Body of Work


Today’s readings (click below to open in a new tab/window):
Psalms 143; 147:12-20, Genesis 16:15-17:14, Hebrews 10:1-10, John 5:30-47

Circumcision can be a divisive topic. Parents don’t always agree on whether it’s right for their sons. In some circles its medical benefits and risks are hotly debated. Many men –circumcised and not – find it a barbaric and abusive practice and actively work to abolish it. Others, such as those who incorporate it into tribal rites of passage, defend it just as vigorously.

When God made his covenant with Abraham, he required that all males of Abraham’s family and household – even slaves – be circumcised as a sign of that covenant. The practice was so important to the Jewish people that many early Christians thought Gentile men could call themselves followers of the Jewish Christ only if they were willing to be circumcised. Paul eventually declared Gentile fidelity to Christ a “circumcision of the heart” – that is, being bound to Christ through the Spirit, not the law.

Among Christians today decisions about circumcision are more about cultural and personal preferences than religious significance. Losing this requirement has expanded the idea of who belongs to God – Gentiles, women, and other groups can all be “marked” in their hearts without altering their bodies. It is symbolic of movement away from legalism toward grace. But in making the practice irrelevant to faith, have we also lost something else?

Circumcision was a constant, intimate reminder that a person had been dedicated to God. Does anything serve this purpose for Christians today? Physical sensations reinforce our experience of the world. From the immersion of baptism, to the bread of communion, to ashes on the forehead, to wedding rings on our fingers, we use physical means to express spiritual truths.

There is ancient wisdom in the spirituality of the body. Modern Christians dwell in a lot of mental space, often downplaying or even degrading the body. Each body is a work of art: God can sign it in many ways. Let’s be aware of how our bodies can help us connect to God through breath, music, dance, prayer, and even pain. Your body houses the spark of life God has granted you; furnish it with sacred intent.

Comfort: God loves you, body and soul. Always.

Challenge: If you are able to, try different body positions when you pray – kneeling, sitting, arms raised up, palms pressed together, head thrown back, face down on the floor – and notice how each affects your attitude of prayer.

Prayer: Thank you, God, for the gift of life. 

Discussion: How would you describe your relationship with your body?

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