Muscle memory

December 27, 2010

For more commentary on this week's readings, see
the Reflections
on the Lectionary
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Athletes
and musicians talk about a thing called muscle memory. Our bodies know things,
and at the appropriate time they click into function, even if they're a bit
rusty. We don't even think about it.

But
muscle memory is more than just physical. It is spiritual, too. Our bodies,
words made flesh, carry spiritual lessons and realities far beyond the time
when our thinking selves forget.

I played
in the concert band when I was in high school. Before our large winter
production, we would give each other carnations. On our music stands, we would
leave each other a single flower, complete with notes of good will, good luck,
the occasional flirtation with a flute player. With more than 100 musicians
giving their gifts, the concert hall was saturated in carnation smell each
night.

To this
day, whenever I smell the cheap flower, I feel inspired, loved and a little bit
flirty. I cannot help it. My body reminds me.

Our
spiritual words work this way, too. Over time they become flesh and dwell among
us. If inspiration is a carnation, then confession is certainly the way ash
gets stuck under your fingernails after burning all that brush in a November
fire. Resurrection is of course the smell of a lily but also the look of a
sundress after months of winter gray.

If the
word becomes flesh, than muscle memory is not just about muscles. It is about
spirits incarnate with Christ in the mystery of the word made flesh so that our
flesh, reminded, can bring us back to God again.