* I have been blessed to be a pastoral candidate for a lovely, loving, forward-thinking church. Here is the sermon I plan on preaching. I say plan because one never knows what surprise the Spirit may have in terms of the message. Enjoy!
Rev. George Miller
March 21, 2010
Good morning, and blessings. I am especially honored to be here today and to be among saints who are part of Christ’s glorious Body.
A few days ago I came across a word that I could relate to: foodie. A foodie is someone who enjoys cooking, who prefers the cheese section over the shoe isle, the Farmer’s Market over the mall and is likely to unwind watching the Food Network.
Like other foodies I’ve seen the movie “Julie and Julia”, tried to make Julia Child’s boeuf boulignon, and just a few weeks ago read her autobiography titled “My Life In France.”
What a fascinating woman Julia Child was. She was a social person who surrounded herself with friends and family. She saw life as always moving forward, which allowed her to live globally and break new ground in the culinary world.
She was a perfectionist when it came to cooking. Exact measurements, proper ingredients, tried and true instructions mattered.
What she wasn’t a perfectionist about was her body. She was more of a realist with a great sense of humor. How could she not be?
Julia stood 6'2", with a large frame and a face best described as handsome. No matter what she wore she would never qualify as beautiful or petite.
And thank God because that’s exactly what made her so unique and fun to watch on TV.
In both the book and movie there’s a scene in which Julia and her sister are getting dressed. They have on their hats, white gloves and pearls. They look in the mirror and Julia says “Not bad, but not great either.” Both women laugh.
I admire Julia’s ability to strive for perfection in what she was good at, and her ability to let go of that which she was not created to excel in.
We could all stand to be a bit more like her, especially in terms of our own body images.
As humans, we’re attached to our body, we can’t help it. We come into the world with our bodies. They are the vessels through which we experience taste and touch, sight and smell, life and death.
Our bodies are ever changing. They build up, they break down. They start young, they grow old. They gain strength, they grow weak. They heal, they break.
Our bodies are magnificently unique; our bodies are heartbreakingly flawed. Our bodies present opportunities; our bodies impose limitations.
To paraphrase Julia Child, our bodies are not bad, but not great either.
I’ve been thinking about my own body for the past few weeks. In preparing for today it’s been hard not to. I thought that if I buckled down, ate less and ran more I could be a little slimmer.
I’ve worried over how to cut my hair: a military cut that says all business, a longer preppy cut that says class. A shaven face that says I’m clean cut, or a goatee that gives my jaw a more defined look.
And what to wear? If I overdress will you think I’m a snob; if I underdress would you think a slob?
The only guarantee is that one can never go wrong with a well polished shoe.
I believe that if Julia Child was in our midst she would remind me not to focus on how I look or what I will wear but to be fearless is doing what I have been called to do- to preach the Gospel.
That is certainly what Paul, the author of today’s scripture would say: that today is not about my individual body but the purpose of today’s sermon is to inspire us, as One, to continue straining forward as the glorious body of Christ.
Can I get an amen? Amen indeed.
Like Julia, Paul was an interesting fellow and someone I admire. Like Julia, Paul was born into what we would call good breeding. He came from the right family with the right education with the right rules. He was a man very aware of his body: how to care for it, what to eat, what not to wear.
But in his previous career he was ruthless. He attacked the earliest Christians, participating in their persecutions and humiliations.
But, as this letter makes clear, that was all in his past. You see, sometime late in his life Paul had a personal experience with Christ, an experience so powerful that it opened his eyes and turned him into a fearless missionary.
Stronger then Julia’s love for all things French, Paul’s love for Christ took him all over the world, on boats and by foot, to private homes and big cities.
He preached the Gospel to anyone who would hear. He shared meals, built churches, and transformed lives.
All for the Glorious Body of Christ.
But in the process he got himself arrested. And in the very harsh reality of jail he writes this letter to the Philippian church.
And what kind of letter do you think he writes? A woe is me letter? A burn-the-courthouse-down letter? Not Paul.
With a love for Christ coursing through his soul, he writes a letter full of joy, in which the word ‘rejoice’ appears no less then seven times.
“My brothers and sisters,” writes Paul from his jail cell, “...Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say rejoice.”
Rejoice? Even as his earthly body is locked away? How is this possible?
Because as Paul sees it, even though his own body’s freedom has been taken away he views himself as part of something grander: the Body of Christ.
And in this Paul finds comfort and in this Paul finds the strength to press forward and continue his own spiritual growth.
I don’t know about you, but I find what Paul is doing here is amazing.
He is telling us that we are more than just our body, that we are more then just the bodies sitting here today, but that we are actually part of one body: the Body of Christ, and he calls it glorious.
This, my brothers and sisters is a radical way of thinking.
Paul is not discounting the importance of his own body or the situation he’s in. What he’s done is find a way to move from seeing himself as an I into seeing himself as part of a we.
And as a we, Paul is a part of One.
What does that mean for us? As part of the Body of Christ we are more then short or tall, old or young, able or disabled, but we are One and we are glorious.
That as individuals, we are not bad, but not so great either, but as One we are glorious.
Our individual eyes are not bad, but not so great either, but when they unite to look upon an imperfect world with compassion, they become glorious.
Our individual hearts are not bad, but not so great either, but when they unite to love an imperfect world, they become glorious.
Our individual hands are not bad, but not great either, but when they unite to bless an imperfect world, they become glorious.
And what, dear church, are some of the things we can do as the glorious Body of Christ?
For the bodies out there that are hungry and homeless we can reach out to them as One to make to sure their basic needs are met
For the bodies out there that are lost and lonely we can reach out to them as One to let them know they are not alone, but part of something bigger then themselves.
For the bodies out there wounded by destructive theology we can reach out to them as One to soothingly say “God is still speaking!”
For the bodies out there that are so caught up in their past, believing they have no future we can reach out to them as One, rejoicing that “No matter who you are, no matter where you are on life’s journey, you are welcome here.”
In conclusion, in and by themselves, our bodies are imperfect. They’re not bad, but they’re also not great. They age, they break, they limit, they confine.
But in Christ we are so much more then solitary individuals taking up our own personal space. In Christ our humbled bodies are transformed, and we become we part of one glorious body.
A body in which we can find hope for the world, a body in which grace is bestowed upon us all, and a body in which we can each find ways to shout and rejoice. A body that is, in a word, Glorious.
All thanks be to the Spirit that moves in every stage of our life, to God who has blessed us with our own unique gifts, and to Jesus who calls us into being his glorious eyes, heart and hands.
Amen and amen.