Monday, January 18, 2010

Nazareth Rejection, The Body of Christ, and the Inclusive Community

This week's scriptures are Isaiah 61:1-3, Luke 4:14-21, and 1 Corinthians 12:12-31.

Let me start by working backwards (sort of) through these passages.

Paul used the image of Christians as the "Body of Christ." He pointed out that we need one another if we are to fullfill the task of being a "body" and strongly pressed the issue that it was God who had brought the various parts together (as opposed to some choice of ours). He also pushed hard at the idea that distaining one another for who we are (or what we've done in the past?) verged on the ridiculous when compared with our need for one another.

Now it is pretty clear that if we-you and I together-are "Christ's Body," then our task is to be doing "Christ's thing"....doing the things that Jesus said He was here to do. And Jesus puts this on the table very early in His ministy according to Luke. On a trip back home, Jesus is at his home synagogue and is invited to do the reading from the Prophets (the first reading would be from the Torah, the Law). Two things happen here that are very important. And they are things that set Jesus over against the way others wanted to see both the passages He read, and Jesus himself.

The first thing (go take a look at the Isaiah passage) is what Jesus didn't say. He left out the phrase "the day of the Lord's vengence." This omission, in the small settlement of Nazareth, devoted as it reportedly was to keeping Hebrew Law and tradition in the midst of Roman occupation, would have angered Jesus' hearers a great deal. Who did Jesus think he was to re-interpret the Prophet this way? In fact that's what the "Isn't this Mary and Joseph's son?" means. 'Who does he think he is? We know his momma and daddy. Why I remember when he was an apprentice carpenter! Listen to him now, putting on airs.'

And it got worse. Jesus rolled up the scroll and said, "today this is fullfilled in your sight." Talk about ticking off your congregation! Jesus didn't mean that suddenly the prison bars were melting as He spoke; but He did mean that this was the beginning. This was a "Let the word go forth" moment. The Kingdom of God was here, and this is what it looked like. It was emerging into view....could they see it? And this Kingdom didn't include a focus on vengence. No wonder they tried to throw him off a cliff.

Now fast forward with me some 2000-2025 years or so. Think about bodies for a minute. One of the primary writers on the impact of trauma on the human body is Bessel Van der Kolk. Some years ago he wrote an article titled The Body Remembers. In it he pointed out that the human body carries in its cells the memories of physical, sexual and emotional trauma. Persons who have been physically abused carry in their bodies a physical memory of that abuse.
If I take that new knowledge and think theologically about it I am presented with some dramatic possibilities:

You and I are the Body of Christ. We did not pick one another, God put us together. We need one another. We are called to be in relationship with one another in the same way that Jesus proclaimed His relationship to the sick, the poor, the imprisoned, the blind. And as members of a single body, we commit ourselves to carrying the memory of one another's pain.

In therapy with trauma victims the somatic (bodily) memories call the individual to deal with their past, to heal the old wounds. As the Body of Christ, our memory of, and sharing in, the pain of the wounds of our brothers and sisters (a list, which according to Jesus is never ending, and over which we have no's God's list) calls us to be about the tasks of Christ: "to announce good news to the poor, to proclaim release for prisoners and recovery of sight to the blind; to let the broken victims go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor."

Are we willing to be the Body of Christ? To carry the memory and the pain of the earthquake victim in Haiti; the abused child in Glen Burnie; the torture victim in the CIA 'black op' prison overseas; the mental patient in Baltimore; the homeless child in the local shelter; the prisoner in Hagerstown; the villager in Afganistan?

We don't get to pick and chose who we think God cares about. We don't get to say, 'you get the Lord's favor; and you get the Day of the Lord's Vengance.'

The Body remembers....The Body of Christ remembers.....and in that memory we are called to both hold the pain and the need of the 'other' for whom Jesus came; and the call that Jesus embraced on that day in Nazareth.

We cannot do this alone. But then, we're not asked to. We are the Body of Christ; and we have been promised that when we take this task to heart, "Lo I am with you always, even to the end of the age."

Hope to see you Sunday.


kara said...

I never knew Jesus had left the vengeance bit out of that first proclamation of who he was. I like it!

As far as being a collective body with memories, I think it's true that what we do today (for Haiti, etc.) will be remembered. I also think we carry collective trauma like slavery, wars, genocides, acts of terror/violence and even natural disasters. This is obvious to people who share a history - can recall experiencing or learning in detail about an event.

But perhaps it is true about incidents of which we are mostly uninformed, but hold in our collective conscience. And perhaps that's what evokes strong emotions when we see images of pain countries away on the news - because it strikes a familiar cord.

Jeremy said...

There's loads of literature on embodiment and what evokes it, though I've only read a tiny portion of it as it relates to music. What this means to me is that with more and more context/information/empathy (regardless of form), we can transport ourselves into another's experience (if imperfectly).

To clumsily breakdown y thought further: Information surrounds us (in various forms), which can be arranged to give us context, and I know lots of people are emphatic almost to a fault - which leads us to the question Stephen poses - are we willing to carry/embody the experience as others to help them heal? To further our understanding of one another? To help as grow as people of God and just as people?