Anybody, somebody, the Body, my body

Today we are constructing a theology for embodied ministry. Over the next couple of weeks we are focusing on how we might redeem how we think about our sexuality and bodyliness, if that's a word.

David Runcorn prompts lots of thinking for us and I am sure it helped to free some of us. Afterall we will be taking the whole of us into Christian ministry.

I wonder what this means for us?

Before I started the next paragraph of this reflection, my brain constructed the words 'Superficial as it sounds, for me it raised...' until I realised that if I am thinking that this is superficial, I am so very obviously falling into the very trap which this seminar is aiming to make us conscious of: that it is so tempting to value more our thoughts and all that 'soul-stuff' over anything associated with surface and body, so I guess I need to keep reflecting on these things. So without the 'Superficial as this may sound...' I will proceed:

For me it raised questions about how I present myself to the world. How do I feel about the fact that I present myself 'made-up' and suitably high heeled to the world (the heel suiting the occasion, more or less, but rarely 'flat'). Should I be 'free' of make-up and heels? I have been challenged to give these things up to see what it would mean to me. Do I honour God more with a naked face? David Runcorn explains how 'Praising God in the beauty of holiness' is about putting on your finest garments to praise the Lord. Is this just want I want to hear? So am I presenting the best version of myself to the world in which I meet with God in the people he has formed in his image? Ah, that's my motivation, or am I just stuck in a habit about what I should look like? Do I care about what I look like for the wrong or the right reasons?

We think about how Christianity has perceived of the body. There is a biblical view of the body but there is the 'church's' view of the body. How do Christians feel about their bodies?

David recommends prayers and meditations from Jim Cotter 'Prayer at night – a book for the darkness'.

I wonder how much my physicality is a reason for rejoicing or lamenting?

How much do we celebrate or denigrate the body?

Does this topic raise different questions for the genders? Have women more freedoms than men expressing touch? For men there are cultural repercussions about what is acceptable.

For men there is a lack of vocabulary about body issues, a lack of creative attention to the body. How do men come to feel about their bodies in the world and within faith? It is not addressed by Christian literature to the extent that it is for women.

God speaks to us through the physical. David Runcorn explains how 'matter matters to God'.

With Tim Hull, we have been learning that it is platonic and not biblical to try to escape the body.

Our bodies are extremely important. David Runcorn explains how only 7% of our communication is verbal. We need to be aware of our bodies. By the very nature of the incarnation, we can not escape the fact that the body is good. We see how Rubem Alves explains how 'God wants a body like ours' which struck me as a novel turn of phrase with interesting consequences.

David recommends 'The Good Listener', a biography exploring the life of a woman who has founded a centre for those who have experienced torture and abuse. She is called Helen Bamber. He shows us how Toni Morrison's 'Beloved' beautifully explores people in their fleshiness.

We are asked to reflect on what happens when the Spirit meets the body. What happens to us? It is often very obvious. Have you seen people overcome by the Holy Spirit? There can be a shaking and a trembling and a groaning. David Runcorn wonders if it is the meeting of two aspects of ourselves unacquainted and struggling against one another. I must admit I had never thought about it this way before and this has added something to the way I feel about how I feel when I so obviously feel the manifestations of the Holy Spirit. Yes, I am conscious about  the repetition of the word 'feel' here, the nature of such an experiential relationship with God throws up lots of issues for me). To be honest, I am not sure I want to think of it in this way, in terms of a struggle but it might make a lot of sense. I hope I am not struggling too much against God, but possibly I am. Emm....

Rubem Alves explains how maybe we have constructed a theology of finding God beyond, at the end of the body, when in actual fact God becomes in the body, he takes on flesh.

We need to redeem the misapplications of a misunderstood 'sarx' theology. Our salvation is bodily. God became incarnate. There is no dichotomy. There is no flesh/body split.

...so as ever, with David Runcorn, I leave another of his seminars feeling as though I have begun another adventure, affirmed and yet challenged, comforted and discomforted but perhaps a little more open, self-aware and aware of God than I was before. 


Curate Karen said...

Really interesting post, Rachel.

Rachel Marszalek said...

Thank you Karen. I have much more thinking to do on this front and hope to revise some writing I have previously done on 'sarx'. The idea of a God that values every part of the creatures that he has created is something I am very drawn to promoting as part of the Kingdom message.


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