Song of Solomon Chapter2 verses 8-13. My hunch is that not too many of you will hear a sermon this weekend on this the Old Testament lectionary selection for the 22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time. (sorry about the church-speak for you none church folks) This is simply not one of the more popular preaching passages. If you are not familiar with this book of the Bible, take a few minutes and read it. It’s short only 8 chapters. If you were asked to preach on this or even just to comment on it, what would you say? “Not much” would be the answer of many Christians. This is the one place even Biblical literalists are happy to allegorize.
For a people who believe that God became human- lived in a human body, ate, drank, laughed, cried all in a human body-Christians have a strained relationship with the physical. For a people who say, “I believe …in the resurection of the body“- we don’t appear to pleased about that.
On the other hand, our culture makes idols out of bodies. At least certain bodies, beautiful bodies, airbrushed and photoshopped bodies. What is acceptable in our culture is an idealized concept of a body. Real bodies, bodies that sag or are scared, or grey or too fat, too thin, or too wrinkled, those don’t count as acceptable bodies.
Nevertheless, bodies appear to matter to God. I suspect God could have created an unembodied universe. It’s imaginable, a world of spirit or thought or consciousness only. But that’s not what there is. What there is, are planets and starts, rocks and roses, kittens and sea urchins, amoeba and sequoias. Bodies of all shapes, sizes and compositions. An amazing diversity of bodies.
Individual bodies appear to matter to God. Have you ever wondered why Jesus didn’t just heal everyone on earth with a wave of his hand? I have. I mean why go to all that trouble to touch and heal each person individually? I think its because bodies matter and each individual body matters to God.
So what is our problem in the church with bodies?
We can blame the Greeks I suppose. We are heirs to the idea that the spiritual is what matters most and bodies as a temporary, less than idea container for the soul. But after all these centuries, why can’t we let that idea go?
At some point we have to stop blaming the Greeks, or the fashion industry, or the advertising world and face facts. Many of us, perhaps most of us, are uncomfortable with the idea that our bodies are part of our spiritual lives. Look at that last sentence, “spiritual lives” as if that exists without bodies.
How do we accept that for Christians, our bodies are a necessary part of our faith? What would the lives of Christians be like if we really believed that bodies are important to God? I’d like to know what do you think?
If you haven’t been to Deep Church this week, please stop by and tell us your thoughts on Christian animal advocacy and what rethinking the Imago Dei might mean for our relationship with animals.
2 thoughts on “Bodies”
We’ve inherited the Greek concept of spirit over physical–but I don’t think the Hebrews did (although I’ve not heard anyone else say as much). But Biblical writing is often shocking. When I first read the story of Tamar years ago, I was blessed to the core. When I tried sharing that with someone, she simply could not talk about it. But Tamar would not be denied and, like Jacob, wrestled with God. Both that story and the Song of Solom touch something deep. The Song of Solomon portrays the longing for a love relationship. I didn’t read the entire book, but I did read the selected verses. Don’t we all long to “Rise up . . . (and) Come away . . . ” with Jesus? Again and again and again.
You are right about the ancient Hebrew people, their understanding is is much more wholistic. Body and soul belong together, both making us the people we are.
And yes Biblical stories can be shocking and deliberately so, I think, to jolt us our of our ruts, our comfortable ideas about who God is and how God acts. Which will be my topic for next week- Thanks for introducing it!