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Good morning. Not many sculptures become famous, but at least one in our time has, The Angel of the North. Those driving North on the A 1 to Tyneside or those travelling on the East Coast main line can see it looming over the countryside, 24 metres tall with a wingspan of 54 metres. Its wings are angled 3.5 degrees forward to express what the sculptor Sir Anthony Gormley, called “a sense of embrace”.
Like so much of his work it is based on a cast of his own body. And the body was the subject of a fascinating discussion last night between Anthony Gormley and Rowan Williams at the Royal Academy. Anthony Gormley has said that he bases so much of his work on casts of his own body because as he put it, "it is the closest experience of matter that I will ever have and the only part of the material world that I live inside." He treats the body not as an object but a place and in making works that enclose the space of a particular body tries to identify a condition common to all human beings.
We human beings are not just minds or spirit, the Christian faith, like Judaism, values the body and regards physical life as good . We are embodied, body, mind and spirit bound up together. The ancient story in Genesis simply pictures us as clay which has been breathed into life.
We now have a much fuller picture of that living clay. According to a generally accepted figure we are made of an astonishing 37.2 trillion cells, with each cell being formed of 100 trillion atoms. Each atom, each cell, busy being itself to combine in every more complex ways to form this being- which is you and me,- which can feel and touch and see and hear and think and choose and recognise right and wrong and love and pray. No wonder the psalmist was impelled to cry out I will give thanks unto thee, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvellous are thy works, and that my soul knoweth right well. (Psalm 139, 13).
So respect for the body as good, one's own and other people’s, is the bottom line for a Christian understanding of the body-one which will be shared by others with different world views; and why damaging excesses with drugs or alcohol are a failure to respect ones own body, and sexual abuse, promiscuity and prostitution are terrible failures to respect the bodies of others. Paul put it very bluntly-too bluntly perhaps for some people’s tastes today.
Do you not know that your body is a temple of the indwelling Holy Spirit? Then honour God in your body.