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Wholeness and Healing
Wholeness and Healing

Our Bodies Are Wholly Holy

Thursday, October 5, 2023

“A woman … was bent over and quite unable to stand up straight.… When [Jesus] laid his hands on her, immediately she stood up straight and began praising God.” —Luke 13:11–13

Lutheran minister and public theologian Nadia Bolz-Weber offers a sermon on the sacred nature of the human body:

I want to start by saying from the pulpit to you who live in bodies which society deem as broken or deficient—that you are already whole…. Today I speak of the woman with the bent back [Luke 13:10–17] allegorically and metaphorically and spiritually and not as a commentary on the bodies of any of God’s children specifically.

But also the woman with the bent back has made me think a lot about the bodies of God’s children specifically. Our individual containers of the holy. These inconvenient and disappointing and majestic wonders of God that carry us through this life from womb to tomb.…

I do not know her story but I do know that the designations society places on us when our bodies are deemed too much or too little—too fat, too mannish, not masculine enough, too Black, not small enough, too loud, not pretty enough, too limited, not young enough—that the man-made designations our God-made bodies are given can add up—so much so that it can feel like a spirit is binding us, keeping us from taking up the space our dignity affords us as children of the most high.

Jesus restores the woman’s posture and the way she relates to her community:

She stands up straight, her shoulders back, her chin raised, her eyes available to give and receive light and love and recognition. She stands among them with the full dignity afforded her by her creator….

I do not know the designations that the world has given you, or the things that have been said about your body or done to your body. I do not know what binds you. But … how amazing is it that a human body is also what God chose to take on to be with us? … That God would, as we say, slip into skin and walk among us … that God would choose to make God’s home in an actual human body—in the person of Jesus of Nazareth….

All of this is to say, that God saves you IN your body, not FROM your body. Your body is in the same form and substance as that which God chose to put on and walk among us as Jesus. Your body is holy and beautiful to God—your young, old, fit, fat, cis, queer, disabled, strong body. For after all, it is the human body in which God placed God’s image, the imago dei. God could have chosen to place the imago dei—the image of God—in the mountains, but instead she put it in our bodies. We might experience the awesomeness of God in the mountains … but we see the image of God in the human body in all its perfectly glorious diversity.


Nadia Bolz-Weber, “Human Bodies and the Image of God: A Sermon on Shame and Healing,” The Corners (blog), August 22, 2022. Used with permission.

Image credit: A path from one week to the next—Alma Thomas, The Eclipse (detail), 1970, acrylic on canvas, Smithsonian. Alma Thomas, Snow Reflections on Pond (detail), 1973, acrylic on canvas, Smithsonian. Alma Thomas, Snoopy—Early Sun Display on Earth (detail), 1970, acrylic on canvas, Smithsonian. Click here to enlarge image.

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I am the youngest of ten children. My father had a very hard job and I used to think he didn’t love me enough. Contemplative practice has been a key part of healing from my difficult memories. Fr. Richard describes contemplation as “a long, loving look at the real,” a phrase I have used as my guide for deep healing. The transformational joy I have experienced from contemplative practice is so much deeper than simple happiness, which comes and goes. I am grateful to be learning how to see my life in an entirely new way. My simple hope is to continue to become a bit more human each day. The goal of embracing a “loving look at the real” is the renewable fuel that keeps my faith alive. —David S.

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