There are a lot of metaphors about the body in the gospels and in St Paul’s letters. It’s actually a really helpful way to think about things. A body is one cohesive unit (or it’s meant to be!), held together with an outer covering of skin. But within that, there’s bone and muscle and tendon and of course all our vital organs which allow us to function and retain the breath of life. And then there’s the different parts of the body – feet, hands, head, eyes, nose, ears, mouth etc. through which we perceive and experience and interact with the world.
One of the saddest misunderstandings in Christianity has been a false dualism of the physical and the spiritual. Some people have read the bible to understand it as saying that the physical world is somehow fallen or inherently evil and sinful, and that we must strive to push that aside as we seek to be more and more spiritual.
But for me Jesus gives the lie to that – the fact that God chooses to become part of his creation, to become one of us, makes it clear that the physical world is in fact inherently good and beautiful and to be celebrated. And that whilst the world is not running to God’s plan, and that there is sorrow and pain and brokenness in this world, one day God will renew and restore and reconcile all things within this creation. He will bring healing – and that’s not by destruction and leaving it behind, but through healing and restoration. I’ll not give lengthy bible quotes here – this is about being a short reflection, offering food for thought, but all that I’ve said is very much based in scripture.
In Jesus, God lives as a human and experiences our life. And to experience something is a far cry from merely observing it. It is this deeply incarnational physicality and the goodness of the material world – and its connectedness to the spiritual – that is at the core of the Sacrament of sharing Bread and Wine in memory of Christ, as he taught us.
There is something deeply relational about sharing food and drink. Hospitality is what allow relationships to flourish, for us to know one another better. Sharing food is one of the most important things we as humans can do; it’s at the heart of pretty much every culture I think. It brings togetherness. And it reminds us of what we have in common, giving space for that commonality to be explored and expressed.
So in asking us to remember him in bread and wine, Christ is affirming the goodness of the physical world, but he is also bringing us together. And this brings me back to where I began with the idea of sharing one Bread making us into one Body.
We’re all differrent. We all have different skills, abilities and experiences. We all have something to contribute – just like the differing parts of the human body. On our own, we are incredibly limited – just as hands can’t hear; ears can’t touch! But together, in harmony, we can achieve incredible things.
As we share in this one Bread – literally and metaphorically and spiritually – may we be built more and more into one Body that can value each of its constituent parts and work in harmony to the glory of God.