How is Jesus Making a Difference in Our Lives? – Week #5: The Body

We know so much more about how our bodies work now than the Bible writers did, but that doesn’t change our understanding that our bodies are a gift from God. God knows our bodies because He created everything including our bodies, and then even became flesh and dwelt among us (John 1:14). How does knowing Jesus make a difference in how we view and treat our bodies?

Read Psalm 139, John 9:1-12 here.

Listen here: 

What do you see in this picture of an orange?   If you’re a Clemson fan like me, orange is the color of school spirit.  Orange is a bright color that catches our eyes.

But there’s so much more to appreciate about an orange, so if I could pull one out of the screen we could see it even better.  Ta da!

In the picture on the screen you might be able to see that there is a texture to the skin.  Touch this orange and you can feel that texture.  Scientists say that we can feel differences in texture that are as small as 13 nanometers.[1]  How small is that?  A strand of human hair is 80,000 nanometers.[2]  It’s hard to imagine how much smaller things can be, and even harder to imagine how God made us able to feel things that small, but he did and we can.  We can feel not only texture, but also temperature and vibration.

When I peel this orange, we can smell it.  And as we’re smelling it, we can almost taste it.

And we can maybe even hear some of the sound that comes from pulling this apart.

With the picture, we only use our eyes.  With the physical orange here we also use our other senses – touch, smell, taste, and maybe even hearing.

And we can give thanks to God for giving us oranges, and for making us with all the abilities that we are using right now. And we can say, with the psalmist:

I praise you for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. –Psalm 139:14

This is a statement of praise to God for making us who we are, including all that makes us who we are – our minds, our souls, and our bodies.  Some of us might find it easier to be thankful for our minds or our souls, and struggle to be thankful for our bodies.  But God doesn’t just care about our minds and our souls.  God cares about our bodies, too.  God gave us these bodies.  And God loves us so much that God came to earth and took on flesh so that we could know how much he loves us.

Jesus shows us God’s care for our bodies through his ministry of healing. The Gospels record many healings. Jesus healed blindness, and leprosy. Jesus healed a man who couldn’t walk and a woman who had been bleeding for years. In today’s reading from John 9 we see one of those healings.  Jesus heals a man who was born blind.  The first time I remember reading this story, I thought it was terribly icky that Jesus put spit and dirt on this man’s eyes.  Ew! Gross!  But these healings are signs of Jesus’ divinity.  They remind us that Jesus is God in the flesh.  Genesis tells us that God created us from dirt.

Then the LORD God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature. –Genesis 2:7

Jesus heals the man’s blindness the same way God created us in the first place – with dirt.

There’s another story about Jesus healing a blind man in Mark 8:22-25.  In this story, Jesus heals the man’s blindness only partially at first, this time just using his spit, no dirt, and the man says he can see people but they look like trees walking around (8:24).  Jesus puts his hands on the man’s eyes again and makes it so he can see normally, but I imagine that in-between stage might have been what it’s like for me without my glasses.

My eyes are not a part of my body that I think of when I’m saying thanks to God for how I’m made.  My vision problems have been a challenge to me.  I got teased for wearing glasses when I was a kid.  My eyes were getting worse quickly so I had to go to the eye doctor a lot, and for awhile I had to have my eyes dilated all the time because they thought that would slow down the changes.  That meant I had to wear sunglasses all the time, which you would think would make me the cool kid, but they were prescription sunglasses, and they were definitely not cool.

My eyes were the thing that made me the most different from other kids, and being different is a challenge.  We are more comfortable with the ways we are the same, and we struggle with the ways we are different.  We see signs of this struggle in the story about the blind man in John.  The people assume that the reason the man was born blind was that his parents did something bad.  But…

Jesus said, “You’re asking the wrong question. You’re looking for someone to blame. There is no such cause-effect here. Look instead for what God can do.” –John 9:3-4 MSG

The man was thankful to be healed of his blindness, but the other people weren’t celebrating his healing.  Some of them are sure this must not be the same man.  Maybe they only saw him as “that blind man,” so that after he was healed they didn’t recognize him anymore.  The religious leaders aren’t celebrating his healing either.  Instead they’re concerned that it was done on the sabbath which was against their rules.  They’re convinced that the man was blind because he or his parents had sinned, so his healing must also be sinful.  They cannot see that this is a miracle and a sign of God at work among them.

We too can be blind to the goodness of God in our lives.  We get hung up on the ways we are different and see those things as bad.  We feel badly about our bodies when we compare ourselves with one another, but God didn’t make us to all be the same.  We are each unique, one-of-a-kind originals.

I will offer You my grateful heart, for I am Your unique creation, filled with wonder and awe. You have approached even the smallest details with excellence; Your works are wonderful; I carry this knowledge deep within my soul. –Psalm 139:14 Voice

We are amazing creations.  Our bodies are so complicated that doctors study for years, and though they know a lot, they still don’t know everything about us.  Research continues to try to understand all the complex processes that make our bodies work because there is still more to be learned.

We are unique creations.  We may have similar abilities to another person, but not exactly the same.

One of the ways that we are good stewards of our bodies is to appreciate them.[3]  So in our bulletins today, on the sermon page, I’ve given you some questions to consider:

  • How are you giving thanks to God for your body today?
  • In what ways are you a unique original?

A little girl was sitting with her grandpa one day and asked him, “Did God make you, Grandpa?”

“Yes, God made me,” he answered.

A few minutes later, the little girl asked him, “Did God make me, too?”

“Yes, He did,” the old man answered.

The little girl reached up and touched his wrinkled cheek, and then touched her own cheek, and after a few minutes, she said, “God’s getting better at it, isn’t he?”[4]

That’s one way to look at it.  The reality is, whether we are young or old or somewhere inbetween, we are all differently abled, and our abilities will change over time.  We’ll get better at some things as we learn and grow. We’ll lose some abilities as we experience accidents or illness or aging.  There is frustration and challenge and sadness inherent in that, but also opportunity to learn more about how to take care of ourselves, how God is a part of all parts of our lives, and about how to see and respect one another despite our differences in appearance and ability.  So our third question to consider is:

  • How will you commit to being a good steward of your body?

We may struggle with this in different ways.

When I was younger, I definitely took my body for granted.  I didn’t take care of it.  I’ve had seasons of being better about what I eat or how much I exercise, but what I took for granted the most was my ability to keep going.  I was doing too much.

In Romans 12:1 the Bible says to “present your bodies as a living sacrifice” as an act of worship.  I think maybe I thought I was doing this in a way.  I was working about 60 hours a week.  I spent another ten to twelve hours a week driving back and forth to that job.  I also had three kids to take care of and spend time with.  I wanted and needed to spend time with my husband Rob.  I was leading ministries at church.  I was also trying to squeeze in classes to finish my bachelor’s degree.

I have had migraines since I was in high school and I didn’t really pay attention to them.  I could take a pill or two and keep going, so why stop?  So I didn’t stop. I didn’t appreciate how all that happens with our bodies is also connected to what’s happening with us emotionally and spiritually and mentally.

Looking back I think the best way to describe what happened is I broke myself.  This happens to a lot of us.  Sometimes we break ourselves with too much of a particular substance or of a particular activity.  I didn’t realize I was going too far because none of what I was doing was bad stuff.  Towards the end what was adding to the tension timewise was that my level of responsibility and involvement at church was growing.  When I talked to one of our pastors about my frustration with figuring out how to fit everything in, he said, “You need to let go of your job.”  I only heard anti-feminism in that advice, so laughed it off as ridiculous.

But one day my boss called me into her office to sign a report.  I scribbled on the paper and then looked at what I’d written and didn’t recognize it.  I laughed at myself, and she graciously printed out another copy and I tried again.  Another scribble that I didn’t recognize.  I couldn’t get my hand to write my name.  It wasn’t a problem with my hand, it was a problem with my . . . well, I didn’t know exactly.  There was a fog in my brain, I guess.  She called my husband Rob who came and picked me up from work.  On the way home we made an appointment with the doctor, and began the long, slow process of figuring out what was happening.  Long story short the diagnosis was complications of migraines. Ignoring those, I had broken myself.

Migraines are one of those areas in medicine that are still somewhat vague, and so it took a long time to figure out how to deal with them better.  One of the things I have learned since is that several of the things I was doing to try to keep going were actually making them worse.  I thought decongestants were helping, but it turns out they were a trigger.  I thought eating quick proteins would help, but it turns out some of them were triggers, too.

One of the outcomes was I ended up having to let go of that job.  And as hard and scary as that time was, if it hadn’t happened, I might not have ended up being here doing what I’m doing today. God did some big things in me through all of that.

I know I still have a lot to learn.  I am not as good about being a good steward of my body as I could be, which makes it even harder to talk to you all about stewardship of our bodies.

My story isn’t the same as your story.  It’s not about the details of the story so much as it is about appreciating and giving thanks to God for the bodies that we have, including all the ways that they are unique and different from one another.  It’s about being who God made us to be, rather than trying to be like other people.  It’s about respecting one another’s differences, and working together and helping one another.

Let us give thanks or all the ways that we are God’s beloved children.

[1] https://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2013/13/130912-tactile-touch-perception-nanometers-psychology-science/

[2] https://www.thoughtco.com/examples-of-nanoscale-608575

[3] This is explored much more deeply by Ellie Roscher in “Stewardship of Body: On Flesh,” one of the chapters in Beyond the Offering Plate: A Holistic Approach to Stewardship (p. 92). Presbyterian Publishing. Kindle Edition. p

[4] Stephen J. Bramer, PhD, The Bible Reader’s Joke Book: A collection of over 2,000 jokes, puns, humorous stories, and funny sayings related to the Bible: arranged from Genesis to Revelation, 2014.

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