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St Clement’s—hello! It’s good to be back after a month away. We had a fabulous time: New York, Buenos Aires, Rio de Janeiro, Manaus, and Miami. We saw dolphins; we learned about the world’s largest irrigation system (the Amazon); we spoke Portuguese and Spanish, poorly; and we ate authentic Argentinian steak and countless other delicious local foods. 

Speaking of food, can I be vulnerable for a moment and talk to you about something that always kind of goes through my mind whenever I return from vacation? Maybe this happens for you, too. I start thinking, even before the plane hits the ground sometimes, “Gee, I better start losing all this weight I gained while I was away.”

Like, what is that? I know we all over indulge from time to time and it's normal to feel kinda like, wow, I overdid it there; but, I guess it just struck me this time how immediate and how readily available this thought was.

Sonya Renee Taylor, the acclaimed author of the book, The Body is Not an Apology, talks about these thoughts as our attempts to make peace with our bodies when we exist in a culture that teaches us to be at war with them. How our bodies look in terms of weight is one example of how we might seek to make peace with our bodies—how our bodies look in terms of skin colour, disability, age, gender, and sexuality is another. We spend time and money trying to make peace with our bodies whether it’s trying to make them more thin or more muscular, more the "right kind" of male or female, more light-skinned, more straight or able or youthful. 

Sonya Renee Taylor goes on to talk about “body-shame origin stories”—where these thoughts come from that send us into battle with our bodies. Maybe, she suggests, it was the first time you heard a relative refer to your sibling as “chubby”? Maybe it was when you didn’t ask for a physical accommodation while you were out with a friend or on a date, because you didn’t want to be a bother? Maybe it was the first time you refrained from posting a picture of yourself in a fabulous new outfit because a little voice inside your head said, “too fat” or “too trans” or “too foreign: you'll stand out and remember the goal is to fit in.”

All of these, Sonya Renee Taylor suggests, make up our body-shame origin stories. 

Now, before I go any further, I want to take a moment to address what I like to call the ‘But, what abouts?’ 

‘But, what abouts?’ are the questions that inevitably run through our minds when trying to address a difficult topic. Like, “But, preacher, what about weight loss that involves limiting foods that irritate my gut or make me feel moody?” Or, “But, preacher, what about binge-eating disorders or diabetes?” Or, “But, preacher, what about the exercise class that keeps my heart healthy and gets me out of the house?”

When I’m talking in this sermon about body-shame, particularly weight-based body shame, I’m talking about the idea that people with certain  bodies ought to isolate themselves. I’m talking about fashion industry norms that make it significantly more difficult for fat people to access clothing in suitable sizes and at a reasonable cost. I’m talking about the discrimination in many, not all, but many healthcare settings that make a routine visit to the doctor yet another interrogation about your weight. I’m talking about the thoughts about our bodies that keep us from enjoying life, that make us constantly monitor our bodies lest they betray us by “failing to meet society’s fictitious ideals,” ideals upheld by unjust structures that convince us, as Sonya Renee Taylor puts it, tongue planted firmly in cheek, that we better avoid being out in the world “lest we jiggle while in motion.” 

So, having recognized our ‘But, what abouts?’, a word about how body-shame fits into the Christian faith and what the Bible has to say about it. 

I am convinced that Moses and the burning bush is one of the greatest examples of a body-shame origin story being, well, set on fire. Moses was abandoned as a child because he was born into the wrong body—the wrong gender and the wrong skin-colour, and, he stutters, too, to boot. Moses is a Hebrew boy in a time when Hebrew boys are being killed because Pharaoh is worried about the Hebrew people building an army. And, with a stutter, Moses isn’t exactly the person you’d imagine leading a revolution, someone whose name is supposed to mean, you remember from Laurel’s sermon last week, “the one who draws out”!

When God shows up via a burning bush and calls Moses by name not once, but twice—God is reminding Moses of the call God has on his life (that he will draw people out). And, at first, Moses says, “Here I am!” But, when God reminds Moses of God’s name, that they are the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, that they are the God who draws people out, well, then Moses goes and hides in a corner. 

I reckon, when it comes to answering God’s call for our lives, when it comes to Christian discipleship, our willingness to respond is directly related to whether or not we believe our bodies ‘fit’ for the task. And, I think it's the Christian theology of the incarnation, the idea that God so loves the world, God chooses to show up in a body, that reminds us just what kind of God is calling us. Why would God go through the trouble of having a body if God intended  people to spend their entire lives trying to escape them?

“Humans are a varied and divergent bunch, with all manner of beliefs, morals, values, and ideas,” Sonya Renee Taylor writes in her book. 

“We have struggled to find agreement on much of anything over the centuries” she continues. 

“[B]ut here is a completely noncontroversial statement I think we have consensus around: You, my dear, have a body. And should you desire to remain on this spinning rock hurtling through space, you will need a body to do it. . . . And given this widely agreed-upon reality, it seems to me if ever there were a place where the practice of radical love could be a transformative force, the body ought to be that location.”

I reckon, “You, my dear, have a body. And should you desire to remain on this spinning rock hurtling through space, you will need a body to do it” is effectively what God was saying to Moses through the burning bush. And, I reckon Jesus, God who comes to us in human flesh, I reckon Jesus also sees the body, every body, as a pretty good vehicle for radical love and transformation. 

Going through life hidden in our body-shame origin stories is a path that will always be readily available to us. How much more radical, how much more Christian, is the path of stepping forth into the call God has for our lives in the body God has for our lives? Amen.