The Reverend Dr. Katie Snipes Lancaster
Flesh: We are embodied. Our bodies are vulnerable. Our basic needs center first around the physical reality of being human: clean water, healthy food, safe shelter, protection against violence, and medical care. In order to survive, let alone thrive, we need to care for our bodies. We are prone to disease. We are susceptible to fatigue. And if we’re honest, we’re often at risk of becoming hangry.
Because we are embodied, so is prayer. If I could survey the prayers ascending across the globe, I would expect a large percentage to correspond to the vulnerability of our bodies: for health and wellbeing, for healing and freedom from suffering.
We cannot help but pray bodily. Words fall from our mouth, our vocal chords thrumming in search of divine response. We fall to our knees, humbled both by the heartbreak of the raw human condition and the gift of God’s presence. We clasp our hands, wring our hands, place our heads in our hands. We pray by walking, talking, singing, crying. Our bodies can’t help it. We are sinew and bone.
Then again, we articulate the “more than” of our embodied faith. More than flesh. More than body. More than this life. And our faith meets us there, “The word became flesh and dwelt among us.”
Jesus Christ, light of the world, crosses the threshold from invisible to visible, intangible to tangible. It can be no other way. Karmen MacKendrick says, “Light too, must become flesh as the very condition of its recognizability, its visibility, its shining.”
In Jesus Christ we meet the ruah, the ancient, enduring spirit of God, entangled in a first century body with an ethic of love rooted in the vulnerability of the flesh. Harvard professor Mayra Rivera puts it this way, “thus in the flesh, the creative Word becomes not only audible, but also visible, and touchable.” Salvation enfleshed.
Praying the Alphabet
We long to meet you face to face, O God,
For we are frail, fragile, fragmented, frazzled, frustrated.
We forget and fail, we are foolish and flawed.
We long to be fed at your table of forgiveness,
your feast of love, a wide welcome fueled by freedom.
Find a way for this to be our future, O Christ.