Honoring Our Bodies in Life

Among the many valuable pieces of advice that I received from my vicarage (pastoral internship) supervisor, Rev. Allen Anderson, this one still rings regularly in my ears: preach to yourself first. In Lutheran terms that means as the preacher is meditating on the Scriptures in preparation for a homily that he should first ask the “Law and Gospel” questions of himself; that is, ‘How does this text convict me of sin, and how by this text am I comforted by the message of forgiveness in Christ?” I was following Pastor Anderson’s advice as I prepared my Easter sunrise homily this year and the results still have me thinking…

IMAG0098 Pictured here is the setting for that Easter sunrise homily: May Chapel of Chicago’s Rosehill Cemetery. For over 20 years the people of St. Philip have gathered in this location for their sunrise service. It is a very unique setting. The May Chapel is really a private mausoleum, constructed by the May family in 1898. In front of the chapel is a small lake, which itself is surrounded by many smaller private mausoleums. Rosehill is a large cemetery and the May Chapel is in the middle. As the people drive into the chapel for the sunrise service they pass thousands of graves, many of them adorned by very expensive monuments or the exceedingly expensive private mausoleums of which May Chapel is the most prominent example.

In my 2012 Easter sunrise homily I spoke about this expense and reminded those gathered about the expensive burial place and customs that were observed with the burial of Jesus. I reminded the people that the reason for this expense is rooted in the Scriptural conviction that mankind is made—body and soul—in the image and likeness of God and that Christ’s resurrection from the dead is a foreshadowing of our own, as the Lord reminds us through the Apostle Paul:

“He [Jesus Christ] is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.” (Colossians 1:15-20, ESV)

And then I made this assertion: 

If we honor our bodies in death, we should also honor them in life.

I have actually been ruminating on this truth and considering Pastor Anderson’s admonition for many months. I have always had a tendency to eat my stress, and I have eaten a lot of stress since moving to Chicago. I can see it in my hairline, my waistline, and my family time. I have a genetic predisposition to higher cholesterol and I have been on statins since my mid-30s. Back in December 2011 I noticed my eyebrows were a bit thin. Mentioning this to my mother she said, “That’s thyroid. I have the same thing.” A blood test soon thereafter revealed a normal but low-range thyroid, so I got a prescription from the doctor, but I have yet to take it. Part of this is because I know that my cholesterol and thyroid numbers may well be just fine if I am willing to dramatically change my diet. I, however, have not been willing to change my diet, at least on a consistent basis. I am also reluctant to continue down this prescription road, which is an expensive one and perhaps unnecessary (see video below).

Yes, that Easter sunrise assertion is ringing in my ears, as is my father’s untimely death at 50 (in part because he would not change his diet and smoking habits), as is the fact that I am in my early 40s and my youngest child is not yet five, as is the fact that I love my wife, my family, my work, and my future.

I need to practice what I preach, but I r-e-a-l-l-y struggle with the food thing.

Then I find things like the video below, once posted on Facebook by my ministry colleague, Rev. William Weedon. It is Dr. Terry Wahls telling her story of how a radical change in diet essentially cured her MS; in a matter of month taking her from a gravity chair and unable to walk to a fully active life.

Dr. Terry Wahls at TEDxIowa City 2011

I also think of old friend, Melissa DeGroot, who did a radical diet change and is recognizing dramatically better health. Melissa is cataloguing her journey on a new blog, “Get Dense,” a cooperative venture with her sister.

It’s time. Christ is risen!

If we honor our bodies in death, we should also honor them in life.

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One thought on “Honoring Our Bodies in Life

  1. Thanks for the shout out, Pr. O’Donnell! Something that helped me out was the “crowding out” theory. Meaning, don’t change your diet . . .just eat more fruits and veggies. Eventually your body will tell you to stop eating the unhealthier stuff. Or, in smaller portions. I’ve sustained my weight for over 10 months, which is something i’ve never experienced before. All the best!

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