“But he was speaking of the temple of his body.”
We all have them. Bodies aren’t some unique trait to the Son of God. For some unknown reason God decided that becoming a human was a good idea. God decided to concentrate love, mercy, forgiveness, and absolute salvation in a fleshy, soft, fragile body.
We call this reality incarnation. And if and when we talk about this concept, it’s usually at Christmas time, when God, in Jesus, is a baby. We like to think of Jesus as a baby. They are lovable, sweet, and fairly close to perfection, holding a vast potential of possibility and dreams.
But just as we do, Jesus grew up – going through toddlerhood and puberty before inhabiting an adult body. For many of us as we grow into adults our view of ourselves and our body diminishes. I don’t know if this was true for Jesus, but seems universally true that inhabiting a body isn’t easy.
Often we don’t know what to do with them.
We desperately try change them, improve them, shrink them, hide them. We compare ours to others. We analyze them, take them apart, and we like some parts more than others.
And being much more powerful than babies we are able to exert control over them: tighten them, shape them, mold them. Make them be what we want them to be. Or at least we try to.
I’ve been able to make my body do what I want it to do for most of my life.
I’ve trained to run faster. I’ve watched what I eat. I’ve cared for my skin with sunscreen and lotions. I’ve even made my body do things I shouldn’t have made it do: like weighed too little or pushed my body too far in training, but by all accounts I could do that because I am in control of my body.
I’ve been able to self-select what I like about my body and what I want to change, until fairly recently.
I thought a lot about whether I’d say this next part, because I don’t want the message of the entire sermon to boil down to this… and that sometimes happens when you share a story, but this experience is a reality of bodies.
This is still a bit of a raw wound for me and fairly sensitive but, I need everyone to hear that I am okay. This is not a worry for you.
8 weeks or so ago I had a miscarriage.
It rocked my world. On so many levels.
I’d had three healthy children with no problems. I hadn’t even gotten my head around being married when I found out I was pregnant. And we won’t even go into the anger and confusion I felt at and with God when as quickly as I was pregnant, I wasn’t…
This. This I could not control. My body had failed me. Maybe for the first time ever.
Bodies fail. We spend much of our lives trying to pretend they don’t, but they do.
This matters because if we take the incarnation seriously it means Jesus’ body was just as frail, broken, and unpredictable as ours, which is fairly striking if you stop and think about it. The savior of the cosmos didn’t overcome the body, but was the body.
The whole body.
We tend to focus on The body as a baby, The body as a healer, The body as risen, The body as a savior….
But, Lent is The body anointed, The body beaten, The body killed, The body entombed.
What saves the world in many ways is Jesus’ humanity – his willingness to be fragile, vulnerable, and to have his heart broken.
His willingness to have his body fail on the cross. Saviors don’t die. At least not until Jesus.
So, Jesus’ radical statement that the body, his body is the temple of God matters. A lot.
What the people heard and saw on that day as he shouted through the temple, over-turning tables, and sending animals screeching was:
Violation, blaspheme, disregard, and wreckage.
They saw a desecrated temple.
But, by saying his body is the meeting place of God, Jesus does the exact opposite of desecration. He purifies the temple by utterly humanizing it. Everything about the body now belongs in the temple.
His body becomes a temple where miscarriages and eating disorders belong. A place where cancer and puberty belong. A place where broken hips and failing eye sight belong. A place where irritable bowels and PMS belong.
And not only do they belong, but Jesus on the cross claims that even a temple which is crushed is still a living testament to God.
Jesus couldn’t be partially human, selectively human, just as we can’t. If you are human, well then, it means the whole thing.
This matters a lot to me right now. It means that while I feel my body failed me, while it may have been crushed, it’s not separate from that which is godly and good and right.
Jesus’ incarnation didn’t come to an end on the cross. Rather, now he makes his temple in our bones. He isn’t just saying that his body is the location of God. He’s saying mine is and yours is, too.
Since this is true, it means our bodies reveal truths of God. I think this is fascinating to think about in light of all those things we despise about our bodies; all those things we wish were different; all those faults in our bodies…
What do those things say about God? Where is the goodness of God in the brokenness of the body?
That my body could live in the very midst of death – I don’t know – that is something… That is something that my words will fail to give voice to. This I know. But my body knows how it feels to experience grace upon grace. My intellect may not comprehend how it is true, but what my body knows is not only does Jesus reside within the body, but he has claimed our hearts for the holiest of holies.
This is the embodied truth of the Gospel – that Jesus gave his very life for.
It is in your very own body that Jesus’ heart beats.
When the body and soul feel all but dead, we intrinsically trust that His stubborn and persistent pulse will not give up on us.
And will beat for us.
If the temple was and is a place of meeting between God and God’s people and if the temple is now YOU, then… whatever your brokenness may be is a place where others might meet God through you.
I will never say I am glad that other people have had miscarriages.
But I am ever so thankful that I didn’t have to be in that space alone. A few gracious women met me in that desolate place, soothed my fears and carried my anxieties with me.
It was not their words or actions, but their actual bodies which understood and communicated the love and presence of God. They were living sanctuaries of healing in my world.
It is not only in our wholeness that Christ calls us to be places of meeting, but also in our brokenness.
When God uses that which was destroyed or defeated to bring about hope and new life TODAY, it is a way that we testify that the truth of the cross has dominion in this day and age.
So, if you are someone who met God during a mastectomy or prostate cancer,
or someone who found God didn’t abandon them after an abortion or struggled with drug or alcohol addiction,
or if you are someone who God cradled during abuse or neglect,
or if you are someone who learned to love their body after years of trying to change it,
then you are a temple for someone who is seeking refuge.
These are our temple stories. We house God for one another.
And if you are someone who is looking for that holy meeting place… I promise you there is refuge and peace and acceptance in the body of Jesus.
It. Is. All:
Holy hands and feet. Holy eyes and ears. And everything in between.
We are all:
Holy in pain and in shame. Holy in joy and in confidence. And everything in between. For He is glad to make His temple in you today. Amen.
[This post is from a sermon preached on the second weekend of Lent 2 based on Mark 8: 31-38 at Prince of Peace Lutheran Church.
Typically we video sermons but with our technology being down this past week, we are using the good old written format.]