It is believed that the average woman wears a size 14 and the average man wears a size 44. Marilyn Monroe was said to have been a size 12. I think I have about 3-4 sizes of clothing in my closet. I have found that talking about clothing size is a bit of a taboo in our society–at least among women. I can’t speak for you gentlemen. We don’t necessarily volunteer that information to just anyone. If someone asked for my shirt size my first reaction would probably be “why do you ask” and not to just blurt out a number. I don’t know why this is such a taboo. I think that as we think about our bodies we associate so many numbers with our bodies: our weight, our clothing size, our height, our cholesterol, our shoe size, and on and on and on. There are several ways that we get measured in regards to our bodies and it can become clear to us, almost instantly, whether we “measure up” or not.
I think it’s interesting to think about the theology of the body. I don’t know how it is in other countries, but there is a standard of beauty in the American culture that is almost unattainable. And many times, people go to extremes to try and measure up to the standard that has been set. We use pills, liquids, extreme exercise, and even torture our bodies to get closer to perfection. Did you know that almost 24 million people in the US suffer from an eating disorder? Here’s what’s scary: 42% of 1-3 grade girls desires to be thinner and 81% of 10 year olds are scared of being fat. Do you think this is the way God intended for us to love ourselves and our bodies?
If you google “How to become anorexic” you will get 17 million hits. I have my own love/hate relationship with my body and with food. I was placed on my first diet when I was at an age too young to remember. I was probably 10, if I was older it wasn’t by much. It was back when Weight Watchers was a diet primarily made up of fish and bland, overcooked vegetables. I sat in the church basement at meetings sandwiched between one overweight, frumpy woman or another. I didn’t know why I was there, but that I had to go. I hated every minute of it. I hated every minute of sitting at the table being forced to eat my “diet” food while my thinner, more beautiful sister and athletic brother ate whatever they chose. I still hate brussel sprouts to this day because of this time in my life. This isn’t the way that God intended for us to love ourselves and our bodies.
What does any of this discussion about bodies have to do with our Gospel reading for today? I am so glad you’re curious about that question. We hear a familiar story, one that appears several times in our Bible, about Jesus entering the temple, overturning some tables, and chastising those for selling. “Stop making my Father’s house a marketplace!” he says. Well, those in attendance were a little upset that this Jesus character had stopped them from making money. They questioned him, of course, “what sign can you show us for doing this?” Jesus challenges them by saying “destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up.” Now, we have the advantage of knowing that Jesus isn’t actually speaking about the physical temple he is standing in. We know that Jesus was crucified, died, and was buried and on the third day he rose again–all to forgive our sins and so that we may have life eternal.
The Gospel of John tells us today that Jesus was “speaking of the temple of his body.” A temple. What an interesting way to describe his body; what an interesting way to describe our bodies. I found a few quotes about our bodies as a temple that I kind of enjoy. “If my body is a temple, then I live in a megachurch.” Or “if our bodies are a temple, then why not decorate the walls?” I don’t know what you think of when you hear the word “temple” but for me, it’s a grandiose idea of a huge, beautiful, sanctuary, covered in gold, beautiful linens, vibrant colors and artwork, plush carpets, and a place where I’d love to go, stay, and just soak in the beauty of it all. Now, when I think about my body, that is not how I would describe it. Would you use any of those words to describe yourself?
If you didn’t know it by now, our God is a radical God. Seriously. God wanted to show God’s people an obnoxious amount of love. God gave us Jesus; and God gave us Jesus in the form of a human. Jesus took on human flesh and bone; Jesus became a temple. God could have chosen to have Jesus dwell in a fish, or a lion, or even a plant of some kind. But instead, God chose to have Jesus dwell in human form. God put all of that love into something that looks like us.
And, when the time came, Jesus took his temple, his body, and made it a sacrifice. Jesus, who though he was in the form of a human, was 100% human AND 100% devine, took on flesh and also took on sin. Because he was human, he faced a cruel death. Nails pierced his skin–his very human skin. Swords pierced his side and human blood poured out. And this love, this love made flesh, was all for us. Jesus suffered, died, and was buried, taking on all of our sin so that we may have life eternal. Jesus’ temple, his body, was destroyed, so that our bodies may live.
The last thing I want to do, brothers and sisters, is participate in body-shaming. So, please hear me clearly: you are beautiful. God created you and fashioned you in the image of God. You’re amazing. No matter what you think of your body, God thought that you were worth dying for and so God sent us Jesus. I want you to look at your hands. You have beautiful hands. Those hands might have held babies, kneaded bread, delivered a calf, lifted hay bales, held the hand of someone who was sick, grasped the steering wheel that drove you into another adventure. Your hands are amazing and beautiful, they were created by God.
Now look towards your feet. Most of you, I am assuming, can’t see your feet since you’re wearing shoes, but you know what your feet look like. Your feet are your base. It doesn’t matter if you’re still young and use your feet to run, or if you’re a bit unsteady and need some help to your feet. Your feet have carried you your entire life. Isaiah 52:7 says “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of the messenger who announces peace,who brings good news, who announces salvation, who says to Zion, ‘Your God reigns.’” You have beautiful feet. Even if you are physically unable to use your feet, you still have beautiful feet.
I want you to look at the hands of the person next to you or near you. Now imagine this: those are the hands of Christ. Those hands belong to a temple. I know it may seem like they are the hands of someone you’ve known for a while, but those hands belong to God. Those hands do God’s work. Those hands proclaim the coming of God’s kingdom for all people in Christ’s name. Those hands help, heal, fix, mend, and love. We look at one another differently when we look at our neighbor as a member of the body of Christ. When we hurt one another, we are hurting Christ and when we inflict pain on ourselves, we are hurting Christ.
God loves you, brothers and sisters. God loves you so much that God gave us Jesus in human form and as a sacrifice for our sins. Jesus took on human form; a beautiful human form to suffer, die, and be resurrected. And God created you: a beautiful form to proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ to all who will listen and to be loved. God declared that we should love our enemies. And so, perhaps it’s best if we start with ourselves.