(I have another post brewing on this aspect of Transforming the Body that unpacks an amazing song called “Corpus Christi” by my friend Neal Curran and his band Infielder. Please go check out their music and stay tuned for that post!)
Central to this meaning of the phrase “transforming the body” is the Christian practice and theology of the Eucharist or Communion. Just as in the physical sense that consuming the body of the world transforms into our own bodies, the act of consuming the bread and wine in Communion transforms us together into the Body of Christ, “a public social body” as William Cavanaugh puts it.
Cavanaugh’s book Being Consumed argues for the Eucharist as an antidote to consumerism. Consumerism actually empties goods and products of any meaning or substance as the act of consumption itself is the goal. Once acquired, objects immediately lose their luster, as a newer version is introduced or another product becomes the object of desire. The Eucharist, in contrast, is an act of consumption of the elements of bread and wine in which we are in turn consumed by God and transformed into the Body of Christ. Rather than emptying the elements of their meaning, the act of consumption transforms us into something greater than ourselves giving meaning, substance, and significance.
(I actually have an old series working through this book that might be worth checking out. You can search “being consumed” to find it. Here’s the post on the relevant chapter to this discussion: Attachment and Detachment.)
I have argued elsewhere that the Christian faith has always involved transformation and evolution. You can see it within our own Scripture as Jesus and Paul re-interpret and appropriate the Hebrew Scriptures to understand their new experiences and understandings of God. If you study Christian history, it quickly becomes apparent that our understanding, theology, and practices have evolved and transformed over time as the world also changed and transformed. So it should not be controversial or surprising that the Body of Christ, the mystical union of those that claim to be disciples of the Risen One, in its practical forms of denominations, organizations, and individual church communities is also continuing to adapt and transform.
This is not to say that we should be “driven and tossed by the wind” like the double-minded person in James’ letter. It is, however, to recognize that the evolution and transformation of our faith have always been part of the story, and is not something to fear. Instead, we can proceed with the confidence that our feeble attempts at faithfulness and our humble, stumbling, steps in the path of Jesus are part of that same story in which we believe that God has and continues to be a part!