No Body But Yours

John 1: 29-42
Tricia Dillon Thomas

Christ has no body but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
Yours are the eyes with which he looks
Compassion on this world.
Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good,
Yours are the hands, with which he blesses all the world.
Yours are the hands, yours are the feet,
Yours are the eyes, you are his body.
Christ has no body now but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
Yours are the eyes with which he looks
compassion on this world.
Christ has no body now on earth but yours.1


Toenails. Fingernails. Feet. Hands.

That's what I think of when I hear the poem by Teresa of /A'-vu-la/. It exemplifies incarnational theology. At its foundation, incarnational theology reminds us that God became incarnate-became flesh in Jesus Christ-to fully embody God's love for the world. We are called to be Jesus Christ to the world.2

What did Jesus' hands look like? What did his feet look like? I can't even imagine with all the walking.

I can tell you what my grandmother's looked like. My grandmother, I can only describe, as the closest person I witnessed being the Body of Christ. And her hands. They were awful. She never, ever got a manicure.

Her nails? Cracked. Uneven. Torn. Oh, and she had these ridges all along the nail. Like they weren't curved, but flat, tilt, flat, tilt. When I was a child I hoped I never inherited those nails. Those hands.

1 Terea of Avila (15‐15‐1582), "Christ Has No Body."
2 Rodger Nishokia, "John 1:29‐42: Pastoral Perspective." Pages 260‐ 5 in Feasting on the Word. Year A Volume 1 of Preaching the Revised Common Lectionary. Edited by David L.Bartlett and Barbara Brown Taylor. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press,2010.

And her toes? They were her fingernails and then some. When I was young Grandma had a Black Recluse bite her toe, and the nail got all gross and rotted. It was like the infection never healed and half of the toenail on the big toe was always kind of missing.

And I remember in the hospital room before Grandma was moved to hospice, my mom was cutting Grandma's toenails, which was just horrible because we both have this phobia of feet. And anyway, she just skipped right over that nasty ole big toe. And I mouthed to my mom, "Cut the big one, it's gross." Now it was gross and long. And my mom did that face where she's mouthing "no" with a clenched jaw to hush me up so Grandma wouldn't know mom had skipped over Big Nasty.

But what my grandmother did with those feet and those hands. She used those feet to bring her closer to whomever needed her. Her friends mourning the loss of spouses. Her children, grandchildren, and great- grandchildren when we just couldn't do it alone. She used those hands to drive friends and neighbors to doctor's appointments and to feed their cats and dogs when they were out of town. She used them to prepare each of our favorite meals and make her famous Chocolate Chip Cookies. Her hands were used them to answer phones at the church, count offering after worship, to help edit the bulletin. She used those hands to embrace the world¼ and scratch my back and head.

I've noticed in the past 10 years that my nails have started to flat, tilt, flat, tilt, and I don't even mind. In fact it's a blessing of a reminder, than I am a child of God, and I am called to be the hands and feet of Christ, no matter the burden. That I'm called to be the mouth, the tongue, the breath, no matter the sacrifice. No matter how ugly my hands and feet may get.

Let us hear now how the Spirit is speaking to her church.


My new favorite biblical character, John the Baptist sees Jesus walking toward him. He declares, "Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!" He's the one I was talking about when I said, "After me comes a man who ranks ahead of me because he was before me." Remember how I told you the one who sent me to baptize with water said the Messiah would be the one the dove descended on and stayed there?" That's him. He's the one! Jesus is the Son of God!"

And the next day, John is with his disciples when he sees Jesus again. Did you catch that? HIS disciples. John's Gospel is the only one that claims the disciples were his before following Jesus. We'll get back to that. John the Baptist is the first to witness to Jesus the Christ, perhaps the original evangelist. He proclaims, "Look, here is the Lamb of God." So the two disciples here this and they follow Jesus. Now Jesus, aware he's being followed turns and says, "What are you looking for?" And they say, "Where are you staying?" Jesus responds, "Come and see." This response from Jesus, "Come and see" seems weighty to me. It is beyond location to conduct. Come and see. And so they do. The disciples leave John and follow Jesus.

We learn that one of the disciples who left John and followed Jesus was Andrew. After spending the day with Jesus, Andrew is convinced and runs to find his loved ones to tell the good news. The first person he runs into is Simon Peter, his brother. And he announces: "We have found the Messiah!"

I'm not quite sure about the family dynamics of the sons of John, but in my family, there might have been a big smile to the tone of na-nana-na-na. And YOU didn't. But they were probably way more mature than our family.

So he announces we have found the Messiah, and they take off together towards Jesus.

We have found the Messiah!

So now what?

We have found the Messiah. You and me, and now what? Do we leave here and get back into our cars and go home, and do homework, and make dinner, and come back the next week?

Nails. Hands. Feet.

If the story ended here it would be a cliff hanger. You have found the Messiah and what? Nails? Hands? Feet? What are you going to do now that you have "Found the Messiah?" Isn't that the question for us all? What are we going to do now that we have "Found the Messiah?"

You know what else I love about this story? I love how it ends. Jesus meets Simon Peter, takes one look, and says, "You are Simon, son of John. You are to be called Cephas.

It means Peter.

Some of you know that names in the biblical tradition were really important. Peter means Stone or Rock. But here's something else. It can also mean rock-y.

Rocky. As in not perfect, not smooth, but flat.tilt.flat.tilt.

Peter was rocky. Not perfect. Always trying to please Jesus, and often messing things up. And if that doesn't make you feel good about being able to follow Christ...if he can do it flat.tilt.flat.tilt, then I can certainly try.

And Rocky. As in a little off? Flat.tilt.flat.tilt.

Well, Peter's brother was a follower of John the Baptist, and maybe he was too. And we know that guy was strange. Remember locusts? Honey? Camel's hair?

But I think Jesus means that we need to be rocky to follow him, too. Look, following Jesus Christ is risky business and it's foolish. I took a class once called the "Foolishness of the Gospel." If we hear what the Bible has to say, and we try to follow, we need to be a little rocky. We can't live how our peers and all the books, magazines, and TV shows tell us how to live. We can't live by the world's standards. We have to live as Jesus showed and taught us. He called us to word and deed. And this living, this foolish living it is both blessing and burden. It is reckless devotion. And it is rocky. Nails. Hands. Feet. Lips. Tongues. Breath. Rocky.

But it's not really a new concept to this church is it? Rocky. Rocks. Gratitude. It is our grateful response for the birth, life, death, and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ that moves us to be these nails and hands and feet.

May we be Christ's body on this earth.

May we be his hands and feet on this earth.

May we be the eyes with which he looks compassion on this world.

And may we each be a little rocky.