Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Bruno Mars, Pink, Jane's Addiction and the Body of Christ

Below is the message I shared on Sunday with Good Shepherd.  It is part of our Lenten series on submitting ourselves to God.  The topic on Sunday was submitting our bodies to God.  It is an important, but often overlooked part of living our lives for God - what we do with our bodies.  

Deuteronomy 6:1-9 (New International Version, ©2011)
 1 These are the commands, decrees and laws the LORD your God directed me to teach you to observe in the land that you are crossing the Jordan to possess, 2 so that you, your children and their children after them may fear the LORD your God as long as you live by keeping all his decrees and commands that I give you, and so that you may enjoy long life. 3 Hear, Israel, and be careful to obey so that it may go well with you and that you may increase greatly in a land flowing with milk and honey, just as the LORD, the God of your ancestors, promised you. 4 Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one.[a] 5 Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. 6 These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. 7 Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. 8 Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. 9 Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.

1 Corinthians 6:17, 19-20 (New International Version, ©2011)

17 But whoever is united with the Lord is one with him in spirit.[a] 19 Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; 20 you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.
Mark 12:28-34 (New International Version, ©2011)
 28 One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?”     29 “The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.[a] 30 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’[b] 31 The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[c]There is no commandment greater than these.”   32 “Well said, teacher,” the man replied. “You are right in saying that God is one and there is no other but him. 33 To love him with all your heart, with all your understanding and with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.”  34 When Jesus saw that he had answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” And from then on no one dared ask him any more questions.

This week, for whatever reason, I really heard God speaking through music.  Different parts of songs I heard were leading me to new understandings or thoughts about how we can fully submit to God  with all of ourselves – meaning not just our minds, our hearts, our souls and will but with our bodies too.
I think these new understandings begin with how we see ourselves and how we view our bodies.  And this is where the first musical interlude broke into my thought process
There were actually two songs that are making a similar point, one is sort of an anthem of empowerment and encouragement to the singer and to the listener and the other is more of a traditional love song.  The first song is by Pink and it is called ‘Perfect’ – the verses talk about making mistakes, being afraid and fighting against the negative voices inside our own minds. 
Then the chorus has these words: Pretty pretty please, don't you ever ever feel Like you're less than, less than perfect .  (Repeat) You are perfect to me! 
The second song, the love song, is called ‘Just the way you are’ by Bruno Mars.  This is, as I said, basically a straight up love song, with the verses talking about different (all physical, by the way attributes) of this girl he loves.  The chorus goes like this: When I see your face, There's not a thing that I would change.  Cause you're amazing.  Just the way you are.  And when you smile, The whole world stops and stares for awhile.  Cause girl you're amazing.  Just the way you are
Both of these songs are pretty catchy and very popular at the moment,  but as I kept catching parts of these songs this week, one thought kept sticking in my head – and it is a thought that I just couldn’t shake.
These songs are lying.  The message they are putting forth simply isn’t true.  We aren’t perfect. None of us is at a place where there is nothing we should change
It’s not that they don’t have a good message (In fact I think Pink’s song, in particular has a very good message about liking and caring for yourself) or that the feelings aren’t genuine (although, I will mention again all of the attributes mentioned in the ‘love song’ are physical).  It’s that regardless of what we might want to or like to believe – we know the truth. 
We all have things we could or should change, we all have ways that we could be better or different.  That is just a simple fact of living in the broken and sinful world we call earth.   How we deal with and think about our imperfection directly leads to how we treat and care for our bodies.  
I believe that our awareness (even if it isn’t a conscious thought) of our own physical imperfections often lead us to treat our bodies differently than we should.
The final musical interlude is just a throwaway line from a song called ‘Jane Says’ by the band “Jane’s addiction’ The song is 25 years old, but somehow I heard this line at least 4 times this week.  The song is about someone that loves someone that just doesn’t have a great deal of regard or care and concern for them. 
The singer cries, ‘You treat me like a rental’.  An interesting line.
What does it mean to treat something or someone like a rental?  At least in part, it means you don’t value or appreciate whatever it is. 
Last week, while our van was having some work done we had a rental car for 2 day.   The car was fine.  But it clearly was a rental – it had less than 1,500 miles on it, but there was gum and garbage in the ash tray, several marks on the interior and it already had a few ‘dings’ on the outside of the car.  This car hadn’t even had an oil change yet and it was already ‘used’.  This car, clearly, was no one’s baby.  No one took pride in this car. 
And while there are people paid to maintain that rental car and the countless others like it – no one claims it as their own.
Simply no one really VALUED the Car.  Sure the rent-a-car place saw it as an investment, but the kind of value I am talking about is about much more than money.  You care differently for something you value or that is valued by a friend or loved one.  
And when we had it, just like the other renters before us – we were careful not to do any damage – certainly not anything we would have to pay for – but if I am being honest, it was the bare minimum of care and concern. 
Now contrast that to how we would have treated that care if we have borrowed it from a friend, neighbor or family member
When someone we know and care about has let us use something of theirs, we are usually very careful of how it gets treated –extra steps in protection and definitely in cleaning. Certainly more than we would if it were a rental or usually even if it were our own. 
What does this have to do with our bodies and with submitting them to God?  I think everything. 
There is a Latin phrase that I learned in seminary, called Imago Dei  and while it took me awhile to understand what it really meant, I believe that it is one of the most beautiful truths of our Christian faith and creation.
Basically the phrase, Imago Dei – simply translated as ‘The Image of God - is a reminder that each of us is created in the Image of God.  Every single one of us was made to resemble God and to be a image bearer in this world for God’s love, grace and Spirit.
This truth is reinforced when we hear the words from the reading from 1Corintians:
But whoever is united with the Lord is one with him in spirit.[a]19 Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; 20 you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.
We are united with Christ when we allow the Holy Spirit to enter into our lives.  Once we have been united with Christ our bodies become temples of the Holy Spirit – that means our bodies are one of the places where the Holy Spirit of God is able to express the worship to God. 
And did you catch the next to the last sentence, ‘You are not your own; you were bought at a price’
Our bodies are not some cheap throwaway that we have bought for ourselves.  Our bodies are not rentals, that don’t really have an owner that cares for them or sees them as something other than property or an asset. 
No, our bodies are not our own, because they bear the Imago Dei, the Image of God and they are given to us, by God to steward and take care of.  Our bodies are God’s bought with the heavy price of the blood of Jesus.
Our bodies – no matter how we care for them and treat them are not perfect – we do have things we need to change: eating habits, smoking, exercise, all of those, whatever
But this doesn’t mean that we aren’t valuable, that how we treat our bodies and how we use our bodies doesn’t matter
And while we are not capable of making our bodies, or any other part of who we are perfect, we have access to perfection in use and purpose by allowing the Holy Spirit to dwell within us.
When that happens we are united with Christ, and that union with Christ is union with the perfection of the one living and true God.
We have access to this perfection – but it comes with responsibility as well – the responsibility to treat our bodies, not like a rental and not even like they are our own, but rather to treat our bodies as what they truly are in, Jesus Christ’s.
How would you care for Christ’s body?
Would you take care what you fed Jesus if you had the opportunity? 
While you would, of course want to share with him the tastiest food possible, would you not also take special care to make sure that what you were giving him was healthy?  That it would sustain him?  Would Jesus care about how the food got to his plate – was it grown and harvested sustainably?  Were the farmers paid a fair price for it? 
Would you make your best effort to make sure that Jesus’ body remained fit and healthy, if it was your responsibility?  That it was treated like a temple – a vehicle for and location of the worship of God. 
Would you not endeavor to find every possible way to allow the body of Christ to actively worship God and spend time in communication with God?
Could you worship God through exercise?   Could you worship God through dance?  Could you worship God through using your body in prayer? 
Yes!  Yes!  Yes!  When we begin to look at our own bodies as bearers of the Image of God and even as the very body of Christ we can begin to see them not as broken and imperfect – but as vehicles for worship, opportunities to praise something of value and worth that must be carefully cared for. 
[See bottom of post for several ways of doing this including directions for a ‘Body prayer’ exercise.  This exercise – which is really a devotion – has three sets of scripture readings, prayer ‘postures’ and then prayers to pray.]
We are called to love God, serve God and submit to God with all of who we are. Our mind, our soul, our spirit, our strength and all of our bodies. 
When we begin to see ourselves as image bearers for God and our bodies as the body of Christ, we can understand the value that our bodies have. 
And we see the ability to worship and praise that we have access to through our bodies, as well.
Let us be ready to bear the image of God, in unity with Jesus Christ – through the power of the Holy Spirit with all of our hearts, all of our minds and all of our strength – all of us, all of what we have  and all of who we are, as a response to the God that gave all –even his very body for us. 

Submitting our Bodies to God: Healthy Living Helps & Postures for Prayer
For information about how to get involved in the ‘Let’s Move’ Initiative head to this link: http://gamc.pcusa.org/ministries/hunger/lets-move-1000-presbyterian-congregations/#participate & http://www.letsmove.gov/
For information about healthy eating habits and ways of thinking Biblically about what we eat, check out these links: http://www.letsmove.gov/eathealthy.php   
There are several ‘Christian’ options in this area, all can be found in various places, found through a simple search.  These include: The Daniel Fast, take back your temple, and ‘what would Jesus eat?
Prayer Posture One –
Choose some object that might represent a symbol of God.  Extend your hands forward with palms up.  Tilt your head up, keeping your eyes fixed on the object.  Before praying, reflect on the following questions. 
·         How do you feel as you kneel in this position?
·         How do you think these feelings might affect how you pray?
Read Matthew 16:24-26:
Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 25 For whoever wants to save their life[a] will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. 26 What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?
·         What do you have to offer God that you are currently holding back?
·         In giving your whole self over to God, what does God offer you?
Pray: Lord God, we give and receive from you.  Help our desires to decrease so that your will and life through us might increase.  Amen.

Prayer Posture Two –
This is a position of submission.  For this position you will need to get on your knees and lean forward.  Place your forehead on the floor (or as close to it as possible, depending on your flexibility) and stretch your arms out in front of you.  If this position is too uncomfortable for you to maintain for the next few minutes, then you may alternatively lie face-down on the floor.  Turn your body so that you are pointing to an object that reminds you of God.  Reflect on the following questions.
·         How do you feel as you kneel/lie in this position?
·         How do you think these feelings might affect how you pray?
Read James 4:6-10:
6 But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says:  “God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.”[a]  7 Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 8 Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. 9 Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. 10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.
·         What does it mean for you to submit to God?
·         What, in your life, is more important than God?
Pray: Loving Lord, we lie here exposed and humble before you.  Take our humility and build something new in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.
Prayer Posture Three -
This is a posture of rest.  Lie on your back and place your arms by your sides or fold your hands across your torso and relax.
·         How do you feel?
·         How will these feelings affect the way you pray?
Read Deuteronomy 5:14-15
14 but the seventh day is a sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your ox, your donkey or any of your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns, so that your male and female servants may rest, as you do. 15 Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and that the LORD your God brought you out of there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Therefore the LORD your God has commanded you to observe the Sabbath day.
The Lord does not demand that we work for God’s kingdom without resting.  Keeping a sabbath, or resting, keeps us close to God. 
·         Where, in your life, do you need rest?
Pray: God of rest and calm, you created the Sabbath for us.  Help us to remember the importance of rest.  We ask that we might rest in your loving arms.  Amen.

These prayer postures represent our journey with God.  First, we receive God’s gifts.  Then we submit our lives to the God who makes our paths straight.  Lastly, we rest in the presence of God.

Pay attention to your body as you continue to pray throughout Lent.  Try out different ways of positioning your body.  If you feel like your relationship with God is out of balance – try standing on one foot with you pray.  If you feel like you need God to take your somewhere new, pray while jogging, walking or riding a bike.  Use your whole body as you pray.

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