A famous tennis player once did a series of commercials for the Canon Power Shot Camera. During these spots he could be seen, not only taking pictures, but slamming a serve or looking very cool in a convertible. He would then say at the end of every advertisement something that we all suspected even without him saying it out loud: Image is everything.

Image is everything. Image is everything—not only as everything relates to technology and to sports and to entertainment and to fashion and to eating habits and to health and to modes of transportation and to music and to information sharing and to work schedules and to family life and to all that pop-culture has to offer—but image may also be everything when it comes to the life and ministry of Latah Valley and the Christian faith. Now, this is a slippery slope because in no way would I personally want to equate the sloganeering of Andre Agassi with the scripture passage that we’ve read in Colossians. In no way do I want to put them side by side and ask us to compare them. And yet, here we go:
“He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation, for in him all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible…”

This, of course, does sound like everything. And it does sound as if the author of this letter would like to communicate that Jesus is in some sense an image. But allow me to highlight one crucial difference: whereas the flashy tennis player will eventually crash in a heap of drug addictions and depression, a life-story that would tend to betray the tagline that Image is Everything, for Jesus “the image of the invisible God” is more like the tip of the ice berg. There is more to Jesus than we can comprehend, and that’s both comforting and scary. It’s comforting in that Jesus has been as familiar to us as a cozy pair of walking shoes. But it’s scary in that occasionally, while walking the journey of faith, we might step on something that’s hard. And then, of course, if we are wise we have to slow down and ask why our comfortable Jesus has allowed us to experience this hard thing. And could it be that the answer to that question has everything to do with the person that God wants us to be.

Kathleen Norris mentions a three-year old niece who went to day care in the morning. “Her mother, who worked as a stock broker and financial planner, would pick her up in the afternoon” and each time, she brought a completely peeled orange “so that her daughter could eat it on the way home. One day the child was busying herself by playing Mommy’s office on our front porch.”

Kathleen Norris then asked the little girl what her mother did at work. “Without hesitation” she answered that her mother makes oranges (Acedia and Me, p. 216). Now I want to think about that imaginative connection as I consider the image, who is Jesus Christ. Jesus makes us oranges. Jesus cares. Jesus nourishes and promises to take us home. But that’s not all he does. And, you see, whatever else Jesus does as far as “thrones or dominions or rulers or powers” it’s clear that we have been called to search for him in the places and among the people where he’s not acknowledged as Savior and Lord.

I call those places and those people pop-culture. Popular culture is nothing more than the ways by which the majority of the population chooses to relate to one another. And, you see, the institutional church has several options here: we can shun pop-culture in terms of its fashion styles and modes of entertainment. We can embrace or imitate pop-culture as in producing the slickest music videos. Or finally we can do something that seems counter-intuitive. That is, we can love those images from the culture that seem ready to crack or ready to crash. We can love them, which implies that we don’t shun them, but neither do we fully embrace them without offering a few questions.

In The Truman Show, a film starring Jim Carrey, there’s a scene where the viewers of a reality television program may have a lot of questions. That scene involves Truman, an ordinary guy whose been captured on film from the moment of conception. Now, forty years later, he’s married to a nurse, who’s really just acting the part of a nurse as well as acting the part of Truman’s wife. Anyway, Truman is the unwitting star of the show and has been for his entire life.

But there was this girl, this girl who had been hired by the studio as an extra. She meets Truman on the sly and tells him that everything’s fake. She throws sand in the air and tells him, “This is not real. None of this is real.” The producers of the longest running series then get nervous and orchestrate the girl’s supposed father to come and steal her away. “We’ve moving to Fiji,” he says as the girl flails and carries on. Well, this is the part where the viewers might have a few questions. Truman keeps a box of magazine clippings in the basement and every once in a while he’ll try to piece together from various photographs what he remembers about the girl’s face. That girl was the one person who stopped acting and who called everything into question. Could it be that she’s the one telling the truth?

Jesus, according to Colossians, is “the image of the invisible God,” and maybe that only makes sense if we’re there, in the middle of pop-culture, piecing together these vague and fragmented images. What is it that people are looking for in dressing the way they dress? What is it that people are looking for in working out and watching movies? What is it that people are looking for in drinking a pint of beer at the pub? It could be that you and I are there, sent there, to help them piece something together.

Amen.

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Whhhuuush! Evidently that’s what the Holy Spirit sounded like on the day of Pentecost, 30 AD. According to Acts, chapter two, the very force that animated the life of Jesus now made a noise like the weather, that is, like “a sound of the rush of a violent wind.” Then, as the story goes, people talked and heard one another in their own languages. Then, they rambled on about the wonders of God so much that observers thought the people had been drinking. Then, Peter interpreted the event as the coming of the Holy Spirit. And yet, before all of that enthusiastic conversation, the sacred holiday of Pentecost—which is the Jewish celebration of the giving of the Law—that ceremony had been interrupted by what appeared to be bad weather.

Now, if you don’t mind a huge twenty-five chapter leap forward, let’s join the apostle Paul as he is being shipped to Rome for a trial. Acts, chapter 27, may be compared to Acts, chapter two, only in this respect: each chapter is punctuated by wind. However, unlike the wind on the day of Pentecost, the wind in Acts 27:14 is nothing more than “the northeaster,” which rushes down from the coastline of Crete. The sound here is just wind. It’s not the Holy Spirit. It’s not Poseidon or Neptune, trying to smite the evil captors of Paul. It’s the weather. And the weather, as we all know, is uncontrollable and aloof to the places that we might like to go. But just for kicks, listen to what the prisoner says to the thugs who believe they are transporting him to Rome. After telling them “I told you so,” he says,
“I urge you now to keep up your courage, for there will be no loss of life among you, but only of the ship. For last night there stood by me an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I worship, and he said, ‘Do not be afraid, Paul; you must stand before the emperor…’” (27:22—24).

So, just for the sake of clarity, here’s what we know from the Acts of the Apostles about the weather and what it says about God:
1. God may allow God’s own Creative Spirit to be compared to a weather event; and

2. God may punctuate God’s own purpose for our lives in spite of the outer circumstances by allowing us to go through weather that is just weather.
In 1944, a leading officer of the Third Army requested prayer. He requested it, neither for his troops nor for the end of bloodshed. But on the eve of a major operation, General George Smith Patton, Jr. asked the chaplain to write a prayer concerning the weather. The chaplain complied, and this is how the prayer became published:
Almighty and most merciful Father, we humbly beseech Thee, of Thy great goodness, to restrain these immoderate rains with which we have had to contend. Grant us fair weather for Battle. Graciously hearken to us as soldiers who call upon Thee that, armed with Thy power, we may advance from victory to victory, and crush the oppression and wickedness of our enemies and establish Thy justice among men and nations.

Now, I don’t know what you may feel about that militaristic petition, but the fact that the chaplain prayed that prayer verbatim makes me squirm. And it’s not that I don’t love my country. It’s that I love Jesus more when he describes God in Matthew 5:45, who,
“makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous.”

For some reason Jesus does not endorse the point of view in which God manipulates the weather for moral purposes. In fact, just the opposite. God’s grace simply pours down on creation in the form of a holy indifference. And whether you are an axe murderer or an angelic paragon of virtue, it still might rain on your parade. And, you see, that kind of weather-conversation takes the wind out of the sails of Pat Robertson, who once claimed that God sends so many hurricanes to New Orleans because of that city’s permissive lifestyle. Jesus, it seems, would disagree. For him and for the apostle Paul the wind has another, more mysterious, purpose.

In The Good News From North Haven, Michael Lindvall tells about a funeral service he performed during a blizzard for Priscilla Atterby. “Priscilla was a world class worrier,” he said. And on the day of her service, as the cemetery workers covered her with snowy sod, “everything stopped, school meetings, work for almost everybody” and a deafening silence filled the town.
You see, I’m hoping that it’s obvious to you that the Bible is not like the Farmer’s Almanac. The weather as weather is not the point. And yet, just as the wind and the snow and the rain and the sun each stir our thoughts and emotions, so does God in the midst of it all. Those phenomena, if we let them, may actually accentuate and punctuate the covenant that God has made with creation and now with us as followers of Jesus.

“Do you not care…?” In Mark 4 and in Luke 8, this is the question that awakens Jesus from his nautical nap. Jesus then rebukes the wind and tells the Sea of Galilee to calm down. On the day of his’ crucifixion, Matthew reports darkening skies from noon to three in the afternoon, but this condition curiously corresponds with the question of Jesus—“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”—and then this statement on the lips of the Roman centurion, “This man was God’s Son” (Matt. 27:54). Then, in John’s Gospel, Jesus meets Nicodemus during the night and the weather’s not a part of the discussion until Jesus says, “The wind blows where it chooses…” And, you see, if I were to summarize all of these episodes I would say this: the weather punctuates those conversations like nothing else.

My father once bought me a Plymouth Duster. He paid a couple hundred dollars and it had this big dent in the side, but that didn’t matter. This black automobile would be mine and used for my exclusive travel. An automobile, according to the author of On The Road, means freedom and that’s the way I felt when I turned the key and heard the engine… aahh… roar. Anyway, the one glitch with my Plymouth Duster, which I discovered after a few weeks, made me really nervous. That is, whenever it rained and rained really hard, some of the wires, beneath the hood, would get wet and the car would stall. It would stall usually at a busy intersection and in lots of traffic and as a result I would feel my God-given freedom slipping away.
That’s what happened on MacDade Blvd. one time when I drove through a huge puddle. I drove through it, praying my usual prayer and then it stalled. God apparently had better things to do. But fortunately, nearby I saw the Nautilus gym where I worked out, and so I quickly jumped out of the car and took my first step toward the gym when I realized that I had locked the door of the car with the keys still in the ignition. Panicking, I ran through the rain, borrowed the phone and called my Dad who arrived in his pick-up truck with a stern expression on his face. In his hand he held a metal hanger and for the next ten minutes he tried to unlock the car and eventually get the car started. During that time, we were treated to a chorus of curses and gestures that I cannot repeat, and in which my father joined. And here’s the thing: if that weather hadn’t made my car stall, I wouldn’t have had my father come to the rescue and he wouldn’t have cursed his head off, all of which functioned as a prelude to this moment. A man, a strange man, in a white t-shirt approached us. He didn’t offer to help. He just mentioned how he had observed my Dad cursing and then he blessed us. Now that was a weird moment, but it became even more bizarre, when the Plymouth Duster started up and we drove home.

Now I have told that story about my broken-down, rain-sensitive car in every congregation that I have ever served. I tell it, you see, because of the weather that still interrupts me and you to this day. And I think that I recall the dazzling details because I sometimes feel like a stalled pastor in a stalled church. I am about ready to call for help when I realize that help has already arrived.

Amen.

What does playing catch with your dog have to do with following Christ? Well, you might be surprised. And what does listening to a woodpecker peck away at your exterior wall have to do with following Christ? Again, you might be surprised. And what about that mangy moose without any antlers—the one who wandered into your campfire as if to grab a bite to eat on the neighboring tree? Does that beast have anything to do with our faith in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ?

Today, as you and I imagine that most of our problems and most of their solutions have to do with human beings, there’s something that we’re missing. Romans 8 says that “the creation waits,” and by creation we can assume two things: we can assume a Creator and we can assume a vast network of living creatures, mostly non-human. The creation waits. The creation has its arms folded at the bus stop. The creation is tapping its toe at the check-out line. But that for which the creation waits has nothing to do with what we can buy at the store or the diesel fuel that we smell on the street. The creation, according to the apostle Paul, waits “for the revealing of the children of God.” And, you see, if you and I actually claim to be already the children of God, the question is, Have we come out yet? Have we been exposed yet for who we are?

Iris Murdoch tells the story of this incredibly selfish man. He’s the kind of man goes from person to person, from experience to experience, from place to place, always trying to get what he thinks he’s entitled to. Anyway, through a series of mishaps, this man ends up stuck in a bog in the middle of the night. He’s actually sinking and there’s no solid tree limb or rock upon which he might rely to save himself. So, after several hours of struggle, something weird happens. You and I may not think of it as weird, but for this character in the Iris Murdoch novel, it seemed utterly strange and surreal. What this cynical man thought about as he died was this: everything, even this misty bog, is good. And it’s good, not simply because it can help me, not simply because I can use some of the material to survive and to thrive. Everything is good just because it is.
Now, I don’t want to get to heavy (okay, maybe I do), but when we consider the reason that Jesus lived and died as well as the reason that God raised him from the dead, that reason has a lot to do with that moment and with that realization. Everything is good. And, you see, to say that we accept Jesus as Lord and Savior is therefore to commit ourselves to the creation details that swirl around us, even those micro and macro things that seem harmful. God, it seems to the apostle Paul, is saving them too: every blessed creature, every crater on the moon, every rock, river, mountain and moss-covered crook of creation.

“I am a frayed and nibbled survivor in a fallen world,” writes Annie Dillard.
“and I am getting along. I am aging and eaten and have done my share of eating too. I am not washed and beautiful, in control of a shining world in which everything fits, but instead am wandering awed about on a splintered wreck I’ve come to care for, whose gnawed trees breath a delicate air, whose bloodied and scarred creatures are my dearest companions, and whose beauty beats and shines not in its imperfections but overwhelmingly in spite of them, under the wind-rent clouds, upstream and down…” (Pilgrim, p. 242).

You see, Annie Dillard like other writers and naturalists phrases the question a little differently. Rather than presenting herself as a child of God who hovers above the fray, she joins the chaotic club of “scarred creatures.” Alright, I’m scarred, she says. I’ll admit it and I won’t fight the fact. Right at this moment, parasites are feasting on me. Right at this moment and in every moment that I’ve ever lived, the world resembles a sea-going vessel that’s crashed upon the shoals.

“For the creation was subjected to futility,” says Romans 8:20, and “futility” is like a lost coin in a piece of cushy furniture. The more we try to reach down and grab the coin, the more pressure we put on the cushions of the couch, the more the coin, and everything that we might buy with that coin, slip away from us. So what if we decided to stop grabbing? What if we no longer went about our lives trying to extract our comfort and our safety from creation, but instead tried to live with and be saved as a part of God’s creation?
“We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now; and not only the creation, but we ourselves… groan inwardly…”
On a hike through the Olympic National Forest I once groaned inwardly. We had hiked all day and set up our tents as the sun buried its face in the valley below us. Darkness descended, and after an hour or so of cooking, conversation and clean-up, we retired to sleep. That happened to be when I groaned inwardly. You see, no sooner had we zipped the tent flap, did we hear something plodding around the ground outside. We could hear the heavy foot-falls on the moist grass and we could even hear the breath against the sheen of the thin fabric of the tent. Then, after groaning inwardly, our friends got out the pots and pans and started banging them together. The next morning couldn’t come soon enough, and when we got out the binoculars and looked, we spotted a tree, swaying violently about thirty yards away. No, it wasn’t the wind that made the tree move, but a large black bear, who stood up on its hind legs and used the tree as a back scratcher.

O Lord! I call experiences like that “labor pains” because it’s clear that something new is being born. “He was born in the summer of his 27th year, coming home to a place he’d never been before…” You see, when John Denver wrote and sang those words to Rocky Mountain High, he inadvertently tapped into the same spring that gushes from the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. Something in creation yearns and aches and groans. And something in us groans too. The only difference that I can see is that you and I have been given the blessings of conscious awareness and of language. Unlike the non-human creatures of the cosmos, we can pay attention and we can bless with our speech every wild and untamed detail that we see, hear, smell, touch and taste.

A little girl once said something that made her father pause. She said, “I hope there’s an animal that no one has ever seen before, and I hope that no one will ever see it…” Today, as we bless the animals in and around Latah Valley, that’s part of what we’re saying to the world. We’re saying that we hope with creation. Amen.

How awesome is everybody’s mother! I’d like to get that affirmation out of the way early in today’s discussion because in the 2 Timothy passage I believe there’s an urgent question, not only for every mother but for everybody’s whose ever had a mother. And the question goes like this: how does the sincerity of your faith live? How does it survive and thrive in a world where your mother can’t always be with you?

“I am reminded of your sincere faith,” writes the apostle Paul in verse five:
“a faith that lived first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, lives in you…”

You see, I have no doubt that mothers everywhere have had a major impact upon the individual lives of their children and consequently all of our relationships. In my own family, for example, my mother’s mother got married when she turned 16 years old. Consequently, she did not raise her eight kids with the utmost competence or compassion. My mother recalls having her head shaved because of an infestation of lice. And, you see, that small detail explains a lot about the way she took care of me, or some would say, how she spoiled me. Mothers do that kind of thing; they spoil, they discipline and offer doting advice because this is what they’ve inherited from their mothers and their grandmothers. And, of course, they react and respond to that inheritance, all while doing the best they can with the emotional resources they’ve been given. But what’s compelling about a Christian understanding of motherhood is the way that we are pushed, prodded, carried and cajoled to move beyond nostalgia and beyond mere sentimentality.

Do you know what I mean by nostalgia? William Willimon tells the story of a student at Duke University, who decided that, upon graduation, she wanted to become a medical missionary in Haiti. The young woman’s mother and father then made an appointment to see the chaplain and said to him, “All we ever wanted was for our child to become a good Presbyterian, but you’ve encouraged her to risk everything—including a very lucrative career—and for what?”
The answer here, of course, is for God. This student at Duke University actually heard the message of the gospel, that in Jesus Christ we are forgiven and given a new life story. She actually heard that, believed it and then wanted to test that story in the world.
“I remind you to rekindle the gift of God that is within you through the laying on of my hands…”

You see, after remembering and honoring our mothers, we celebrate them more by not trying to live off that memory alone. The key word in 2 Timothy 1:6 is “rekindle.” Take the flame that you have been given through the details of your family of origin and let the sacrificial fires flame up. Risk what you have been taught is true, and if it’s true you won’t be disappointed. You and I are now the ones who make the memories for others. And the best way to make a memory is to allow space for something real to happen.
“You’re jealous, because you no longer have a say so in what I do and that drives you up the wall. You’re ready to spit nails because you can’t call the shots.”

“I did not raise my daughter to talk to me like this.”
“Yes you did…”
This is some heated dialogue from the film, Steel Magnolias. I bringing it up now because I think the words typify the relationships that we experience in our own families. In our own families, there is the same cry for space. And in our own families, there is the corresponding need to risk, to try to explore the reality of life beyond the mother’s powerful influence. And yet, look how complicated things become. In the scene from Steel Magnolias, M’Lynn, who is the mother, does not want her newly married daughter, named Shelby, to have baby. Usually having a baby would be a good thing, of course. But in this case, the trauma of birth could put Shelby’s health in danger. M’Lynn, being a good Mom, doesn’t want to see that happen. She encourages her daughter to pursue adoption. But in the end she relents because of this impassioned plea:
“Please, please, I need your support. I would rather have thirty minutes of wonderful than a lifetime of nothing special.”

Now, what I’m about to say may sound profane and unholy, but here goes. The ability to have and hold a baby of your own may be awesome. In the words of the film, it may temporarily fill that void when we feel like “nothing special.” Likewise, the Bible recounts many miraculous moments, where women conceive and the results are “wonderful.” But, you see, the story of the Jesus doesn’t end with the human family. It begins there. And after that beginning, Jesus has the following things to say, that we ought to consider deeply:
“For I have come to set a man against his father and a daughter against her mother”
(Matthew 10:35).

“My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and do it” (Luke 8:21).

“…there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields, for my sake and for the sake of the gospel, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this age, houses, brothers and sisters, mothers and children and fields…” (Mark 10:29).

You see, somewhere out there, beyond nostalgia for the past and beyond mere sentimentality, there are mothers who give away their motherhood so that “a sincere faith” might thrive into the future. They don’t stop being mothers, but they realize that’s not all they are.

Lullaby for My Mother is a poem by Vassar Miller. Listen for how her mother is more than just her mother, and how that detail lives on.
Now I would sing you at last
a lullaby you never sang me,
a lullaby no mother could sing:

When you are dying
now while the days are so lovely
I feel I could take them into my body.

Here, then, take them into your body
inhale the blue sky, drink the sun
through the tall crystal air

while cicadas chime their long sanctus
low in your ear—all is yours
as it never could be until now.

What are we supposed to do with the body? That’s not just a question for your physical therapist or your fitness trainer. It’s also an important question for nearly every religion of the world. For example, when an 82-year-old Hindu teacher claims to have not consumed food and water for 70 years and that his body has been sustained by a Hindu goddess, that frail looking man poses a spiritual question. When a Christian fundamentalist makes a connection between the immodest exposure of the female anatomy and the frequency of earthquakes in the world, that connection poses a spiritual question. When Kentucky Fried Chicken launches a campaign to sell to pieces of fried chicken, which sandwich two pieces of bacon and a slice of cheddar cheese, that campaign poses a spiritual question. When Muslim women are compelled to cover up their bodies from head to toe and leave only a slit through which to catch a glimpse of the world around them, that wardrobe poses a spiritual question. And finally, when a California cult, known as Heaven’s Gate, tracks the orbit of the Hale Bop comet and then prompts all of their community members to shed their vehicles, by which they mean commit suicide so that their souls may hitch a ride on a spaceship that shadows the comet—that weird set of decisions pose a spiritual question. What are we supposed to do with this sometimes valiant and sometimes vulnerable human body? What are we supposed to do with this bundle of bruises and scars—with this carefully constructed apparatus that seemingly re-builds itself day after day, year after year?
“The body is meant… for the Lord and the Lord for the body.”

That’s the gist of what the apostle Paul, in 1 Corinthians 6, has to offer. The body that we have each been given in life is “meant…” You and I, in our flesh and blood, have been intended. There is a purpose to our strength and to our weakness, to our beauty and to our ugliness. There is a purpose and a power to the ways that we can move or not move. And with regard to way the body grows and functions and eventually wears out and dies, God has something in mind. And for those who live under the impression that the soul is immortal and that the body is simply trash, think again. The body, as Paul describes it, is a temple.
One day, during worship at our previous congregation, someone’s baby started to cry. He cried and could not be pacified with either a pacifier or with his father’s whispered voice. And so, placing the small body of the infant in the cushioned carrier, the dad then gave his wife a glare, grabbed the handle and stood up. Well, he probably stood up too quickly and grabbed the handle too casually because, as the embarrassed parent turned to exit the room, his precious cargo flew out of its carrier. And, of course, you never forget that sound—the sound of a baby’s head hitting the linoleum floor! And then a split second after the smack of flesh came the even-louder and more urgent plea of the little one. He clearly wanted something. He wanted his mother’s breast. He wanted to have his diapers changed. He wanted to be held and hugged and rocked gently to sleep. But, you see, little did we realize that in that painful and awkward moment a temple was being built.

Stephanie Paulsell writes in her book, Honoring The Body, that the first followers of Jesus knew something that we sometimes forget, and that is, “that what is suffered by one can be suffered by all, and that every body is a fragile temple of God’s Spirit and worthy of care” (p. 13). Every. Body. And the reason that we can say that unequivocally is that Jesus himself, not only had a body, Jesus is a body. He is, at on this very moment, the crucified and resurrected body that causes us to worship him in spirit and in truth. The body of Jesus is therefore not incidental to our faith. It is crucial. And the fact that Jesus still had the scars upon his hands, when he appeared to Thomas in John 21, suggests that our own scars will also factor into the temple that God means us to be. Hear this audacious statement: the human body is not simply meant for pleasure. The human body is not simply meant for productive and efficient work. The human body is meant for the Lord and it’s intended to make manifest for the world how God has redeemed and how God will redeem. Romans 8 says it like this:
“but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies.”

Annie Dillard tells the story of this native Algoquin woman who carried her small child through the wilderness. Along the way they nearly starved. But at one point, the woman stumbled upon an old fishing shack with some fishing tackle inside. She got the idea that she could catch fish with the hooks that she found, but had nothing to bait them. So, for the first cast into the water, the mother of this vulnerable body, cut out a sliver of her flesh. She caught one fish and then used the guts of that creature to catch more.

You see, our bodies communicate a story to the world. And I’m not just talking about tattoos or nose piercings by which we want to stand out and make a name for ourselves. I’m talking about how we are given the opportunities to communicate the story of Jesus through the ways that we share a meal with another person, or through the ways that we remain faithful to our spouses and to our family members. First Corinthians and other parts of the Bible have a lot to say about food and sexual contact with others, but the point of what we hear has less to do with policing right and wrong and more to do with telling the story.

Wendy Wright describes her experience as an outpatient. The doctor apparently had found something on an x-ray, a small black spot in her thyroid gland, and he wanted to bring in for a biopsy. In vivid detail, Wendy talks about taking off work, not being able to eat and being asked to remove her normal clothing and wear a one of those hospital gowns. Nurses then prepared her for what would happen. That is, they told her that the doctor would take this long needle and stick it into Wendy’s throat. She would feel a pinch and then it would be over. So, lying down on a cold and sterile table, Wendy tried to relax her body. A nurse, with a kind face, looked into her eyes and held her hand. And before she said anything, Wendy knew the moment when the doctor would insert the biopsy needle. It was the moment when the nurse’s hand grabbed her hand so tightly that she could feel nothing else except the presence of another caring person, who eventually said, “Hang on.”

Now, I know this analogy breaks down; but I have to wonder if the crucified and resurrected body of Jesus Christ doesn’t say that to us everyday of our embodied lives. Hang on. Enjoy your food, but pay attention to where it comes from. Hang on. Enjoy sexual intercourse with your spouse. Enjoy hugs and kisses and high fives from your friends and family. But hang on. Do not expect the satisfaction of your body’s needs to be the goal of your life. Moreover, as your body wears out and runs down, as you encounter affliction and suffering, try to imagine the pressure of God’s caring hand in Christ. He’s holding you. He’s looking into your eyes. Hang on. Hang on. Hang on. And use your own body, which is not always, only yours, use your own body, to say hang on to someone else.