a friend, He witnessed diseases eating away at the flesh, He touched frail, aging bodies, He knew the challenge of living with deformities and blindness, He witnessed abuse, violence, poverty, and exploitation. So knowing all of that, we have a better picture of who it is the God we worship. Kate Bowler says, “when my own body drags me down when my muscles ache when my worries keep me up at night when I feel lonely and exhausted and burdened. I do not worship a God who is far off.” We, you and me together, do not worship a God who is far off! 

Maybe, just maybe, knowing God is here, close to us, knowing that God fully knows our bodies will help us find contentment in the journey we take in life with our bodies that aren’t perfect, with our bodies that age and change and give us all kinds of problems. Kate Bowler continues this letter to her body by realizing that perhaps there are some things she can do to take better care of her body. You know she’s right about this, and I don’t need to list the things we can do to better care for ourselves…we already know. As Kate Bowler’s, “Dear Body” letter continues, she brings up this myth of perfection. Perfection in what we eat. Perfection in what we assume bodies should look or feel like, perfection in imagining, we’d be over this weird body stuff by now. Maybe I should include perfection as how our bodies should move or hurt less, or have skin that doesn’t have wrinkles or toes that shouldn’t be bent or curved the wrong way. But then our bodies tell our life stories, don’t they?

The scar I have on my leg from playing field hockey, the dark skin spot that reminds me of my grandmother every time I see it, my heart that feels sorrow for another. This sadness arises from my own sorrow. Our bodies, minds, and souls carry the badges of a well-lived life. I’m sure you can name your own life badges. I love how Kate ends this chapter. She writes, “I need to sense when you are struggling and gently acknowledge that you are actually changing. That time, love, grief, and life have worn themselves into my skin. Day by day. This is the beautiful, terrible evidence that we have lived…let us quiet ourselves and look to God, who made us in all our imperfections and in our total dependence. Through God, in God, we live and move and find our being. Let us be more awake, alive, and drawn together body and soul into that single purpose—to love and be loved by a God who calls us God’s own.” Amen