"Fat and Faithful" excerpt

"Fat and Faithful" excerpt

Nicole is the kind of person you want to be your pastor, your mom and your friend. She exudes peace—peace with God, peace with herself and peace enough to share with others. Today we get to share her voice and wisdom with you through an excerpt from her new book, Fat and Faithful.

Imagine the scene. The table is set with food. Jesus, Simon, and the other guests are reclined about the table, eating their meal. The Pharisees are, as always, on the lookout for evidence of the way Jesus disrupts their world and order. They quickly find a reason when a woman enters the home and approaches Jesus. We know from the story that her worth is questionable in the eyes of the guests at the table because “she lived a sinful life” (Luke 7:37, NIV). However, this woman has seen or felt something to be true about Jesus, and she comes to honor him with a jar of perfume. She pushes back against the rules that say her body dictates what she is allowed to do, the faith she is allowed to express, or the love she is allowed to share. She washes Jesus’s feet with her tears, dries them with her hair, and then anoints them with her jar of expensive perfume. Her whole body is engaged in this act of love and devotion. Her body, in the eyes of many, has been wasted. It has been misused. The men at the table believe that she has failed to honor her temple and can imagine no scenario in which she is worthy to engage with them, in which she has anything to offer the family of God or the world. Yet still she comes with her tears and her long, flowing hair and her jar of expensive perfume that came into her possession at a cost we will never know. If her body is wasted as they say it is, then she has nothing to lose in wasting this perfume, too. She pours out all her wealth, all she has to offer, in service and praise of the one who shows her that she is not wasted after all—that she is not used up or too much. Jesus accepts her offering and her love; he does not recoil from her touch.

Simon sneers that Jesus would send her away if he only knew who was touching him, if he knew “what kind of woman she is—that she is a sinner” (Luke 7:39, NIV). Jesus does not turn her away. Jesus honors her body, even the parts deemed shameful and sinful. The Pharisees are shocked that Jesus welcomes and accepts a woman whose body is viewed as worthless by the men and leaders around her because it does not meet their standards for purity and respectability. Jesus rejects this narrative by reminding the Pharisees that they, too, are sinners.

The church is full of sinners—thin sinners, fat sinners. We are each called to participate in the life of the church, to welcome the stranger and the outcast to the table. We are each called to offer our lives and bodies up in service to the Creator God in our calling to love God, love neighbors, and love even our enemies. Our bodies, no matter how far out of conventional bounds they are, do not disqualify us from participating in this venture together with the whole body of Christ. To exclude another’s body is to mock the grace and inclusive love of Jesus who honors the gift of tears and ointment from the woman who empties herself to honor him.

I used to be a member of a small church that met in a beautiful sanctuary. Behind the altar was a massive stained-glass window, and the sun shone brilliantly through the blues and purples and grays every Sunday morning, lighting up the large room and the wooden beams across the high arched ceiling. That weekly service included a few moments of traditional liturgy. We said, “Thanks to be God” together after the reading of Scripture, walked forward to dip our piece of Communion bread into a common goblet, and each week sang the doxology and recited the Lord’s Prayer in unison. I tried to tune into the individual voices in the congregation as we said the Lord’s Prayer. Some weeks, there was a voice that rose above the crowd; other weeks, we seemingly spoke as one. Some weeks, the quiet hiss of an oxygen tank was the most prominent voice, keeping us in rhythm. A preteen boy was a part of the congregation, one of only a few children, and he loved the Lord’s Prayer. He would listen intently for the pastor’s cue that we were about to begin the prayer. One week, he beat us all to the start and excitedly rushed through the familiar words. There was a bit of confusion, and then the congregation sped up and he slowed down until we all were reciting, in unison, “Thy kingdom come . . . on earth as it is in heaven.” This communal prayer as we gathered together as a church each week became one of my favorite spiritual practices—the bodies and unique abilities and personalities of each person making themselves known in those few moments. This is what community looks like: individual voices for a common prayer. We could have chosen to shush the overexcited boy and instruct him on the proper pacing of the prayer. Instead, he was welcome with all his eagerness and excitement and the lack of polish that came with his youthful exuberance. We did that prayer together, and we all learned to accommodate for the other while we found the pace that worked.

I hear from the world and from the church that my fat body is too much for them. The world tells me that feasting and joy and grand displays are wrong because I’ve already had enough, that my body is too much and too conspicuous. But Jesus shows up on the scene and doesn’t care when the woman who has been told that her body is too much goes for one more extravagant indulgence to thank him for his inclusion and love. She is an integral, needed part of the community of faith.

Throughout Scripture, we hear a message repeated: “Open your doors a little wider. Make more room at the table.”  When we exclude people, either because we fail to effectively combat the secular norms about what a good body is or because we don’t have baptismal robes in a full range of sizes, we damage our ability to fully welcome everyone into the body of Christ.

Purchase Fat and Faithful here.

Our live interview with Nicole on the Rise Facebook page: 


Excerpt from Fat and Faithful by J Nicole Morgan copyright © 2018 Fortress Press. Reproduced by permission. No further reproduction allowed without the written permission of Fortress Press. Contact copyright@1517.media.

 

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