“Mind, Body, Spirit – Sermon 2”
Sermon delivered by Pastor Daniel Mejia
St. Matthew’s United Methodist Church
January 11, 2015
So, how are your new year’s resolutions going? Yes, remember? Those promises you made to yourself 11 days ago? Remember? The promises that included eating more vegetables, less junk food, and more exercise? I mean, we are just 11 days into the year and I hope you haven’t given up. I’m hoping you aren’t given up just yet. Take courage, you are not the only one hoping to start 2015 in a healthier way. But for those of you who have made a habit of eating well and exercising, be prepared to see in your gym and community center an influx of new and desperate faces who will compete with you for the treadmill and stationary bike, messing up your exercise routine. Be prepared and take courage because many of them will disappear within the next 6 to 8 weeks. Just be patient because I’m confident that you will survive this year’s “Gym-pocalypse.” All kidding aside, here’s what we all know about our bodies: as we age they need more attention more care. And you already know that we live in a world that is obsessed with not just the health of our bodies but the way our bodies look.
A friend of mine who religiously reads Men’s Health magazine tells me that every year the magazine publishes the “new” and improved way to eat properly, exercise more effectively, and lose 50 pounds in 2 weeks. However, I would contend that the lack of success of the magazine diets is that we see on the covers pictures of these men and women with perfect bodies, perfect hair, and perfect teeth; and when our bodies don’t look like that in 2 weeks, or a month, or 3 months or a year, guess what? We quit because we cannot attain that image of body perfection. And so I wonder many times, who am I allowing to dictate the standard of what my body should look like? Who sets our body self-image?
As a good Jew, Jesus knew very well the importance of religious rituals, so it seemed fitting that the beginning of his ministry would be marked by a dramatic baptism. Baptism in the Jewish faith is a ritual of purification for the sins committed and simultaneously a consecration to a life of holiness and good works which was necessary for a Gentile to become Jewish. Jews as the children of Abraham did not need forgiveness and did not need baptism. This is what made John the Baptizer so radical, that he insisted that Jews needed to be forgiven also. As Jesus is ready to begin his ministry, he comes to be baptized in the waters of the Jordan river by his strange cousin, John the Baptizer, the fiery preacher who captivated the multitudes with his blunt and uncomfortable sermons, insisting that even the Jews needed to be forgiven and to be restored to a right relationship with God. The stage is set, a great crowd is present and the amazing happens before their eyes. As Jesus is baptized, the sky is split open and God’s Spirit, looking like a dove, comes down on him. And along with the Spirit, a voice that said: “You are my Son, chosen and marked by my love, pride of my life.” (Mark 1:11)
And here’s one thing that many times goes unnoticed about Jesus’ baptism. When Jesus was baptized, his body was submerged under the waters of sin to remind us from the beginning that in God’s plans of salvation for all of us, our bodies were included too. Our human, broken, and imperfect bodies were redeemed by God to do good works. The power of Jesus’ love and resurrection have reached out to grab our bodies and give them new life not just after we die but right here and now. In other words, your present body, regardless of what you think or see or others may tell you, is a gift from God to do the work of God today. As limited and frustrated as you may feel about your body, God has given you your body, beautiful and good, and to not be looked down upon. Sounds crazy doesn’t it? But it is all true. That’s how much God loves us. So, what does that mean to us today? Well, we need to start loving and caring for our bodies the way God does. We need to realize that God created us beautiful and perfect.
Recently the Dove company partnered with a professional photographer to produce a documentary called, “Selfie!” For those of you a little behind the times, a selfie is a picture you take of yourself, mostly with a handheld camera on your phone. The 8-minute documentary takes us into a high school in Massachusetts where girls from the school were asked to take selfies with their mothers. They were especially asked to focus the selfie on their features which they are the most insecure about. For some of the girls that meant taking a selfie with their hair down or taking a selfie of the left side of their face. This was an effort to redefine beauty and embrace the things about themselves which make them unique. I don’t need to remind you that for high school girls, this is a really big deal! By the end of the documentary both the girls and their moms started to understand beauty in new ways, discovering that beauty was within them all along. In other words, these girls and their mothers discovered what I would call the astonishing truth that God created them unique and beautiful because, believe it or not, regardless of what you and I see every morning in the mirror, God created you out of perfect love to do good works on this earth. (Ephesians 2:10)
Christian writer Lauren Winner reminds us this morning that “Our Bodies are central to the Christian story. God’s creation inaugurates bodies that are good,but the consequences of the fall are written on our bodies too–our bodies will sweat as we labor in the fields, our bodies will hurt as we bear children, and, most centrally, our bodies will die. If the fall is written on the body, salvation happens in the body too. The kingdom of God is transmitted through Jesus’s body and is sustained in Christ’s Body, the church. Through the bodily suffering of Jesus on the cross and the bodily resurrection of Christ from the dead, we are saved. Bodies are not just mirrors in which we see the consequence of the fall; they are also, in one theologian’s phrase, “where God has chosen to find us in our fallenness.”
This morning I don’t need to remind you how our bodies are broken and imperfect, you already know that. What I want to remind you of this morning is that your body, in God’s hand, is not a curse but a blessing, and that together we are the body of Christ for the world so that together we can represent a new image of health. “We each used to independently call our own shots, but then we entered into a large and integrated life in which He has the final say in everything. (This is what we proclaimed in word and action when we were baptized.) Each of us is now a part of his resurrection body, refreshed and sustained at one fountain—his Spirit—where we all come to drink. The old labels we once used to identify ourselves—labels like Jew or Greek, slave or free—are no longer useful. We need something larger, more comprehensive.” (1 Cor. 12:12-13)
Jesus’ baptism gives us the hope to know that in God’s eyes we are loved and accepted fully. God’s words to Jesus as he emerges from the waters of baptism are very personal, affirming, and powerful. “You are my beloved son. With you I am well pleased.” Wrapped in these words of acceptance are the blessings of identity, worth, and unwavering regard. (David Lohse) And that is the beginning of our journey to become a better We by accepting God’s words of blessing for who we are, including our bodies.
A broken piece of glass by itself is simply a broken piece of glass. But when many different pieces of broken glass, with different textures and different colors come together, they can form a beautiful stained glass. Together, we are a bunch of individuals with different talents and tasks but together, when we are truly together, we become a better “We.” Almost like pieces of glass of many different colors, when we are put together we form a beautiful stained glass that reflects the richness and beauty of God’s diversity. Amen