1 Corinthians 12:12-31a
Its good to be back here- I missed you and always feel tethered to this place in my heart, wherever I am at 10am on Sunday mornings. I’ve traveled some this month- I went to Rio de Janiero, Brazil, with my partner- to visit family that is still there. The 11 hour flight over night made me feel like a space alien- it didn’t help that I watched The Marian while in the air.
Travel makes us feel both disembodied and really like a body- bodies are subject to jet-lag, or risks blood clots, or an adrenaline rush of fear when turbulence hits. Smelly bodies, different sized bodies, crying baby bodies, people snoring and getting sick, bathroom lines building up. Minds asking the body questions like, “On this flight, do we to hydrate a lot, because flying dehydrates us, or to not drink any liquid because we’re trapped in a window seat with a grumpy stranger?”
Rio de Janiero, Brazil, is a place that celebrates bodies- lots of small bathing suits and causal clothing slinking off tanned and taught bodies. Gyms around every corner and people doing pull ups at workout station on the beach. Last Sunday morning on the beach, gazing at these bodies, I thought about us. We in the congregational church have moved past our puritan times, but bodies are still taboo to talk about in church. Church is about the spirit- right?
Until Paul reminds us of this old familiar image: of the church like the Body of Christ. So we have this mythical huge body and Paul goes into extensive metaphor about how we are like different parts of a body, and thus how we need each other- we can’t exist with out each other.
He writes, “If the foot would say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body.
“And if the ear would say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body.”
“If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be?
If the whole body were hearing, where would the sense of smell be?”
“The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.”
Paul, the author of the letters to the Jesus following community in Corinth, wants them to remember, wants us to remember, that their bodies, that our bodies are interconnected.
Being in a body is humbling. Our bodies fail us- they make noises and smells and shapes that we can’t control- on some level we are beasts who shut our bodies down to function in a civilized world.
Take a moment to think about how connected our bodies are to other bodies. The clothes we are wearing, were made by the food we maybe ate this morning also sits in other peoples bellies- the people who bought the same, the DNA we share with our ancestors, the air we breath is the exhale of the person next to us.
And then there are bodies that go away- the grief that lurks around the corner, of people we have loved and lost; hands we have held, shoulders we have hugged, moments we have shared. Greif and memory lurking around the corner, holding out their hands, offering unwelcomed feeling from the past, in moments unexpected. Lost bodies.
We are so connected. Because of technology, we are more connected and disconnected than ever before. While I was in Brazil I used an app called “whatsapp” which means I can text internationally, immediately, with anyone in my contacts while connected to internet. It feels wild to be that connected. The New Yorker wrote a short piece about how by 2020 more than half the 8,000 curbside pay phones will be transformed into Links: a new public telephone- 9 feet tall made of aluminum – which carries free superfast wifi. NYC will be the first city to do this. We are more connected than ever before- if on facebook, we know what our friends are eating, who they are loving, where they are traveling, the books they like- we can contact them at any point in the day.
Then there is comparing bodies- this divides us. Comparing old bodied to young bodies, privileging some bodies as better than others. I saw an article on WikiHow “How to get over Facebook envy in 7 easy steps.” The struggle is real my people. The article begins, “Are you taken in by other people’s status updates on Facebook that they leave you feeling less than adequate or that you’re leading a somewhat boring life by comparison? Are other people’s updates telling you that some of your Facebook friends lead vibrantly exciting lives, spend huge amounts of cash and own everything you have always dreamed of? While some of the boasting might have an air of truth to it, it’s more likely that you’re being subjected to severe exaggeration and it’s embellishment rather than reality which is causing you to feel inadequate and unhappy. Yet, the feeling of being a loser in life’s race to the top can feel uncomfortably real. The solution? Tada! Get real!”
The article basically said that no one is as happy as they present themselves to be. We are all vulnerable, and of course we want to celebrate publically our best selves. But so much suffering comes from comparing our vulnerable selves to other people’s curated selves.
But we are more connected and disconnected than ever before. We can sit in our individual homes, texting or tweeting or whatsapping on our individual phones- making very real connections to people, that have nothing what so ever to do with our bodies. Online bullying in perpetuated at a young age people the person doing the bullying can’t see the reaction of the person getting hurt. Bodies are always at stake.
So much of Christian tradition locates sin in the body, and uncomfortable the way our tradition has abused the concept of sin- we have thrown the baby out with the bathwater. But sin can surely be located in the body-
Moments like Flint, Michigan, with polluted water source from the Flint river, that has corroded the lead pipes and has now poisoned the citizens- just to save some money, moments like this show us how connected our bodies are- to the earth and to each other. Veins like rivers and rivers like veins, connecting a whole city in a public health emergency. Children with led poisoning because of the sin of careless leaders. Out bodies are so connected and vulnerable.
In Cold War Era Germany, when a wall divided East and West Berlin- and there were the American, German, French and Soviet sectors, these false and superficial divisions divided the city. And while there were checkpoints to pass from east to west that hardly anyone could get through- check point Charlie is one tourist site today, the water underneath the city still coursed through the veins of the city, connecting people who weren’t able to see each other, forcing government officials to talk- to actually talk to each other, if not about foreign policy, but about mundane things like sewage and plumbing and fresh water.
Our digital age, where technology has becoming another appendage makes bodies extended into the perhaps cosmic sphere of the internets- that ether space where we are both more connected and disconnected than ever, spirituality in the body will become much more important than ages of the past. Let’s not forget theologian Sallie MacFague reminding us that the earth is God’s body—not just something to take care of, but the living, breathing body of the earth. Let’s make sure bodies aren’t taboo to talk about in this church. Let us not buy into the anti-body rhetoric in our culture, that privileges thin bodies and white bodies and young able bodies over anyone else. Let’s let Paul remind us that we are one body, one earth, and the eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” Let us open our doors to embodied spiritual practice; to dance in church, yoga on the side, walks in the woods to freshen our spirit, and always remembering the vulnerable bodies- how connected our bodies are to one another. Praise God, that we are an embodied community. One that meets in person every Sunday and sometime more often. A community that centers around Jesus who came to remind us that God came to earth to understand and experience the human Body. Jesus the incarnate God. We are an embodied community, where we truly sit side by side, look in each others eyes, can hold each other’s hands and give hugs, listen to each other’s stories. Let it be so, Amen.