Aquatics class helps minister see Earth as God's body
She is not the only one who has called Earth God's body, but theologian Sally McFague has used that metaphor convincingly in her writings.
The image emphasizes how closely related Divine Being is with every part of the world. There is no part of the world from which Divine Presence is removed. Just as in my own body, there is no part which is not a part of me.
In my swimming group, actually my Aquatic Arthritis group, we all concentrate on our body in one way or another. Painful joints, lethargic muscles, slowing metabolism rates can all be found in our friendly water community.
We all realize that our body is a system, made up of a myriad of cells, all functioning with various degrees of efficiency. I happen to think that each cell has a kind of independence, however minor.
Most of the time single cells are most highly influenced by their immediate environment. They behave in a way to harmonize with their surroundings. Most of the time the cells are cooperative and participate in the well-being of the whole person, namely me.
But sometimes they can have "a mind of their own" apart from the well-being of my body. They might act out by becoming wayward, infectious or cancerous.
Such erratic cells are not given "time out" as a part of some kind of domestic discipline. Often the body, in a self-organizing tactic, can take care of the errant cells. But other times they might have to be encouraged to get back into cooperating with the entire bodily system. Exercise, nutrition, rest and medication could help to persuade those wayward little critters to work for the welfare of the entire body. In extreme cases, surgery might be necessary.
Even though my cells are unconscious, they are not unaware of their environment within a body. Individual as they are, they still need to pay attention to the whole, to the entire body, to me. On my part, I try to do what I can to influence the cellular life in my body. But I do have to realize my limitations. I cannot control all of them. At most, I believe, I might be able to influence them.
Much of this "body talk" is analogous to "God talk," as I see it. The world, as God's body, can respond to the vision of the Whole when we, as individuals and societies, respond to the highest values that we associate with the Divine Vision. For the most part we know what such a vision entails. Justice, love, peace, adventure, compassion are components of that vision.
But God does not control the outcome of the actions of the individuals, just as I do not control the action and responses of the cells within my body. The key term is influence. To say that God influences the decisions made by the creatures of the world is not to say that God controls such behavior.
The character of divine influence is best described as persuasion - or, if you like, as love. It is cosmic love that draws individual entities to the best expression of truth, beauty and goodness.
Perhaps the entire community needs to join in with our Aquatic Arthritis class to exercise their role in the "divine body."
Fritz Fritschel is a retired Lutheran minister.