Beautiful Bodies

Worship with body and soul

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by Donna Sinclair

It’s one of the Lenten readings this year, from Paul’s letter to the Romans. “But if Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness.” As we chose our assignments for a much-loved congregational tradition — a collection of reflections by members and friends of our church — it fell to me.

And I thought, oh dear. Here we go again. Mind-body split. Or maybe soul-body split, with our poor human bodies considered unpleasing to God, while our more ethereal, spiritual selves (whatever they may be) are God’s beloved.


St. Paul’s teaching about the body, here, just doesn’t work for women. It’s impossible for us to consider our bodies unpleasing to God, when such a profoundly spiritual event as giving birth — messy, bloody, exhausting, dangerous — is so completely physical and embodied.

Similarly, it doesn’t work for canoeists or skiers, hikers or cyclists, anyone who knows the delight of pushing tired muscles past where they want to go, and tasting the reward of accomplishment and sweat.

Dancers. Farmers, producing wonders from their own labour. Fishers, carpenters, masons, loggers, gardeners. What was Paul thinking, contrasting this hymn of praise to the invisible against this outright condemnation of the material world, the living physical world of trees and mushrooms and human bodies and potatoes? For every physical being — except, apparently, Christians —“the body is dead because of sin,” says Paul. Christians would be exempt, because “you are not in the flesh; you are in the Spirit.”

I absolutely disagree.

Perhaps Paul didn’t know how foolish and outright dangerous this idea could be. If “the Spirit of Christ” is required for righteousness, after all, then a President Trump can decide that non-Christians (especially, right now, Muslims) don’t have it. Therefore, they must be banned from his Republic.

Perhaps this error came from Paul’s lack of opportunity to see God in a blue jay, an otter, or a moose. Because that’s how I know that God’s Spirit is fiercely alive in every intricate creature, in bones and hearts and delicate genetic maps that tell each tooth and limb where and how to grow.

In any case, I believe that we — the inheritors of Paul’s letters and his otherwise reliable wisdom — need to know this: the beautiful, divine, life-giving Spirit of God already lives, joyously, in us and throughout everything and everyone on Earth. There is no sin in flesh. None.

So I believe. And so I try to live as if God dwells in all the world, even the patient rocks that crumble and reform over the eons.

I’m seldom successful. An oil spill, a building without beauty, a harsh word (including mine) a broken promise (including mine) can all hide God from my sight. But that makes no difference. Because I also know the part that Paul got right, here, in his letter to the Romans: “The Spirit.. will give life.. through his Spirit who dwells in you.” Yes. The Spirit who dwells in us all, of every faith and none; and in our lovely planet Earth, alive in every atom of its being. And in our wonderful human bodies, each of — old, young, fit or frail, all alive and beautiful.

A journalist for more than 30 years, Donna Sinclair is an award-winning writer who has traveled widely in Canada, Africa, Central America, Britain, and Eastern Europe. Her most recent book is The Long View: An Elderwoman’s Book of Wisdom. She is also the author of The Spirituality of Bread, The Spirituality of Gardening, A Woman’s Book of Days, A Woman’s Book of Days 2, and numerous other titles. Donna lives with her husband Jim in North Bay, Ontario.

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Categories: Christian Life, Christianity, Donna Sinclair, Spiritual Growth

Author:Wood Lake Publishing

At Wood Lake Publishing we are passionate about supporting and encouraging an emerging form of Christianity, which is rooted in ancient wisdom and attentive to the movement of spirit in our day. Visit us online at


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One Comment on “Beautiful Bodies”

  1. April 12, 2017 at 7:46 pm #

    I don’t think that it says that our bodies are unpleasing to God. Admittedly, there are a lot of right-of-center Christian theologies that would say that. But I think Paul is referencing the effect of sin on the body. Because if bodies were unpleasing,why would God resurrect ours at the end times? Why would He have become one and walked here? Yes, context.

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