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?

Join the discussion! If you enjoyed this post, feel free to join an extended discussion as part of the C+C Facebook group. You’ll be notified of new posts through FB, and have the opportunity to share your thoughts with some lovely people. Or feel free to comment here on WordPress, or even re-blog – the more the merrier!

… but she’s my mother.


Today’s readings (click below to open in new tab/window):
Psalms 103; 150, 1 Samuel 17:50-18:4, Romans 10:4-17, Matthew 23:29-39

As Jesus entered the city of Jerusalem, he had harsh words for its citizens, especially religious leaders. He called them a brood of vipers. While they claimed they would never have mistreated the prophets as did their ancestors, he condemned their hypocrisy by saying they were “the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it!”

Angry words, but also born of love. God often described Israel as his faithless bride, and Jerusalem was the heart of her rejection. Prophets and sages, though they spoke grim words of correction, were sent to save the people … a people whose behavior demonstrated they weren’t interested in saving themselves. Jesus wasn’t angered with Romans, Samaritans, or Egyptians because they had never followed God in the the first place, so hadn’t turned away; we aren’t pained when someone else’s spouse is unfaithful. Our hearts are not broken by strangers. Maybe that is why we react so strongly when the church we trust betrays us.

Augustine is credited with saying, “The church is a whore, but she’s my mother.”

Unfortunate sexist overtones aside, that’s an apt description for a complicated relationship. We can love someone or something and still be deeply troubled by it. When the church and her leaders act from a place of corruption, greed, protectionism, or prejudice our hearts are grievously injured. We can respond with denial, departure, or a third, more difficult option. Denial only lets things fester. Departure lacks resolution; a Christian who never steps foot in another church still has indissoluble bonds to the body of Christ. Remaining in covenant to love our church through her indiscretions but insisting on better, as Christ did, heals us both.

We can become discouraged. The mechanics of conception and prostitution are virtually identical, so we have to do the hard work of sorting intentions and motivations, work that leaves everyone involved feeling vulnerable. Yet as Jesus loves us despite our flaws to help us realize our potential in the Lord’s grace, so must we help the church transcend her sins to be who she claims to be.

Additional Reading:
For more on today’s passage from Matthew, see Give ’em a break… and Love Anyway.

Comfort: No one is beyond redemption if they are willing to accept it.

Challenge: Meditate on what struggles you have with the church, and how you choose to handle them.

Prayer: Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my thoughts. (Psalm 139:23)

Discussion: What attracts you to the church or a congregation?

Join the discussion! If you enjoyed this post, feel free to join an extended discussion as part of the C+C Facebook group. You’ll be notified of new posts through FB, and have the opportunity to share your thoughts with some lovely people. Or feel free to comment here on WordPress, or even re-blog – the more the merrier!