“And the Word of God became flesh and blood and moved into the neighborhood.”
I love that translation of John 1:14 from The Message translation of the Bible. Kind of gives you a sense that God is ready to invite us all over for a barbecue and watch the big game, doesn’t it?
The root of Christian theology is the incarnation of God, the embodiment of the Divine. Or to put it simply: God became a body.
One of the most poignant episodes in scripture is when Thomas hears second hand that Jesus, whom he saw crucified on the cross, had risen from the dead, and he wants to believe but needs to see Jesus for himself. He needs to see the body of Christ. When Jesus then comes to Thomas, he says, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; put out your hand and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.” Thomas needed to encounter the holy – the mystery of the embodiment of God – for himself.
That God become flesh and blood and walked among us in order to be in relationship with people is central to our faith. Jesus spent his entire ministry surrounded by people: eating, walking, fishing, lounging, having deep discussions, touching, teaching, laughing, weeping. Embodied relationships matter.
Last week as many of you know I was finally on campus for coursework at Duke Divinity School for my doctoral program. It was an amazing (and exhausting) week of classes, homework, deep discussions, eating, laughing, touching, teaching and learning. We went from a year of Zoom calls to finally being together in person. We were finally able to give human form to our Zoom squares and it was, well, everything.
If Jesus taught us anything it’s that God loves the world so much, he sent Jesus to show us to live and how to love. Jesus became the embodied example for all humankind of what it means to be in relationship with people, with church, with systems, nations and governments. He put a face to the Divine and said, “I’m here and I’m not leaving. Come on over to my place.”
This past year, so many of our relationships have had to be virtual, making the joy of being finally together “in person” so meaningful. I understand embodiment a whole lot differently now that I have had to make do without it. It’s the touching, the eye contact, the close proximity to a living breathing being that makes human encounters truly unforgettable. Sure, we can (and do) have good and important relationships virtually. But we all know it’s nothing compared to being live and in the flesh. Ask anyone who’s had to maintain a romance online during the pandemic – there is simply no substitute for sharing the same breathing space.
God knew we needed to know what it was like to be in close proximity. To touch the body of the Divine. To feel the skin of the holy, and embrace the sacred mystery for ourselves. Knowing Jesus is to have the Divine so close to us that we can touch it. And there is simply no substitute for that.
Special Note: Many of you have asked about the Duke Divinity program, so I will be hosting a conversation next Friday, Sept. 10th at 9am at Snowmass Chapel. I’ll share some of what I’m studying in the doctoral program and I’d love to have you part of the journey! Please join me for “Doctoral Discussions” ~ coffee and goodies provided.