Yesterday, you understood a little; today, you understand better; tomorrow, you will understand better still: the light of God is growing in you. (St. Augustine of Hippo)
The Word became flesh and made his home among us. We have seen his glory, glory like that of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth. (John 1:14; context)
This Lent, we are exploring our faith by running through the alphabet. Today, “I” is for Incarnate. I was struggling to come up with “I” words (all I could come up with was “Idolatry,” but I used that last year) so I am grateful for the suggestion of wonderful woman at my church. I daresay the word “incarnate” is not one you use on a daily basis. It assuredly falls into the camp of “church” word. This is a problem for we followers of Jesus who seek to take our spiritual lives out of the confines of the church and into the world. So how can we liberate the word “incarnate” from its Sunday internment.
First, I should probably remind you where you hear the word most often. If you’ve ever recited the Nicene Creed, then you’ve said the word “incarnate.” The Creed states: “[B]y the power of the Holy Spirit [Jesus] became incarnate from the Virgin Mary, and was made man.” This line in the Creed is where 99% of all uses of the word “incarnate” come. (Yes, I just made up that statistic.)
So how do we liberate the word for our use during the rest of the week? In fact, it’s easier than you might think; indeed, it is vital to remember the lesson of the Incarnation as we go about our daily lives. Do you see the “carn” in the middle of the word. Yes? Excellent. This is the same root that appears in the word “carn-ivore.” That’s right — “carn” means “flesh,” or more descriptively “meat.”
When we profess that the Son of God became incarnate, we are using polite language for something a little more down and dirty — the Son of God put on flesh and bones, muscle, sinew, blood, skin, hair. And with those he got all the stuff that goes with them: body odor, sunburn, stubbed toes, sprained ankles, sore neck, thirst, exhaustion. (Not to mention the ability to embrace and shake hands and look you in the eye…and die on a cross.)
But if this incarnate thing stopped with Jesus we wouldn’t be telling the whole story. Paul reminds us that we are the Body of Christ and each individually members of it. Thus, when we leave the church on Sunday morning (filled once again with the Eucharistic Body and Blood of Jesus Christ) we have the opportunity to embody Christ in the lives of other people, to be the flesh and bones which Jesus uses to fulfill his continuing work today.
Dear God, thank you for sending your Son to take on the full human life as one of us. Help me to be an incarnation of your love and peace in this world. In Jesus Christ’s name I pray. Amen.
I leave this moment with you, God, thankful that you continue to shine your light in my heart and mind, that I may continue to know you better through every way that you choose to reveal yourself.
3 thoughts on ““I” is for Incarnate (Feb. 25, 2013)”
A while back I had two members of the clergy here visiting. I told them my life circumstances make it virtually impossible for me to get out to church at normal church time. I asked them point blank if there might be people in their pews who would be willing to come visit me once a month for communion, community, and bible study. They both said “No.” Just yesterday I was talking to a friend in another state and she said she’s had the same experience. She remarked that the church isn’t the way it used to be. That being Christian used to mean you would reach out to people even if it was inconvenient, even if you really just didn’t want to, because that was what it meant to be a follower of Christ. I can remember those days, too. I think “incarnation” is the foundation of Christianity we have forgotten. Jesus did more than be our pathway to salvation … Jesus put on some skin and came to where we are … even though it was often an unpleasant and eventually a fatal thing to do!! I think Christians are called to be “incarnate” … to be Christ with skin on … to those God puts them among.
Ms. Doohan’s comment strikes at my heart, especially since I am one of the Eucharistic Visitors (formerly Lay Eucharistic Visitors) at my parish in San Diego. Out whole purpose is to bring Communion to those who can’t come to church.
A related question, though, might be “Is there a church that offers services at non-normal times?”
Actually I’ve brought up the idea to the congregations to have something like a “Lord’s lunch” some Sunday on a regular basis and have the congregation share an agape meal eucharist around noon and then stay together for a bit of study and prayer and song. There was a sense no one would be interested/willing to change their normal routine that much. If my house was suitable I think I’d just put an ad in the local paper and see if I could generate some interest in having it here, but our place is literally a wreck in the middle of nowhere. I know there are folks who “meet” on-line for worship and study, but I’m not yet convinced “incarnate” is something one can be virtually, There’s a commercial on TV that depicts people having a business meeting on something like Skype … that might be an alternative, but I’m still not sure it would be the same as meeting in person.