Saturday, 23 January 2016

Whose body?

Paul's first letter to the Corinthians contains his famous allegorical reference to the body (1 Cor. 12).  This of course comes just prior to his treatise on love in chapter 13.  However, when we conceive of the body whose body do we see?  Is it Paul's conception, probably male or is it our modern day conception, either male or female, depending on our outlook?

This is perhaps not as ludicrous a question as it appears.  Most people would perhaps say that it means the Church and it does not matter whether the body alluded to is male or female.  In a manner of speaking this is quite correct but, and it is a big but, we have already excluded people by being binary and saying 'it does not male or female'. We have already made a decision that the 'church' is male or female.  This means that there is a range of bodies that are excluded from our thinking and if we are to be an inclusive body we need to start thinking of the androgynous body and all that the LGBT community means as part of the body of Christ.  We determine the extent of our relationships by defining who the body is and if we stay with an exclusive view that is binary we exclude part of what it means to be human and thus part of God's body, Christ's body.  Yet if we are to be part of our everyday communities we overlook or incorporate the other 'body' forms into our presence often without knowing who they are.  It sometimes comes as a shock when we realise that one of our friends turns out to be different to the expectations  we have built up as a result of our visual experience of them.

Let me come back to our concept of the 'body' again.  We have already made an allusion to the male female dichotomy of our thinking what about the body's wholeness.  I suspect that Paul in his writing is visualising a complete well formed individual.  Almost athletic in stance.  He speaks of eyes, feet and hands, etc.  I suspect that when the Body of Christ is spoken about we also have an image of a well formed body that is not missing any limbs, eyes, or other tissue.  Today we recognise, more so than previously, the body that is missing parts.  We accept and have seen those who have been maimed by terrorism and violence or do we?.  That is we accept them as part of society.  Yet, I wonder,  how accepting we are of those who are dis-abled within the body of Christ, Are we as inclusive within our own ministries of those who may have a physical impairment,,.mental impairment or just are not what we wish to believe as 'normal'.  I suspect that we are willing to 'minister to' rather than 'minister with'.  I am well aware of how it feels to be with someone you love who has a 'visually disturbing' physicality.  The stares and the turning away are an embarrassment for the person and the Christian community.

Do we need to stare or do we need to accept?

Archbishop Tutu has said that it is not a person's colour that decides whether we are God's child it is our humanness.  If we allow our pre-judgements to colour how we see people then we will not be seeing Christ in the other but rather the reflection of our own imperfect sight imposed upon the world.  The hard part is not in understanding these things the hard part is in the practicality of doing these things.  It is only when we have placed our cultural and societal inflicted blindpots to the side will we begin to understand Luke's telling of Christ's inaugural visit to the synagogue in Nazareth (Lk 4.14-21).

Christ does not take a single passage from Isaiah to read but rather mixes and matches passages so that the unacceptable becomes the norm rather than the expected.  By drawing the disparate passages from the prophet Christ outlines God's and our agenda of ministry and service.  There are no blindpots but rather a call to bring the good news to all people irrespective of who they are and no matter where they are.  All of God's people are brought into community, the poor, the outcast, the physically impaired and the prisoner.  We do not follow the agenda of humanity but rather the agenda of God in the things that we do.

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