Embodiment

Photo by Brianna Tucker on Unsplash

I have a dear friend who was widowed a few years ago. Since then, she’s stretched herself to live her life’s goal, which is to be a writer. There’s nothing like death to teach us how to live, is there? She’s worked hard. And she’s grieved hard. 

This year, she entered a play writing contest and garnered one of the ten winning spots, out of thousands of entries. Did I mention I’m darned stinking proud of her? She wrote about the immediate aftermath of her husband’s death and visiting her mother with dementia and how those things didn’t always mesh well together. In one quick scene, a nurse at the assisted living comforts her with some theology and philosophy regarding death. 

Watching the video, I felt a jolt of recognition. Those were my words. Those were sentences I had said to help my friend. We’d sat at the local Corner Bakery as she talked and cried about the blows to her faith and her guilt and anger about God, the universe, and everything. I’d answered with what I believe about God and death. 

The words had meant enough to her to find their way into this award-winning play, now seen and heard by I don’t know how many people. They’d found their way into her heart. 

I cried watching that video. I cried for her pain. I cried for her children. I cried for the privilege of having God use my simple, tentative words to begin healing a broken heart. There is nothing, nothing that brings more joy to a pastor, or a writer, than this. We know that James warns we ought to watch our words and our truth carefully, because teaching others is a holy, sacred trust. We know we get it wrong too often.

The trust of God and humans cannot be taken lightly. Hearts and souls long to be healed.

Dear brothers and sisters, not many of you should become teachers, for we who teach will be judged more strictly. Indeed, we all make many mistakes. For if we could control our tongues, we would be perfect.

(James 3.1-2)
Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

We’re talking about what it means to be incarnate this month in church. For Advent, I wanted to discuss the meaning of incarnation (embodied in flesh). I want us to consider how we, too, are incarnate in the lives of others, not in the sense that we are deity but in another definition of the word—“A person showing a trait or typical character to a marked degree.” 

As believers in the Christ who became flesh and blood, breath and body, how do we show his character to a marked degree? Are we being incarnate in our communities, our families, our churches, our world?

Are we being incarnate in our random conversations that we don’t know will have an impact down the road? Is Christ’s character there at the table in our Corner Bakery? 

To “invite Jesus into my heart” isn’t a prayer for a ticket to heaven. It’s an invitation to Christ to be incarnate in my life, body, tongue, and mind. It’s an invitation for me to be incarnate, albeit in my own flawed ways, in my world.

I can’t get past that. I don’t want to get past that. I shouldn’t get past that. Words matter. Words heal or break. Words construct or deconstruct faith and hope. The Word gives me embodiment in others’ lives. What comes from my mouth, or keyboard, should show his character to a marked degree.It’s a sacred trust. 

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