Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Everything happens in a body

Luke 24: 36-48
New Ark United Church of Christ, Newark, DE
April 15, 2018




            




         Third week of Easter and the disciples are still grappling with what resurrection actually is and what does it mean. Two thousand years later and so are we.



         

          Sallie McFague, in her book Models of God, asks what if the resurrection of the body was seen “as God’s promise to be with us in God’s body, our world? What if God’s promise of permanent presence to all space and time were imagined as a worldly reality, a palpable, bodily presence? What if, then, we did not have to go somewhere special (church) or somewhere else (another world) to be in the presence of God but could feel ourselves in that presence at all times and in all places? What if we imagined God’s presence as in us and in all others, including the last and the least?”


         
         Usually I would work my way up to a piece of good news like that, but things being the way they are these days, I’d rather start with it right from the beginning. It’s never been easy to live as intertwined flesh and blood and spirit, to live in a body. From the rampant flu we had this winter to a low immune response due to the stress of the daily news to chronic pain and illness to sometimes a general malaise when things are not right—our bodies tell us when something is wrong. We experience everything in our bodies, in the body of the earth, and in corporate bodies, like church and work and school and communities—our state, our nation, our world. And all of these bodies could use some resurrection right now—some very real palpable presence of the sacred, of what’s good and right and true and whole.



         
         Buddhism has a meditation, a teaching called the Five Remembrances; they sound like bad news but they are intended to set us free. One, I will grow old. Two, this body will know sickness. Three, there is no escape from death. Four, everything and everyone changes. And five, all I have are my actions; my actions are the ground upon which I stand. Ironically, it’s when we don’t accept the reality of a bodily life that we cause suffering for ourselves and others. The problem isn’t that people and things change but when we live as though they don’t change. When we accept the reality of our lives and our bodies, we realize that they really don’t belong to us but they are all of life making itself known through us. Our bodies, our whole lives are a sacrament.



         And so the disciples recognize Jesus resurrected from the dead in the Eucharist, in the breaking of the bread on the way to Emmaus and eating broiled fish. Resurrection happens in our bodies. He shows them his hands and his feet, the instruments of his ministry of healing and meeting people where they are. He shows them that he was wounded, that he had been through the fire and come out on the other side—not the same but changed; not perfect but whole.



         
         
         These bodies of ours are complex. We are so very fragile and yet so resilient. We can feel such pleasure and yet experience such profound pain and still live. We inhabit a temple to be cared for and cherished and we are all sizes, all genders, all colors, all abilities, all without shame. How we feel on the inside and how we look on the outside is a complicated relationship. Then we gather them together in corporate bodies, like church and work and school and community and government. We create structures and powers and beauty; we celebrate and corrupt and destroy. We confuse thoughts and emotions, project them on others, carry wounds and chipped shoulders, and yet words of forgiveness have the power to mend our hearts, to restore relationships, to reconcile division.


         
         Forgiveness is a form of resurrection. So are acceptance and justice and solidarity and compassion and sacrifice and generosity and perseverance. Resurrection is about whenever we’ve been wounded, gone through the fire, and come out on the other side. A colleague quoted these words: “I’m not able to talk to you of resurrection, if you have yet to realize that you have died.” And we die inside when Syrian children, any children are bombed, and someone dies of gun violence, and police ignore their fear by abusing their power, and people of color and transgender folks are not safe in public space,
and thousands of gallons of oil spill on the earth, and a whole nation, the Congo, threatens to destroys itself in genocide, and refugees and immigrants are turned away, and our family and friends suffer pain and loss over which we are powerless. And we wonder when will the resurrection come? How can we live out the resurrection in our bodies? How can we summon the power to forgive, to accept, to work for justice, to know that the only ground we stand upon is our actions?


       
         What if the resurrection of the body was seen “as God’s promise to be with us in God’s body, our world? What if God’s promise of permanent presence to all space and time were imagined as a worldly reality, a palpable, bodily presence? What if, then, we did not have to go somewhere special (church) or somewhere else (another world) to be in the presence of God but could feel ourselves in that presence at all times and in all places? What if we imagined God’s presence as in us and in all others, including the last and the least?”


         
         
         Resurrection is persistent—it does not give up—and so we must persist with it. The bodily, palpable presence of God surrounds us and upholds us, moves through us and with us. A few years ago a Christian koan or contradictory wisdom saying came to me: the Incarnation is the Resurrection; the Resurrection is the Incarnation. When we allow the bodily, palpable presence of God to fully inhabit us, we are resurrected. When we are resurrected, when we forgive, accept, work for justice, share compassion, the bodily, palpable presence of God is made known through us. And when we do these things, wherever we do them, we are Church, the Body of Christ: a body also wounded, gone through the fire, and come out the other side. Deeper still, when we do these things, we are the body human.



         Everything happens in a body—every body, no matter your body: the palpable presence of God made known to us and through us, through all things, the universe and then some. May the resurrection come and may it be made known through you.  Amen.




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