Thursday, July 9, 2015

The Body is . . .

On December fifth, 1914 Ernest Shackleton headed out on an expedition to the North Pole, with hopes of being the first to reach its center. He and his crew sailed south from England and over a month and a half later, were stuck in the thick ice. For some time Shackleton and his men worked hard to break the ship free from the ice, moving at an alarmingly slow pace until, on February 24th the ship was abandoned of any routine and converted to a winter station as the boat drifted northward with the ice it had been lodged in. The crew remained on the converted ship for months, eating the sparse rations they had brought for the voyage, hoping for a spring thaw to release them from the ice, however, in October (Antarctica's spring) the hull could no longer take the pressure and water began pouring in, forcing the men to abandon the ship towards the end of November--almost a full year after leaving England.

Shackleton and his men remained on the ice flow for nearly two months as it continued to drift north towards Elephant Island, constantly making attempts to reach nearer to the coast by sled. On March 17, 1916, the ice camps on the moving flow of ice began to break apart sixty miles from Elephant Island. 346 miles away from their abandoned ship, the Endurance, the men got into their lifeboats and sailed for twenty-four days, finally making it to the distant island.

After some time to recuperate, Shackleton, along with two others left in one of the small dingy's and made their way to South Georgia--a small island, and harbor for whalers. After nearly two weeks on the small boat, sailing through terrible storms, they arrived on the opposite side of the island as the whaler station. Ernest, and his companions soon left to hike over the mountain--a 32-mile journey--that stood between them and the small town. Arriving the following day, covered in grime, oil, and looking much worse for the wear they spent the next four months attempting to sail back to Elephant Island. Finally, on the third attempt they reached the small island, finding all of the men still there, alive, having lived off of seal meat for the four months they'd been trapped there.

This story is remarkable. Not only is it a survival story of the finest, but it is complemented by the fact that not one man was lost during the struggle. It was through the men's shared interest (in living) that got them through the year and a half's experience. It was not only their interest in survival for their own preservation but in the mutual desire to help one another survive the ordeal.

In 1 Corinthians 12:12-25 we read of the importance of unity and diversity in the body of Christ.
Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts from one body, so it is with Christ. 1 Cor 12:12, (NIV)
In Romans, chapter 12, Paul further expounds on this idea by adding, "and each member belongs to the others." This small distinction makes a very important point in our understanding of the body of Christ. Not only are we to act together, as one, but we belong to one another. It is this connection that I find is an important one to understand. The word "belong" implies much more than simply working together, it gives an obligation to each of us to be an active participant within others lives. More specifically, an active participant in each other's "survival". Samuel Brown, in his book First Principles and Ordinances says of this idea, "our participation in physical existence is part of what unites us with Christ" (143).

When we hear, "your body is a temple," taken from 1 Cor. 6:19, we are typically reminded of the false understanding of the "body" representing ourselves in an attempt to get us to treat our own persons with one form of respect or another. While this sentiment is not to be discouraged, it false short of the mark that the scripture actually represents. Rather than viewing the body on an individualized scale, it is important that we remember that this scripture references the "body of Christ" rather than ourselves. Furthermore, the use of the word "temple" helps us understand the sanctity and importance of the message being addressed in the sixth chapter of Corinthians.

Again, in regards to this, Samuel Brown says, "When we worship in the temple, we are locating ourselves in the universe, in the interlocking networks of particles, people, and planets" (145). Having this connection, belonging to one another, being an intricate part of everything (persons, places, and things--all nouns) in ways that bring about empathetic relationships must be the way to allow all of us to be saved--all. It is through Christ's infinite (infinite must be an important word here) atonement that each and every person may--no, will--be saved. If we are to truly believe that the atonement is infinite, we must also believe that our ability to unite with Christ is also infinite.

In my mind, the phrase "your body is a temple" unites us in significant ways. Not only through our mutual benefit, but through a mutual understanding of "belonging" to one another. Through seeing not others as a part of ourselves, but ourselves a part of others.

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