Week 3 - A Lenten Journey of Care
“The Passover of the Jews was near, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the temple he found people selling cattle, sheep, and doves, and the money changers seated at their tables. Making a whip of cords, he drove all of them out of the temple, both the sheep and the cattle. He also poured out the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. He told those who were selling the doves, “Take these things out of here! Stop making my Father's house a marketplace!” His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for your house will consume me.” The Jews then said to him, “What sign can you show us for doing this?” Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” The Jews then said, “This temple has been under construction for forty-six years, and will you raise it up in three days?” But he was speaking of the temple of his body. ” - John 2:13-21 NRSV
The Temple and the Body
When I think about places in the Bible where I find a focus on the body, I think of John 2. Specifically, Jesus in the temple. Jesus finds people there making the Father’s house a “place of business.” This righteously angers Jesus, because he knows it is wrong. In response, Jesus begins flipping tables and pouring out the coins everywhere.
After some back and forth with the Jewish leaders, Jesus says: “Destroy this temple, and I will raise it up in three days.”
Jesus is foreshadowing his death and resurrection here, but the Jewish leaders are mistaken. They think the temple Jesus is referring to is a physical building. Jesus, however, is talking about his body. Jesus recognizes his own body as a temple.
A temple is sacred. It holds meaning and has a purpose. A temple has beauty and character. It is special and unique.
Ask yourself these two questions:
What does it mean to treat your body as a temple?
What does it mean to not treat your body as a temple?
Each person’s answer will look different because health looks different for everyone and each of our bodies have different needs. Yet we are all created in the same image – the image of God. This image is worth protecting.
Many of us have complex relationships with our bodies. It is not always easy to see ourselves as people who have been created in such an image as God’s. It is not always easy to believe our bodies are worthy of love and acceptance especially when they fail us.
I had pneumonia this past December and it landed me in the hospital on two occasions. If you are familiar with pneumonia, you are also familiar with the way it wears your body down. As I recovered, I would find myself frustrated with my body because even up to a month after I had the illness, I still wasn’t back to my full self. I was still experiencing shortness of breath and my endurance was low. In retrospect, I recognize this was my body’s way of taking the necessary time to heal my lungs and rebuild the strength I had lost. Needless to say, it is important to listen to our bodies – our temples are wise. Our temples communicate with us and let us know what we need.
This scripture from John 2 gives us hope; we have hope in the resurrection because our bodies are not infinite. Our bodies are finite. They do fail. They deteriorate. Various illnesses attack our bodies. Accidents hurt our bodies. And we have this hope, that while yes, your body is your home here on earth, our spirit has a forever home in heaven with God.
Jesus had a number of interactions with those suffering in body, and while our requests for healing don’t always get answered the way we want, the hope from these encounters Jesus had with the ill in the body is not just that he heals them, but rather, that he is with them. Before he offers his healing, he offers his presence, which oftentimes is the most healing thing we could ask for at the moment.
Throughout this Lenten season, I invite us each to do more to appreciate the bodies – the temples - we’re living in. Do something to care for your body. I know life doesn’t always make that very easy – we get busy and all of a sudden, we start treating ourselves as though we are expendable. I hope you know you are not expendable. Remember that, and do something that shows you believe it.
Prayer for Reflection
Lord, we thank you for the way you have carefully knit each of us together into the people you have created us to be. Sometimes we find ourselves at war with our own bodies and in those moments, Lord, we pray that you would cover us with your tender love; a love that assures us this is simply part of being human. Help us take care of the temples you have given us, through which we are able to do good and do no harm in this world, Amen.
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