Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes

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God loves your body and who you are.  God cares so much about your body that God is going to raise it up, heal it, and make it whole after you die.  One of the things Jesus’ bodily resurrection communicates is that bodies matter and are important, and how we treat them and other people’s bodies matter.

3rd Sunday in Lent: March 11, 2012

Exo. 20.1-17; Psalm 19; 1 Cor. 1.18-25; John 2.13-22

Pastor Renee Splichal Larson

 

Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  Amen.

How many of you know the song, “Head Shoulders Knees and Toes?”  Okay, if you know it sing along:

Head Shoulders Knees and Toes (Knees and Toes)

Head Shoulders Knees and Toes (Knees and Toes)

Eyes and Ears and Mouth and Nose

Head Shoulders Knees and Toes (Knees and Toes)

You might be wondering why in the world I would stoop so low as to sing this song from the pulpit.  Well, I think it might help us get our mind on our body (or perhaps it will distract you for the rest of worship because you won’t be able to get it out of your head!).  It is good to talk about our bodies, and more specifically our bodies in relation to God, who has created them.

What might be really obvious, yet something we don’t think about often is that the only way we can experience life or God is through our bodies.  There is no other way that we could possibly know anything about God, the world, or anything else than through our head, shoulders, knees, and toes; our eyes, ears, mouth and nose.  In other words: your body. 

Jesus speaks about his body in our Gospel reading today.  He says, “Destroy this temple, and in three days and I will raise it up.”  The people around him are confused because here Jesus is standing in the midst of the temple, which is a physical building that has taken 46 years to build.  What they don’t understand is that he is speaking about the temple of his body. 

It is right here in the Gospel of John in which Jesus’ anticipates his own murder, destroy this temple, he says.  Jesus knows that when a person challenges systems of injustice, like he did with the turning over of the tables and the driving out of livestock, they often end up getting killed by people who hold the worldly power, which in the time of Jesus, were the Romans.

Jesus’ actions in the temple building were very radical.  Overturning tables and making a whip out of cords to driving out the sacrificial animals was socially, culturally, and religiously unacceptable.  It was the celebration of the Passover in which thousands of Jewish people made a pilgrimage to worship God in that place.  The temple was the center of faith and religious life.  It was where the very presence of God was thought to dwell.  It was holy space.  And here Jesus comes in and disrupts the whole system, and not only that, he completely redefines where the dwelling place of God is.

For many people, the journey to the temple in Jerusalem was very difficult.  It was expensive, so people who were poor had a huge disadvantage in their ability to travel, as well as purchase an animal for sacrifice and for food.  The temple was stationary, so people had to travel to where God supposedly was. 

So here we have Jesus, standing in the midst of the physical temple, claiming that he is now the temple, the vessel of the dwelling place of God.  Colossians 1.19 says this: “For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell.”

Now let’s think about this for a minute.  If God is fully present in Jesus, that means God is mobile and on the move.  It means that poor people who didn’t have enough money, or people who were too sick to travel in their lifetime, or people who were considered “unclean” and not allowed in the temple in Jerusalem, could now encounter the living God, alive, at work, and on the move in Jesus Christ.  Jesus redefines God’s presence in the world and ultimately, people’s access to God.

Here’s where it really gets fun.

In our Gospel reading today, Jesus says: “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.”  And then we have our kind Gospel writer who reminds us all in the last two verses that “he was speaking of the temple of his body.” And that “after he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this.” 

Followers of Jesus witnessed both his death on the cross by crucifixion (which the Romans were more than happy to do), and his bodily resurrection three days later.  Even though they didn’t understand bodily resurrection, they experienced it by encountering the resurrected Jesus and believed that God had the power to give life to the dead, because they saw it happen.

Now here’s where it gets really fun!

We too are promised bodily resurrection.  Romans 6:5 says: “For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.”  I am the first to admit that I do not understand bodily resurrection, but I believe it and I hope for it with every fiber of my being.  My body is the only way through which I have come to know God, the people I love, and life as I know it.

Last fall I came across a poem that I have grown to deeply love.  Perhaps it can articulate what I am trying to say better than I can actually say it.  In the first part of the poem, Carol Gloor speaks a little about Jesus and then weaves herself into it in the middle and the end.  She writes: 

          He could not give up the flesh.

          In the moments before we leave forever

          we want to say what he did:

          I have hands, feet, bones; touch me,

          and is there anything for breakfast?

 

We are tethered to tubes,

nails hammered hard,

spear in our side, soon

to pass through, but still

this is my body,

 

with the scar on my hand from the bike accident,

the lungs shredded with chemo,

the broken left foot never quite healed,

but still all I have ever known:

this is my body,

 

If I rise, let it be not

as a ghost, no metaphor

for new life; please something

like this body, some flesh,

something I can understand.

           -November 1, 2011 Christian Century Magazine, p. 30

 

The Jewish leaders did not understand Jesus referring to his body as the temple and new dwelling place of God.  We too sometimes misunderstand what it means that our body will be raised.  We think our body just gets forgotten and left literally in the dirt.  Eternal life and resurrection from what has been revealed to us in the resurrection of Christ is that it is not disembodiment.

God loves your body and who you are.  God cares so much about your body that God is going to raise it up, heal it, and make it whole after you die.  One of the things Jesus’ bodily resurrection communicates is that bodies matter and are important, and how we treat them and other people’s bodies matter. 

Now here’s where it gets really wild!

1 Corinthians 6:19-20 says: “Or 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?  20 For you were bought with a price; therefore glorify God in your body.”

What this means is that each of us…you…is a place God wants to be.  You are a dwelling place for God.  You, through the power of the Holy Spirit, are how others can encounter the living God, alive, at work, and on the move in the world. 

This doesn’t mean that we are God, like Jesus was God.  It means that you are so valued and precious that God chooses to make a home deep in your soul, in your body, and among human beings.

We know God in and through our bodies.  There is no other way than through our head, shoulders, knees, and toes; our eyes, ears, mouth and nose.  We know God through the hearing and reading of Scripture.  Through tasting the bread and grape juice at the communion table.  Through the holding of a hand of another person, or the smile of another.  Through the smell of the spring rain that falls to the earth.  Through the feel of the wind on our skin that gently or fervently reminds us of the Spirit’s movement in the world.

We are not yet to the celebration and season of Easter, as we are not yet to the resurrection and eternal life.  We journey in this world together through all of its joys and sorrows that we experience in and through our bodies.  And in God’s goodness and love for us, God has given the gift of God’s presence with you and with me every step of the way.