Sermon by Rev. Lusmarina Campos Garcia
On Luke 24,36-48
22 April 2012
While French people go to the poles to vote for president and Pakistanis mourn the loss of their beloved who died in the plane crash, we gather to affirm that in Jesus there is resurrection. While a few members of our congregation undergo difficult treatments and others rejoice for jobs that were found, we gather to affirm that Jesus reshapes and redefines life. While a couple of families in our community celebrate a funeral service and others dance at a 50th birthday party, we gather to worship the one who offered his hands and feet to prove that life is stronger than death and a body holds God’s promises and mystery.
It is the third Sunday of Easter. And together with the other disciples, Jesus invites us to encounter his resurrected body. This body is not another’s, it is truly his own body.
“Look at my hands and my feet; see that it is I myself.”
The body of Jesus is a place of revelation. It is the place where God encounters us and we encounter each other. His skin, his eyes, his voice, his hands, his feet are what makes it possible for the disciples to leave their catatonic state typical of those seeing a ghost and to enter the joy of those recognizing a friend.
The Gospel reading this morning is an affirmation of Jesus body. Why does the Gospel emphasize the body of Jesus? Was Jesus’ body always an obvious reality?
In the first centuries of the Christian era, doctrines about Jesus, God, the community of faith, its organization etc. were all in dispute. There were numerous writings that didn’t become part of the Bible. And many that did were an answer to these different understandings, which were called heresies. Today they are called heterodoxies.
The Gospel reading for this morning deals with a heterodoxy called Marcionism. Marcion lived between 85 and 150 AD (Anno Domini – After Christ) in Ponto, now Turkey. He was probably born and grew up in the Christian community there. Marcion wrote that Jesus didn’t have a real human body. Jesus gave himself as bread because he didn’t have true bodily substance. Tertullian, in his work entitled Against Marcion, mentions this morning’s Gospel saying: “Why, moreover, does Jesus offer His hands and His feet for their examination--limbs which consist of bones--if He had no bones? ... While they still believed not, He asked them for some meat, for the express purpose of showing them that He had teeth." (Isn’t that wonderful, a theological argument over Jesus’ teeth?)
The early church articulated its theology of incarnation and the resurrection of the body by bringing to the mouth of Jesus the words that affirm that he is not a ghost, he is a body. ‘Look at my hands and my feet; see that it is I myself. Touch me and see, for a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you see I have’.
The early church was struggling to assert that Jesus is the body of God in our midst. And this body is the place where God encounters us and the whole of creation. The body of God in Jesus expands itself and ‘it is present everywhere’ according to Luther. The body is the place where the spirit can smile, become pregnant, give birth, live, die and live again. It is not a different place; it is the same.
‘I believe in the resurrection of the body’; we say these words every Sunday. That is the reason why, when distributing communion, I continue using the words “the body of Christ” and “the blood of Christ.” Many pastors have replaced these words by other words such as “the cup of salvation” and “the bread of life.” It is an attempt to go from an imagery of suffering and death towards an imagery of resurrection, which I value. But I want to continue affirming the centrality of the body of Christ. A body that lived, died, and resurrected.
Our faith is a body-centered faith. But for many of us Christianity has been about denying our bodies. Many of us were taught that our bodies are bad. Anything about sexuality is not even to be mentioned. Sensuality is covered with the mantle of sin. Nowadays the media models only bodies that are young and beautiful; and exploit sensuality to the extreme. So we become afraid of God’s gift. We deny our own body.
But our bodies are not to be denied. They are to be taken care of. They are to be respected. They are to be loved. They are the “temple of the Holy Spirit” (I Corinthians 6,19)
Have you been taking good care of yourself? How many hours of exercise do you do per week? How many steps do you climb per day? Do you take your treatments seriously? Are you able to balance the hours you dedicate to work and family and the hours you dedicate to your body and your spirit? Is your diet healthy and enough (not too much, not too little)?
Three years ago there was an Exhibition called ‘One Day in Calvin’s Life’ at the Museum of the Reformation. One of the scenes showed Calvin with four friends during a meal, and the discussion was about his diet. It seems that he didn’t eat well, which caused his doctor to be always after him advising him to eat more meat and to drink wine. Are you like Calvin, eating too little? Or perhaps more like Luther, eating too much, and drinking lots of beer?
Our bodies are neither to be denied, nor to be abused. But to be taken care of, to be respected, to be loved.
The resurrected body of Jesus is an affirmation of a restored future when no pain, tears, illnesses, sufferings, will affect us any longer. It is the place where those undergoing treatments look at and find strength to continue. It is the place where the father of Mercy Martin, the mother of Peter Hunsperger, and those who died in the plane crash in Pakistan last week gather and find the way to live in God’s presence, fully.
The resurrected body of Jesus is a body expanding itself and becoming present everywhere -- around us, with us, within us. It is the place calling us to be witnesses to the fact that life is stronger then death; that a touch can make all the difference.
The resurrected body of Jesus is the place where our hopes find their destiny, our reality is transformed, our celebrations become a dance of cosmic dimensions, and we enter the joy of recognizing a friend.
“Look at my hands and my feet; see that it is I myself.”