Dear Body of Christ at Willoughby CRC,
One of the great struggles of the present moment is that we can't be together. We can be together, of course, via cellphone, via letters, via video conferencing, through communications on our web page. But this only underscores the unsettling feeling that, with Covid-19 in the air, we can't really be together as a church because we can't gather together with our bodies.
There have been many times where I've been away from Michelle and the girls on a trip somewhere--Texas, Vietnam, Grand Rapids. We do a good job of connecting by phone or Facetime almost every day. And I'm grateful to see them on the screen and hear them. But those connections pale in comparison to being present in person. As most of us have discovered in times of bodily absence, there is no substitute for actual bodily presence.
But why is this?
According to Scripture, our bodies are not prison houses of the soul. Our bodies are sites--or loci--of revelation, and temples of the Holy Spirit. We don't so much have bodies, according to Scripture, as we are our bodies.
This is why the consummation of individual conversion is reception of the indwelling Spirit, given by Jesus, who renews us from the inside out.
This is also why the end--or telos--of the Christian life is not a disembodied existence, off far and away in some ethereal heaven somewhere, but resurrection, after Christ, in a material world made new. ("Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed-- in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed", 1Cor 15:51-52).
Matter matters to God, saints. Bodies matter to God. The body of an acorn matters; our bodies matter. (The deepest meaning of erotic love, by the way, is not sexual. The deepest meaning of erotic love is to apprehend and cherish something in and for its multi-faceted distinctiveness, in body and soul.)
Not only might we be feeling the importance of bodies in the present crisis--in the absence of bodily contact. But we should reflect on it. Deeply. For we live in a world, body of Christ, where, in so many ways, our culture has been conditioned to believe that the human person is what that individual feels—notwithstanding bodily realities.
But Scripture paints a different picture.
Our bodies are gifts. Gifts for revealing ourselves. Gifts for communing with others. And gifts, above all, for revealing the truth about the Triune Lord.
During the current crisis, and the pain we will experience because of a lack of bodily gathering, let us reflect on this truth, perhaps with a renewed and joyous longing.
"O Lord, I am fearfully and wonderfully made . . . You knit me together in my mother's womb."