As they were eating he took a loaf and blessing it he broke and gave to them and said, "Take. This is my body." And taking a cup and giving thanks he gave to them.
All drank of it.
He said to them "This is my blood of the covenant poured out for many. Amen I tell you never in any way will I drink of the fruit of the vine till that day when I drink it new in the reign of God."
- Mark's gospel
"But I have been thinking a great deal about the body these last weeks. Blessed and broken...I wanted to talk about the gift of physical particularity and how blessing and sacrament are mediated through it."
- Gilead by Marilynne Robinson
To this day, I hear much ado about the gifts of the Spirit. A certain person has the gift of prophecy, maybe another has the gift of tongues. There are things such as "gift inventories" - usually a list of questions whose answers reveal your gifting or at least give you a hint as to what you've got. There are debates as to which gifts are still valid, some having been de-gifted when the last page of the King James Bible was written. Books, conferences, training workshops; it is a universe all its own.
But what of the gift of physical particularity? The gift of our bodies, and how blessing and sacrament are mediated through them? Do you know of these gifts, my friend?
Just a few examples -
The huge feet of my grandad, which in later years had to be custom fitted to boots. Their size was one thing, but their swelling was due to medical conditions. Each evening the boots had to be removed, a process in itself. But I can still see my christlike granny at his feet, as he sat in his rocker, pulling the boots off, one huge foot at a time, then washing them or attending to them in some way. I can remember my dad doing the same thing on occassion. Little did I know what my eyes were witnessing at the time.
The strong hands of one of my best friends that kneaded the dough of my shoulders after an ascent of Pikes Peak. His massage-trained hands brought healing in the wake of two men just waking up and deciding to do a 14er in December.
The ivory breast of a church member feeding her newborn. I turned around in a church basement, as a fifth or sixth grader, to be greeted by this revelation. I'm sure there was arousal on some school boy level, but so much more was the feeling of wonder and amazement, beauty.
The belly of a truck driver friend that hung over his belt. He would rest his arms on it while listening to me preach. Every Sunday.
The fat to bursting fingers of my piano teacher beside mine, showing me the way to navigate black and white. And the gray of life.
The hitchhiker's thumbs on the former major league pitcher who left the game to raise chickens and serve his small town.
My father's ears sticking out beneath a hat, listening, always listening. Just like mine do.
My girlfriend's girlish shoulders.
A little girl's dark-pooled eyes.
My own bird-like legs.
Trust me, I could go on. I will hold my tongue while the gift inventories continue to be printed and administered for the children of God. The Church always needs something to "do." But I'm afraid we swallow the camels of new testament gifts with ease, but strain at the gnats of the physical particularities of our bodies; bodies blessed and broken, through which sacraments of love and healing and memory and wonder and beauty and loyalty and song are mediated.