I didn't get to preach last week because of an ice storm, which may be why I am still thinking about the finite bearing the infinite. Or maybe it's the texts.
Paul says at the end of Galatians, "From now on, let no one make trouble for me; for I carry the marks of Jesus branded on my body" (NRSV). RSV is better: "I bear on my body the marks of Jesus." In Greek, the word for "marks" is stigmata. We don't know what Paul is talking about exactly, but what strikes me about the comment is the "on my body" part. Paul is a missionary with his body. He is a follower of Jesus with his body. His body bears the marks of his allegiance to Christ.
All this body talk may make some of us a little squeamish. One of Gracia Grindal's 15 commandments for preachers is "Never speak of yourself in the the tub, shower, or in bed" [Word & World 19 (1999) : 73]. I heard a corollary of this commandment once, something like, "Never use the pulpit as a place to talk about yourself naked," as when you mention that you make the sign of the cross in the shower every morning to remind yourself of your baptism. (Your hearers may find this visual in their mind's eye to be, well, distracting.)
Even so, might Christians have something to say about bearing the marks of Christ on our bodies, of "inwardly digesting" the Word of God to such an extent that it changes (1) where we put our bodies—in what neighborhoods, with what companions, etc., and (2) how our bodies are themselves a witness to the one in whom we hope? In the OT reading, God talks about knowing Jeremiah when he was just a little body, not yet a body distinct from his mother's body. Then, God touches Jeremiah's mouth, a pretty intimate gesture for anyone, especially for the Almighty. Throughout his prophetic career, Jeremiah will bear on his body the words that the Lord gives to him for the people of Israel and the nations. He will do the text, with his life, with his body.
When I was in seminary, "the ministry of presence" was regularly ridiculed by theologians on the faculty who thought it was just a way for pastors to be lazy: "Don't worry about speaking a word from God. Just leave the reading, prayer and homework behind and show up here and there—that's enough." The theologians offered a needed corrective to the idea that "just being there" was always redemptive. Most of us have experienced a "just there" pastor or chaplain as "just in the way" when we or someone we loved needed something more than presence.
Putting our bodies where our hearts are is more than the old "ministry of presence." It is offering a physical, visual account of the hope that is in us. A friend of mine commented in a sermon once that he noticed as his parishioners served a meal at a homeless shelter an "invisible line." The homeless men stayed on one side of the table, and the church workers stayed on the other side. "What would it be like if we mixed that up?" my friend wondered out loud. What message—what word of God, even—might we be embodying if we walked around the table to the other side, or if we stood together on the serving side with men who lived at the shelter? Jeremiah will do this sort of embodiment throughout his career. Jesus will too.