February 23, 2014

We are His Body

Christ has no body but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
Yours are the eyes with which he looks
Compassion on this world,
Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good,
Yours are the hands, with which he blesses all the world.
Yours are the hands, yours are the feet,
Yours are the eyes, you are his body.
Christ has no body now but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
Yours are the eyes with which he looks
compassion on this world.
Christ has no body now on earth but yours.

As we come to the end of this series of meditations for Epiphany, based on the Prayer of Teresa of Avila, we see that we are individually and corporately the Body of Christ in the world.
Our gifts and talents are the hands and feet that move the Kingdom on down the road. Our eyes, brightened by the Light of Christ, see and bring compassion to the world. Wherever we our feet stand is holy ground because we are aware of God in and around us each day, therefore we can do God’s work of good. Our hands bring blessing because we are empowered by God to be stewards of love and grace.

How we live out being Christ’s body to and in the world is different for each of us. It can be tempting to think that someone else is doing a ‘better’ job than we are or to decide that no one is ‘doing it right’ because they aren’t doing it ‘my’ way. Paul addresses that very thought pattern in I Corinthians 12. He says, “Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of services, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. To one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the discernment of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. All these are activated by one and the same Spirit, who allots to each one individually just as the Spirit chooses.” (1 Cor. 12:4-11)
In a recent Forward Movement daily meditation, the author stated, “I read [on Facebook] a woman’s post…a wise person once told her that what you see depends on what you are looking for.” If we look at one another through eyes that expect to see good then we will find it. If we seek to find fault, we will certainly be able to complain about this or that. It’s too easy to focus on the one trait that irritates us and start to believe that trait is the whole person (whiny, spoiled, beautiful, intelligent, beggar, politician) …the list could go on and on. That’s not how God sees us, though. God says, “I have called you by name, you are mine.” God sees us as the beautiful, perfect creation we are.

As the Body of Christ, we might just find it helpful to change what we look for when looking at one another and the world. God sees us as Beloved-even those we could categorize as ‘unlovable’. There’s the old saying “God don’t make no junk”. Another way of putting the same sentiment is from Joyce Meyer, “Every time you look in the mirror, remember God created you and that everything he creates is beautiful and good.” The same could be said for the way we view others in our sphere of influence. To paraphrase; “Every time you look at someone, remember God created him/her in love. Everything God creates is beautiful and good.”
And when it’s difficult to do that…remember that we are all sustained by One Pair of Hands (a song by Carroll Roberson, recently posted to Facebook, attributed to Elvis Presley. He may have sung it, too, I don’t actually know.) If you need a good old time Gospel song pick me up, watch this and remember we are ALL not only the Body of Christ to the world, but we are ALL loved and upheld by His hands.

One pair of hands formed the mountains,
One pair of hands formed the sea
And one pair of hands made the sun and the moon,
Every bird, every flower, every tree
One pair of hands formed the valleys,
The ocean, the rivers and the sand
Those hands are so strong, so when life goes wrong
Put your faith into one pair of hands

One pair of hands healed the sick,
One pair of hands raised the dead
One pair of hands calmed the raging storm
And thousands of people were fed
One pair of hands said I love you
And those hands were nailed to a tree
Those hands are so strong, so when life goes wrong
Put your faith into one pair of hands

Those hands are so strong, so when life goes wrong
Put your faith into one pair of hands
Put your faith into one pair of hands

February 16, 2014

He Blesses all the World

Christ has no body but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
Yours are the eyes with which he looks
Compassion on this world,
Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good,
Yours are the hands, with which he blesses all the world… (Prayer of Teresa of Avila)

Look at the famous image from the Sistine Chapel. God is reaching down to touch Adam, not only to bring him to life but to give him ‘dominion over everything…’ We are made in the image of God and as stewards of and for God are very truly the hands of God in the world.

Jesus tells Peter and the disciples that they are to be ‘prudent managers’ because “blessed is that slave whom his master will find at work when he arrives. Truly I tell you, he will put that one in charge of all his possessions…That slave who knew what his master wanted, but did not prepare himself or do what was wanted, will receive a severe beating. But one who did not know and did what deserved a beating will receive a light beating. From everyone to whom much has been given, much will be required; and from one to whom much has been entrusted, even more will be demanded.” (Luke 12:43-48)
To be stewards, managers, the hands of God in the world is an awesome and frightening responsibility. Luckily we are not alone. Just as He promised His disciples, Jesus promises us, “But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.” (John 14:25-26)
In our baptism we are given “new life of grace” and are welcomed “into the household of God.” As members of that household, the Body of Christ, we are to “Confess the faith of Christ crucified, proclaim his resurrection, and share…in his eternal priesthood.” (Episcopal Book of Common Prayer, Baptism service)
We are empowered to be the ambassadors for Christ in the world-to be Christians. Remember that the word Christian means ‘Follower of Christ’ from the Greek Christianos. Indeed the word Christ or Christos means Anointed One. Therefore, we are “Followers of the Anointed One” and as such we are the image of Christ in the world.
Because we are a part of the total Body of Christ, we can be the “hands with which he walks to do good.” Our hands can be instruments of God’s love in many ways. When we hold a friend’s hand during a difficult time, when we hand out a sack lunch to a homeless person, when we knit a scarf or prayer shawl to be given away, we are the hands of Christ. If our hands are purchasing a can of tuna for a food pantry or folded in prayer or writing a note to comfort a hurting heart, we are the hands of Christ.
Verse 2 of the John Michael Talbot song “Holy Ground” says, “These are holy hands, He's given us holy hands, He works through these hands, And so these hands are holy.”
Imagine yourself in that image in the Sistine Chapel. God is reaching out to you to empower you to be the hands of Christ in the world. Will you take God’s hand?  

February 9, 2014

He walks to do good

During Epiphany we are looking into St. Teresa’s prayer to discover how we can more fully be Christ’s hands, eyes, and body in the world. We’ve touched on being hands and eyes of Christ to move the kingdom down the road and to be open to seeing the needs around us.

Today we consider our feet as instruments for Christ to “walk to do good.” I am reminded of the song “Holy Ground” which John Michael Talbot sings on several of his recordings. The first verse is especially applicable.  
This is holy ground
We're standing on holy ground
For the Lord is present
And where He is is holy…

If we view the place where we are standing as holy, it will change our view of the world. It won’t matter if we find ourselves in (real or figurative) mud-pits, mountain tops, turning places, rose gardens, or at a dead end. We can walk through all life's situations with God and one another.
Joseph, son of Jacob, went through some pretty dramatic life challenges. His life started out wonderfully. As the beloved son of the favored wife, he got all the perks. This made his brothers jealous and in retaliation they sold him into slavery. False accusations put him in prison. In all of these events, though, Joseph discovered that “the Lord was with him; and whatever he did, the Lord made it prosper.” (Genesis 39:23) He trusted in God and ultimately was able to tell his brothers “You meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive.” (Genesis 50:20)

Teresa of Avila says that ours “are the feet with which He walks to do good.” As Joseph’s life played out, he found his feet in many places that he didn’t expect. In each instance, he was an instrument of God for good. Joseph, the slave in Potiphar’s household, ‘found favor [with his master]…and he made him overseer of his house and put him in charge of all he had…the Lord blessed the Egyptian’s house for Joseph’s sake…he had no concern for anything but the food which he ate.’ (Genesis 39:4-5)
In prison, ‘the Lord was with Joseph and showed him steadfast love, and gave him favor in the sight of the keeper of the prison…whatever was done there, he was the doer of it.’ (Genesis 39:21-22). When he was called before Pharaoh, Joseph still depends upon God. He tells Pharaoh, “It is not in me; God will give Pharaoh a favorable answer.” The interpretation of Pharaoh’s dream brings Joseph to the pinnacle of Egyptian success. Pharaoh recognizes that Joseph is a man of God. “Since God has shown you all this, there is none so discreet and wise…you shall be over my house, and all my people shall order themselves as you command; only as regards the throne will I be greater than you.” (Genesis 41:39-40). He becomes responsible for the relief efforts before and during the famine and ultimately saves his father and brothers.

Joseph must have had to often remind himself that he was ‘standing on holy ground’ and that God would not forsake him. When we are in a dark or challenging spot, do we look around and see the Holy or do we fall into despair? Joseph had every reason to give up, but he did not. He continued to serve God wherever he was. He continued to walk forward on the Holy Ground and allowed his feet to be the instruments through which God could act to bless Potiphar, the warden, Pharaoh, all Egypt and even his own family.
Holy Loving Lord of Joseph and Teresa, help me to see wherever I am as Holy ground. Help me to trust that whatever the situation, You are present to do good. I offer my feet to Your service. Amen

February 2, 2014

Yours are the eyes...

“Yours are the Eyes with which he looks Compassion on this world,” Teresa of Avila tells us in her prayer. Do you think of your eyes as being a part of the body that is of service and in service to God? I’ll admit it’s not a body part I’ve given much place in the whole scheme of ‘service’. Hands-certainly; and feet take you where you need to be to serve. The eyes, however, never really crossed my mind as doing more than seeing where to go.

“The eyes are the windows to the soul” is a bit of traditional wisdom meaning that when someone looks deeply into our eyes, they can see who we really are. Jesus tells his disciples that those who don’t listen and see are fulfilling the “prophecy of Isaiah, which says, 'You will keep on hearing, but will not understand, you will keep on seeing, but will not perceive, for the heart of this people has become dull, with their ears they scarcely hear, and they have closed their eyes, otherwise they would see with their eyes, hear with their ears, and understand with their heart and return, and I would heal them.' But blessed are your eyes, because they see; and your ears, because they hear.…” (Matthew 13:14-16)
Jesus is telling them, and us, it is important to have our eyes open to God and to what God is showing us and what God is calling us toward. Those Jesus refers to have purposely refused to see God. It’s not just the scribes and Pharisees either. In Mark’s Gospel, Jesus has to remind his disciples of the miracle of the loaves and fish because they seem to already have forgotten it. “Having eyes do you not see, and having ears do you not hear?” (Mark 8:18).

The eyes, then, are very important to ministry. With our eyes we see the beauty of God’s world, like the glorious sunrises. Our eyes help us learn about things by giving us the ability to look at items and read words. For instance a search of Bible citations for ‘eye’ turned up 81 citations. Some are comforting, like Psalm 17:8 which asks for God to “keep me as the apple of the eye, hide me in the shadow of thy wings.” Psalm 33:18 is also about how God watches over us: “Behold, the eye of the LORD is on those who fear him, on those who hope in his steadfast love.” Eyes give us the ability to learn about things either by seeing them in person or in videos and photos. The commercials that air about animal rescue or children in need have the ability to move us because of the images in them.
Jesus tells us “The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is sound, your whole body will be full of light, but if your eye is not sound, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness.” (Matthew 6:22-23) I am reminded of the song (Light of the World) from the musical Godspell, which reminds us that we’ve “got to stay bright to be the light of the world”.

When our eyes are open and ‘full of light’ then we will be able to look with ‘compassion on the world’. Proverbs 22:9 notes, “He who has a bountiful eye will be blessed, for he shares his bread with the poor.” Our eyes see the needs of the world and then we respond with compassion and love.
Paul quotes Isaiah 64:4 when he tells the Corinthians, “It is written, ‘What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man conceived, what God has prepared for those who love him…’” (I Corinthians 2:9) When we open our hearts and our eyes to the beauty and the need of the world we begin to be “eyes that look with compassion on the world” and the Light of God shines a little brighter. We will see a glimpse of what “God has prepared for those who love him.”
Next time we will take a look at the 'feet with which he walks to do good'.