God’s Fabric of Inclusion

God's fabric of creation

This week’s gospel reading (Mark1:29-39) was an opportunity to reflect on Jesus actions in the Bible.  Healing, restoring broken relationships and restoring the body of Christ has been uppermost on my mind since my sabbatical finished a couple of months ago.I had the opportunity to meet people who were excluded, not just from society but from church life, and so in turn excluded from the opportunity to be part of the ‘fabric of God’s creation’.

I met and chatted with people who were living with a mental illness, living with learning disabilities and living with gender dysphoria. (Gender dysphoria is a condition where a person experiences discomfort or distress because there is a mismatch between their biological sex and gender identity).

It soon became apparent to me, that God was working in their lives in a unique way.

  • The friends I met with learning difficulties were very expressive in worship and were open to discuss God in a very way than regular church folk who attend a Sunday service. Some individuals approached me to ask about my relationship with God, and what was God like for me! Many of the friends I met described God as a cuddly comforting bear, who gives great hugs. (John 4:24 God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.”)
  • The friends I met in a mental health unit were open to the way that they were discriminated against because of their bi polar, attempted suicide, or schizophrenia. They did talk about their demons within them, but also about the depth and strength of God’s love, never to let them go. (Jeremiah 31:33.’I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God and they shall be my people’ )
  • The friends I met at the Gender Identity Clinic were open to the way that God had been present with them since before they were born, and I was humbled at their inner strength to walk the path of challenge and pain to be the person that God knew them to be ( Psalm 139’ I have known you since before you were born, for you are wonderfully made’)

Jesus’ healing of Simon Peter’s mother in law reminds me yet again, of the inclusive nature of God’s love for us. It is not just about healing her to go and make ‘tea and sandwiches’ for Simon Peter and his friends; it is about the restoring wholeness to the woman, so she may play an equal part in the Kingdom of God, so her presence maybe woven into the fabric of God’s love for all people. She was excluded because she was ill, but Jesus restores her so she is included into the Body of Christ.

All of humanity has a part to play, and if we exclude members of God’s people who think and act differently to us, we are the poorer for it . Jesus restores the woman and brings shalom into her life ‘Shalom’ is not just about peace, but about restoring wholeness to a person, and so enable them to be fully human and part of the body of Christ.

Prayer

Jesus who heals,…heal me

Jesus who touches,….touch me

Jesus who smiles…….smile at me

Jesus who listens……listen to me

Jesus who restores……restore me

Jesus who loves…….Love me

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Body Theology….Evidence of a life lived.

Dark-and-Light-Terracotta-A

If I wanted to describe my outlook on life, I would use a phrase … I celebrate life in all its fullness’. I know it’s a strange phrase, as most of us would reply ‘and so say all of us’. But what does that mean for us as Christians …when we follow a God whose body was mutilated and tortured on a cross through the death of Jesus., Some people may look at their own bodies and feel shame, disgust, and revulsion.

We need to reflect and reclaim what that means for us in the light of ‘Body Theology’.

Our bodies are how we live and move within God’s world. As St Teresa of Avila clams … God has no body but ours, no feet but ours, no hands but ours, ours is the body with which Christ moves.

So what will Christ feel and see if he moves about in my Body!

Well after three hip operations, two children, a life of enjoying good company, friendships, food and fellowship, pneumonia and various illnesses …this very rounded body is holding out!  Nevertheless, my Body is sacred … with its scars and cellulite, and spots and menopausal symptoms.

My body tells a story of life that I have lived in all of its fullness… some have been painful memories which i would want to forget, where ‘abuse’ has tortured my inner being, yet I want to celebrate God dwelling in me  .

I have loved passionately and deeply, with all of my being, and some scars are deeply hidden, but to love and trust someone, to give one’s Body over to someone else to care for whether friend , relative or lover is incredibility humbling….. God delights in Love

I have played energetically, seeing the sights and sounds of different cultures, different traditions, and different relationships, all have enriched me in many surprising ways, pushing my Body to its limit( for me ) ! … God delights in my Playfulness

I have lived rejoicing in my womanhood, experiencing  being a single mother, breast feeding my children, the menopausal symptoms which can overtake my Body, forgoing food to feed my then two young children; snacking and not eating properly is still a habit I have not relinquished. … God delights in my Faithfulness

I have worked hard, as a nurse, teacher, friend, colleague, and now a minister, and have given 150%, which yes has taken a toll on my Body, through tiredness and exhaustion… God delights in my commitment.

Yet, my Body is a place where God has delighted in all my experiences, and still delights. My Body is still the place of discovery, still the place where God chooses to dwell, and be with me as I explore the world around me.

So… I am not thin , so…. I don’t exercise , yes have yo- yo dieted for most of my life, but God’s Spirit dwells in me and delights in my Body that brings fullness into my life.

I have LGBT and disabled friends who have over the years helped me reflect on my Body, when some have had gender reassignment, some in wheelchairs and to them I will be forever grateful. Body Theology speaks to the deep inner self within us. It bubbles with excitement as we push our boundaries of discovery.

My physical, psychological and sexuality are how I live my life in all of its fullness, and I give glory to God for my experiences so far, and for ones that I have yet to encounter.

What will Christ feel and see in your Body ?

Glorious God

Our bodies have been changed

over the years through disease and injury,

Yet you choose to lovingly dwell within us.

Help us to Love our Bodies that tell the story of the life we have lived

To sense the delight you have when we discover new experiences

And when our Bodies give up on us

Journey with us until we become a new creation.

Amen

I am grateful for the beautiful images of the’ abundant Goddess’ which have helped me explore my own Body Theology.