Sermon: Body Language


I think the fact that we’ve been doing a lot of baptisms over the past few months is a wonderful thing; baptisms for people of all ages. And it’s great that so many of our young families have been having new babies. It means that our little extended church family is growing. There’s new life in our congregation. And, I’m sure you’ll agree with me, that’s a very good thing.

A couple of weeks ago, I had the great of joy of visiting our newest addition; a precious two month baby girl. And I got to hold her in my arms, sit and rock her for quite a while. And that was wonderful. I don’t get the chance to do that very much anymore. It brought back so many wonderful memories—of my niece and nephew, and so many great nieces and nephews, when they were first born. They change so much and grow so fast in those first few years of life.

At that very early stage of life, the primary task is ESP: eat, sleep and (well…you know). But before you know if, they’re rolling over from back to stomach by themselves; then pushing themselves up with their hands, and eventually getting their knees underneath them; and then they start to crawl. Next thing you know they are pulling themselves up on the coffee table and doing that `baby watusi.’ And then they are toddling everywhere and getting into everything.

Having babies changes everything for everyone else, too.

When my niece Emily and her husband Paul were expecting their first, Anderson, like any good young parents, they put a lot of time and energy into preparing for the baby’s arrival: making the necessary adjustments to the house; painting the upstairs guestroom blue, bringing in various baby paraphernalia (cribs, blankets, clothing, toys, etc.).

They even bought a little video baby monitor; they imagined together how happy the new baby would be sleeping in his beautiful new room down at the other end of the hall from their own haven master bedroom.

I remember Poppa, Emily’s grandfather, at the time saying, “I’m not sure they have any idea what they’re in for.”

Reality hit when Anderson routinely refused to be put down in his crib (which eventually had to be moved to the master bedroom). From that encroachment, Anderson would wake up crying with such frequency, that the only way they could keep him quiet (and get any semblance of sleep for themselves) was to put him in bed between them.

When Anderson became a toddler, daddy Paul went around putting those baby locks on all the cabinet doors (except for the one with the pots and pans, which I kind of thought was a mistake). But life is all about trying things out, doing the best you can, making mistakes along with way, learning lessons from those mistakes, and making the necessary adjustments.

Emily and Paul now have two beautiful boys—Anderson, who just turned five, and now Miles, who is two and a half. When we were in Wichita visiting last month, I asked Emily if they were planning to have another baby. She told, “Not until I finally get some sleep.”

But then, that’s life. That’s the process of growth.

Life is all about making adjustments; physical/bodily, emotional, psychological, relational, spiritual, residential adjustments. Emily and Paul’s guestroom became known as “grandma’s room,” according to my sister.

From the very moment we are born, we spend our lives adjusting to these bodies, adapting to the wide world around us, learning how to respond to the people we encounter: first our parents and other family members. And then, as we become increasingly capable, mobile and independent, we have to learn to deal with countless others who will parade through our lives: playmates, teachers, doctors, classmates, spouses, children—all of which require continual adjustments to be made.

Having a baby is perhaps one of the biggest adjustments of all. Because it involves all of the above mentioned categories of adjustment wrapped up in one little package of endless, joyful, glorious – at times problematic – potential.

“Beyond the risks and costs of raising children today,” said G. Curtis Jones, “having a baby is an act of faith and hope. It represents a belief in better things to come.” Or, to perhaps put it in a bit more romantic terms, as another has said: “When a wrong needs righting, a truth needs telling, a song needs singing, a soul needs saving—God sends a baby into the world to accomplish it.”

But, you know, those very same things could be said about the church, too. That, through Jesus Christ, God gave birth to his infant church as `an act of faith and hope; a representation of better things to come.’

There was a good reason that the Apostle Paul used this body language analogy to talk to the suckling church: “…I could not speak to you as spiritual people, but rather as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ. I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for solid food. Even now you are still not ready, for you are still of the flesh.” [1 Cor. 3:1-3]

It seems like just yesterday I was babysitting my infant niece Emily, playing with her on the floor, feeding her baby food, changing her diapers; even though now she seems so grown up, as a responsible, dedicated new mother. And no matter how old she gets, I will still see in her the precious infant I once held in my arms.

And I know that no matter how much Anderson and Miles grow up, Emily and Paul will always see them as their precious children, too. And, I’m sure that their boys will always see Emily as `mommy’ and Paul as `daddy;’ someone they can look up to, depend upon, be nurtured and parented by

From the perspective of our life-times, the two thousand year old church may seem ancient indeed—steeped in tradition and perhaps set in her ways. I am quite sure, however, that it doesn’t seem that way to the Ancient of Days; to an Infinite God; to the One for whom a thousand years are but a watch in the night, the span of our life-times but a sigh. [Ps. 90:9]

To the eternal God, the fledgling church must still seem very much in its infancy; just barely pulling itself upright, toddling about on wobbly, unsteady, unstable, uncertain legs, clinging to anything solid it can get its hands on.

In fact, sometimes I wonder if God ever sees any of us, his precious children, as anything but infants; just babes in the woods. Just little children dressing up and trying to act like adults; stumbling forward in Daddy’s oversized shoes. Little children trying so hard to grow into these awkward, ever changing bodies, struggling to make the necessary adjustments as we go.

And sometimes, when those adjustments become particularly difficult, even unwanted, we have to remind ourselves that our heavenly Father gave us these bodies – gifted us this challenging life as a precious gift – that we might experience intimately the glories of his creation; to be in communion with the One who gave us life; and to grow up into the body of Christ that we might become truly “members one of another,” as the Apostle Paul put it.

That we might finally learn to relate to the other members of the body with care, compassion, nurturance, patience, tolerance and love. Lord knows that, as we get older, the adjustments we have to make for our own aging bodies require a great of all of the above.

Certainly, the older we get the more it becomes apparent that we are given these bodies, this life, this time on the earth, only as a loan.

Perhaps one of the last – and most important – adjustments we must make is to learn what the great French philosopher Pierre Teilhard de Chardin once said, “We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a human experience.”

“Precious in the sight of God is the death of His saints.” [Ps. 116:15]

As precious as a Parent with Infinite love for their children could possibly have. So precious, in truth, that Christ was given to the world that those children might be drawn, at last, unto the eternal bosom. And that, sisters and brothers, is a part of life as well. Life in Christ.