Bones and Bodies

by Becky Zartman
inspired by Ezekiel 37:1-14

“Then he said to me, “Prophesy to these bones, and say to them: O dry bones, hear the word of the LORD.
Thus says the Lord GOD to these bones: I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live. I will lay sinews on you, and will cause flesh to come upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and you shall live; and you shall know that I am the LORD.”

 

 

 

I really and truly believe in the bodily resurrection. Now, I am aware that the bodily resurrection seems completely and utterly laughable to some progressive Christians, like a bad medieval hangover from which the church has never quite recovered. I will admit that the bodily resurrection seems insane in its childlike simplicity, far too uncomplicated to be taken seriously in our sophisticated worldview: Jesus was resurrected as a body, and at the appointed time, God will raise our bodies from the dead, too. That’s all there is to it, folks. If God can create the heavens and the earth, surely bringing people who have already been created back to life must be a snap. But for some reason, the theological concept of the bodily resurrection has been subsumed into some ethereal idea of heaven where souls go to live. It’s all very nice, of course. I’m not sure why this seems more plausible, but in pop American theology, a soul-based heaven is the prevalent view.

I don’t think that it should be. Not only is there the outright shout-out in the Apostles’ Creed, (I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, and the resurrection of the body… come on people, pay attention to what you’re praying, it gets as much air time as the Holy Spirit for crying out loud) but also I’ve never really bought the heaven-as-lutes-and-clouds concept. The earth is already so overwhelmingly beautiful: the first buds of spring, the lightening bugs dancing on a cool summer evening, the crispness of the air in autumn.  And if we add in what we really believe about the miracle of Christmas, that God became as one of us, embodied, Incarnate, literally in-carn-ate, in flesh, and Paul’s proclamation of Christ as the first fruits of a general resurrection, you’ve got a good argument that God takes bodies seriously enough to breath life into them once again.

Bone to bone. Sinew on the bone. Flesh on the sinew, skin on the flesh, breath in the body. God made our bodies to begin with, and someday, God will put them back together again. God takes bodies seriously, and so should we.

If we took our own bodies seriously, understanding them as created uniquely by God, like Adam and Eve, each one molded by God’s own hands, we could turn our culture’s obsession with “right” bodies and “wrong” bodies upside-down. Big bodies, thin bodies, differently abled bodies, brown bodies, pink bodies, everywhere in-between bodies — if each one was understood as truly part of the person, and to be cherished, maybe those who are so painfully insecure and ashamed of their bodies wouldn’t seek to mutilate them with needless surgery, or succumb to eating disorders.

If we took each other’s bodies seriously, understanding them to be created by God, to be cared for as a moral imperative, maybe we would finally recognize the horror of violence and war. Maybe we would see and do something about our neighbor’s bodies who are being trafficked for sex, or those whose bodies are tortured as a tool of political oppression. Maybe we would send food to nourish the bodies of those who are starving, or provide medical care for the bodies dying of preventable childhood diseases.

If we took humanity’s collective body seriously, understanding it as created by God as part of a wider web of creation, perhaps we could turn the tide of the environmental crisis that besieges us and the creatures in the air, land and seas, ripe for mass extinction. Maybe we’d think of the trees as they soak in the acid rain, or the humble amphibians who are dying off in record numbers for lack of habitat and clean water.

As we round the corner in the last week of Lent and head into Holy Week, we remember the Jesus who felt the jolt of a colt ride into town, who washed the feet of his followers, who broke bread and shared wine while reclining at a table, who prayed on his knees, whose back was scourged, his hands pierced, and body crucified. The friends who washed off the dirt and blood and wrapped him in a cloth felt the weight of his body. God came to live and die and live in skin, and we should learn to live in ours, too.

———————
The Rev. Becky Zartman works part-time at St. Thomas Episcopal Parish in Dupont Circle, Washington DC, and is planting an alternative church community in the H Street District of NE DC. She blogs at www.vicarofhstreet.blogspot.com and tweets at @Becky_Zartman. 

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One response to “Bones and Bodies

  1. I’ve often thought that the idea of Heaven as an elsewhere to which we depart after life is akin to pronouncing creation as anathema, and a complete contradiction to the work of God in the Bible. He created the heavens and earth and called it good. He said never again to destroying evil when the cost was annihilating humanity. He came as Christ to reconcile all creation to himself. Why then, would he “take us away” after death and, in effect, enable the abandonment of the creation he works even now to rescue?

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