This article originally appeared on Sarah Kinzer's Blog.
Worship must be embodied.
Ministry must be embodied.
Faith must be embodied.
This is an undeniable fact.
We worship a God who put on flesh and dwelt among us, so how can we deny that our bodies, our presence, play an essential role in expressing our belief in that kind of God? We can’t!
Prior to 2020 much of the conversation involving “embodiment” was focused on involving our bodies in our worship, in our service, in our acts of faith. The word was used to communicate a need to take our faith from the conceptual or theoretical to the practical living out what we say we believe. However after the pandemic shut down in person gatherings and pressed everyone online, the usage of this word began to shift.
Embodied worship was no longer a discussion of should we lift our hands in worship, but what location should we worship. Embodied ministry was no longer a discussion of taking the concept of caring for the poor in tangible ways, but how soon can we serve communion again.
Embodied faith was no longer a discussion of applying what we read in Scripture, but reading Scripture in the physical presence of others.
In essence, embodiment shifted from a discussion of practical application to proxemics.
People will still say, “We are called to embodied worship!” I absolutely agree. Our physical bodies must be involved in our faith. This does not nullify online church, digital discipleship or social media ministry.
Shared physical presence is simply not a non-negotiable aspect of our faith. A person driving in their car singing along to their favorite praise song, a person picking up litter from the side of the road, a person praying in their room, are all involved in worship, ministry and faith. Their bodies are involved in those acts as well. These acts are both individual and embodied.
Jesus even made it clear that physical presence was not required where ministry was concerned. He gives us examples of embodied faith which is lived out in life changing ways where he never crosses paths with the person he healed. One such example is found in Matthew 8. We read the story of a centurion who comes to Jesus seeking the healing of his servant. Jesus asks specifically, “Shall I come and heal him?” The centurion replies, “No, I say come and go and my men obey. I believe all you need to do is say so and it will happen.” Jesus praised this man’s faith saying, “I tell you, I have not found such great faith even in Israel.” When Jesus is finished praising the faith of the man and warning those around who lack this kind of faith, he says, “Go! Let it be done just as you believed it would.” And his servant was healed at that moment.
Jesus is ready to go and be physically present with the suffering servant, ready to do ministry in whatever way the centurion needed to have his faith affirmed. Jesus did not become confused by the suggestion of or advise against a remote healing. All authority had been given to him to do just that kind of work and the centurion recognized that authority.
Jesus continues to reaffirm that the work of God is more than proxemics. In John 16, Jesus makes the point that he cannot stay on Earth in the flesh. He must leave so that the Spirit may come. The Spirit is to come and convict and lead and guide and illuminate truth. The Spirit will come and fill the people of God equipping them to do great works of God. If a physical body located next to a physical body was required for ministry then Jesus would not have left. However we have been given the unembodied presence of God to dwell within us so that we might become the embodiment of faith to a lost and broken world.
The Spirit of God will not be constrained.
Not by physical bodies and not by wifi.
This does not presume that God does not use our physical bodies to comfort, to heal, to serve, to care for others. Jesus made it abundantly clear that he was willing to make physical contact where others would avoid it. A Triune God absolutely values gathering together. But there just simply isn’t a case that God limits our worship, limits our service or limits our faith to a physical location or a physical body.
My hope for the church is that we would embrace that God who is so big, so powerful, so limitless that we would worship and minister and have faith even when we are separated by space.
Should I come and heal?
No. I belive you only need to speak. I believe you are Sovereign Lord.
I have not found such great faith.
May it be said of me, too.
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