Sermon for October 3, 2021  World Wide Communion        “Love God with all your body”

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, body and spirit, and you will love your neighbour as yourself” These ancient words were repeated by Jesus as one of the principle guides for faithful, wholehearted living. The direction to love your body may at first scan be a bit odd but a closer look at the root meaning from the Hebrew tradition will expand our understanding and place this care and love for body on par with the others.

With thanks to the Jewish teacher Mary Okkema we begin with her work: “There are some words which no one should attempt to translate from Hebrew,” to quote my current Hebrew teacher. Sometimes the meaning is so rich, to translate it into one or two specific terms greatly diminishes it. Such is the case for the word me’odeka. In this portion of the second phrase of the Shema found in Deuteronomy 6:5 we are told to “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, with all your body” … but what is all (your) me’odeka?”

Mary goes on to share her story of getting in shape and says she did not know how her body all worked until she started doing group fitness and pushing herself to be in better shape. She had to give it her all or she describes all her umph. The definition of me’odeka in the biblical glossary is: “exceedingly, much, force or abundance,” but it means so much more! I am sure that we are familiar with the idea of putting our whole body into effort. It may be elite training as an athlete, preparing for and finishing a long hike, bike trip or mountain climb, it may be the controlled energy to make a finesse shot or it may be the umph it takes just to get out of bed. I started a spin class a few weeks ago, I was planning to take it easy as it has been some time since I was at a spin class. I was doing ok, then the instructor said faster…so I did, then faster…and I did and thought this is it, no more faster for me, then the frantic urging…faster and then faster…ten more seconds give it all you got and I discovered I had a bit more. All my umph.

As we celebrate Communion with our sisters and brothers around the world we are afforded a glimpse of the vastness of the ‘Body of Jesus’ and what that means for our faith life. As we eat the bread and drink the wine that represents the body and blood of Jesus we become aware that this simple feast will soon be a very real part of our body. But more than that our spirits and hearts and minds are transformed by the love of Jesus as we continue the long journey of being and becoming followers of Jesus in all aspects of our lives.

For those who first shared this meal with Jesus the words were likely confusing. Jesus had talked of his death but humans of every age are prone to say ‘lets not talk about that now, maybe later’ and so this addition to the customary prayers would have been unusual. I imagine the words were filled with deep love, emotion oozing out of each word and spoken while eyes filled with tears. It was not until later that those first followers felt the impact of the words. And every meal was a reminder of Jesus…’for as often as you eat this bread and drink this wine…remember me’…every meal a reminder.

May it be so in our lives. That remembering is not a ‘once in a while’ thing but part of our every meal where we share bread and drink. May we so humble, so energized, so committed, to love God and Jesus with all our umph.