Last month, my priest LeeAnne asked me to preach at church. This has, in the past, been a very stressful ask for me – standing in front of people and exposing your most vulnerable insides is really scary. But this time, she asked me if I would preach about what I do. What I care about. What my work is all about. When do we ever get an opportunity to preach our passion? To share what we believe to be true with people you care about? So…here you go. If you’d rather listen to it, you can click here.
God is in the Body – St. Mary’s Episcopal Church
The title of today’s sermon is from a bit of today’s Gospel from John – “Joy Made Complete in Themselves”
It’s Easter season still and it’s a wonderful time –SPRING- to take look at Easter in a new way. How can we bring this story into our own lives? Instead of looking at the death and resurrection of Jesus…let’s look at our own beautiful selves, our own beautiful bodies…LIVING in our own beautiful bodies. Resurrecting our connection with this magnificent gift that we have been given.
I start today with a quote from Barbara Brown Taylor – An Altar in the World: ‘The Practice of Wearing Skin, “I’m not sure when Christian tradition lost confidence in the body, but I have some guesses. Although Jesus was a Jew, many of his earliest interpreters were Greeks, who divided body and soul in ways that he did not. Descartes did not help matters by opposing nature and reason in his philosophy. Then along came the Protestant Reformation, with its deep suspicion of physical pleasure, followed by Freud’s dark insights into human sexuality. Add to that the modern scientific reduction of the body to biological matter, overlaid by Victoria’s Secret ads, and it is small wonder that so many of us are uncomfortable in our flesh. Yet here we sit, with our souls tucked away in this marvelous luggage, mostly insensible to the ways in which every spiritual practice begins with the body. Where Christians are concerned, this leaves us in the peculiar position of being followers of the Word Made Flesh who neglect our own flesh or – worse – who treat our bodies with shame and scorn.”
I also read something from yogi Donna Farhi’s book, “The Breathing Book” and she said, “Many of us feel ourselves disconnected from our bodies, often having no more familiarity with the physical frame that carries us than with a remote distant cousin.”
How do you feel about your body?
How do you feel in your body?
Do you wish it were different?
Do you pay any attention to it?
Or do you feel like it is a remote distant cousin?
The body – your body – is always speaking to you. It tells you the obvious things like, “I have to pee” to “My neck is sore from sleeping funny.” It tells you when you’re hungry and when you have an itch.
But it also, if you pay closer attention, speaks your feelings to you physically. Tension from stress. Hot and sweaty from anger – or passion. Exhausted from sadness or depression. Shining from joy and laughter.
The body is a miracle. It is your miracle. Every day your body steadfastly does a zillion functions without you having to think about it. Breathing. Digesting. Hormone balancing. Moving. Seeing. Thinking. Sensing.
It’s a miraculous thing this body. Tell me, why do you think it is that we ignore this gift? Why do we not inhabit our bodies? Why do we disconnect from this miracle, feeling thing?
I’m curious. Do you believe that you have a piece of God in you? Do you believe you are of God?
Here’s the thing…God is in the body. Just like God is in the mind and in your spirit. God is in the Body. God is in your Body. What if each of us is a skin vessel that God has pulled on to have a human experience here on Earth? What if each of us is a spiritual being having a human experience?
You, the whole package, are a piece of God. 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God?” If you’re into Scripture…Bam!
But we are bombarded with images and messages that disconnect us from our bodies. Images and messages that shame us into thinking that our bodies are not gifts…are not beautiful. Are not perfect. We may not even be conscious of what we see because we have become so accustomed to it…
*Lose up to four dress sizes.
*Xyz drug can speed up your metabolism and curb your appetite.
And then the images of what ideal is…Young. Thin. Beautiful. The American dream all wrapped up in a tiny little package.
These images aren’t about your health. They’re not about feeling good and connected and filled up with self-love celebrating your amazing-ness, your godliness, your magnificence. Nope – the images are nothing more than a system designed to make you feel less than and disconnected from your body – and therefore disconnected from God within.
Here’s the deal. God doesn’t EVER want you to feel less than. I don’t necessarily believe in the devil or in evil…but if I did?? ‘Less than’ is where the devil would creep around. He would whisper to you in your insecurities and in your self-doubt and in your fear. Score one if he can convert those sticky icky’s into full blown self-loathing.
It doesn’t happen all at once…it happens over time. Look at most kids – the way they walk and move through the world fully inhabiting their body with no self-consciousness or thought. They dig themselves so much. They are IN their bodies – fully connected. Like “On Being” journalist Krista Tippett says in her interview “The Body Grace” with the amazing Matthew Sanford, “There is nothing more embodied than a 6 year old.”
And then a harsh word, a sideways glance, a well-meaning grandparent even mom or dad who inadvertently talks about the diet they’re on…and then junior high…high school…when the voices of peers start to become deafening. And then all of a sudden…it’s gone. The deep and beautiful connection with our bodies that is our divine right – is gone.
And a whole industry is out there to reinforce the message – and make billions off of you.
I’m over it. And I want you to be over it too. And if I could have a cup of tea with God I guarantee she’d be over it too.
We’re meant to love our beautiful selves. All of ourselves. Our skin, our faces, our wrinkles, our pooches, our grey hairs, our hard spots, our soft spots, our bodies. We’re meant to love ourselves and be connected to our bodies.
And I propose that it is through that self-love that health and wellness blooms. Self-love is the soil, water, air that grows Self-Care. When you love yourself and honor this incredible gift and see it as part of God…you’ll be less inclined to eat too much, drink too much, eat too little, talk to it in a nasty way.
You may want to start moving it, getting fresh air, giving it a stretch and some fresh fruits and vegetables. You may want to start hanging out in gratitude and positivity instead of judgement and criticism – recognizing that negative feelings make your body feel yucky.
When you’re connected to your body, fully inhabiting your body, you can start sensing God in a new way. You can tune in and feel your instincts, which is God talking to you. You can get tuned in enough to lower the volume on the mental chatter and listen to your body, mind, spirit speaking. And then…you learn to trust yourself, trust what God is leading you to do. Because your body rings in the truth of what is right and good for you.
So how to get connected with your body? I’m going to give you three ideas today.
- Look yourself in the eye in the bathroom mirror. Say the words, I am perfect as I am.
- Hug yourself.
There is such power in the breath. At the end of my classes, we do a yogic tradition called Savasana. There are so many reasons why Savasana is a gift – but bringing your mind to your breath and finding your center and connecting with your body is one – wait three. And today we’re going to do a seated Savasana.
5:00 – Seated Relaxation
I leave you with this incredible poem called by Capable Flesh by St. Irenaeus adapted and translated by Scott Cairns
The tender flesh itself
Will be found one day
To be capable of receiving
And yes, full
Capable of embracing
The searing energies of God.
Go figure. Fear not.
For even at its beginning
The humble clay received
God’s art, whereby
One part became the eye
Another the ear, and yet
Another this impetuous hand.
Therefore, the flesh
Is not to be excluded
From the wisdom and the power
That now and ever animates
All things. His life-giving
Agency is made perfect,
We are told, in weakness-
Made perfect in the flesh.
The word Namaste is the most beautiful word because it sums it all up – The Divine in me sees and recognizes the Divine in you. Namaste