The human abdomen can be so lovely.
We, each of us, have a human body. We can all agree to begin there. It may be young or old, sick or well, strong or weak, beautiful or marred by life’s accidents – but we all have one. Perhaps that is why God chose to arrive with one, walk around in one, allow one to be yelled at and beaten up by Rome and religious leaders paid by Rome, killed, buried etc.
In our scriptures Jesus makes a lot about the body. He allows his own to be touched sensually by women oiling and massaging his feet and by a woman seeking healing. He walks with his body more than he thinks with his mind – or so the story goes as we read it. He eats and drinks with people (usually what the church calls “naughty” ones.) And finally, he hosts a meal in which feet are washed (they appear at the long end of our bodies) and his own body is washed and wrapped.
Anyone who thinks Christianity is about spirituality is not paying attention. Perhaps it is, but much more so it is about human bodies and sentient beings with bodies. I used to preach that “we are not human beings with spiritual lives but rather spiritual beings with human lives.” What a load of crap. It leads to Jim Jones and kool-aid drinking in a jungle by an air strip.
This week is a week of body. My body. Your body. Mary’s real, fleshy sinful body. Joseph’s body. Jesus’ body – baby, boy and punching-bag bodies – all. Herod’s obese body. Pontius Pilot’s body (his hands in particular). The disciple’s bodies (found hiding under desks and in hay lofts.) And the bodies of those Jesus healed. Like it or not, our religious symbol is a long, gravity-stretched body on a cross. The more roman you are the bloodier it is. The more protestant you are (more like I am) the less blood and the more “let’s rush past this nasty part to the resurrection and to the roasted lamb with mint sauce, daffodils, and chocolate bunnies” part. Either way bodies are involved.
This week I am working on some Crucifixion Bas Relief sculptured garden plaques. Each one needs to be painted with green wax-resist so that the bodies are not glazed – left raw (see below). As my brush gently glides over Jesus’s body and those of Mary and John, I can feel Jesus’ long, lean abdomen – my favorite part of the bas relief. It is sensuous. It is beautiful. It has all the right curves and muscular undulations. But most of all it is vulnerable.
Jesus calls us friends. We think that friendship is primarily about generosity. Not true. Friendship is about vulnerability. The willingness to expose one’s gut – one’s Nefesh (in Hebrew) – one’s soft middle part – the only part of us with organs NOT covered in a bone cage and the area from which we feel orgasms emerge. Easily punched. Easily stabbed. Hospitality come from the word hostile – the willingness to welcome and then be wounded.
The work of the cross was not about salvation. It was not about making us good or acceptable. We are already that and always have been. The work of the cross is about God’s hospitality and Mary & John’s witness of it. That moment, and this week leading up to it, is about hospitality and community every bit as much as it is about the betrayal by one’s closest friends. Want to be a Christian? Don’t spend your time in church without matching that time three-to-one with your selves rolled up and your belly exposed to humans and to a planet which suffers. Jesus does not give a toss about pretty liturgies – go to a live musical…Cats is good. Wicked is perhaps best for Holy Week plus her body is, well, green. The $50 tickets are less expensive than your pledge. Instead, go to a shelter for homeless people and wash their tired, sore feet. Feed them. Talk to them. Or tend to the clearing of a forest trail. Or convert your home to solar power. Do something Jesus would actually recognize!
Sure. Most of those experiencing homelessness are mentally ill. But no more than you and I who believe that going to church makes us good people in a world we destroy every day and in a planetary population we starve to death with our greed. 200 children die of starvation during each of our liturgies.
Sure. Go to church for 8 hours this week. But then spend 32 hours serving the poor – the ones Jesus worried about. The ones Jesus commanded that we care for. The one’s Jesus spent his time with. Them. Earn the right to be in a beautiful liturgy or stay home and eat lamb with some real integrity.
This is as much “the GOOD news” as Friday will be “Good Friday.” Sorry. Tough love.