A sermon preached at Southminster Presbyterian Church in Boise, Idaho
April 19, 2015
1 John 3:1-3
Our text today is not dis-similar from last week’s text from John’s gospel, where Jesus appears to his disciples, offers them peace, calms their fears, and prepares them for the work ahead.
Luke tells the story differently than does John. Jesus has already appeared to two followers who are on the road to Emmaus. Their eyes are open in the breaking of the bread and they recognize Jesus. And then they return to Jerusalem to tell their stories. Everyone is talking about what they’ve heard—
“don’t forget the women found the tomb empty”.
“Did you not recognize him on the road? How come?”
“I wish I had been there!”
And over the din of the excitement and the voices, Jesus shows up and says, “Peace be with you.”
And these same people, who were just that very moment talking about the resurrection appearances, are “startled and terrified and thought they were seeing a ghost”.
It isn’t easy coming to terms with the resurrected body of your rabbi when he shows up at your dinner party.
Neither Luke nor Jesus show any interest in trying to explain how the resurrection happens. But Jesus wants his followers to make sure they see, they experience, they believe the bodily resurrection. So he scares the living daylights out of them, shows them his hands and feet, eats their fish, and then teaches them.
If Luke and Jesus don’t give a scientific explanation of the resurrection, I can’t either. But I want us to consider what it means that we have these resurrection stories.
Why would Luke tell us a story where Jesus shows up and asks Peter, “are you going to finish those fries?”
It’s an odd story. Suddenly he’s there. Talking, calming. And then he says, just like a teenage boy, “got anything to eat around here?”
Why would Luke tell this story?
If you’re sitting at your desk, trying to figure out how to tell the resurrection story, wouldn’t you have Jesus show up and do something impressive?
“And then Jesus appeared before his disciples, lifted a car over his head, and used his laser vision to blast a hole in the wall”.
I don’t know. Something more Superman and something less teenage boy who is a bottomless pit of hunger, perhaps.
Maybe this is exactly Luke’s point. Jesus of Nazareth, even the resurrected Jesus—especially the resurrected Jesus—is fully human.
And this is the place, for me, where our faith tradition differs the most from all of the others. While we have much in common with many traditions, ours is the only embodied faith. The idea that God would become flesh, would be born and live and die just as you and I are born, live, and die is foreign to other faith traditions. For Judaism and Islam, God does not dwell in a body. Orthodox Jews won’t even say the Divine Name, because anything they could call God would not be sufficient. In Islam and Judaism, there are no images to be made of God.
I am not making a judgment claim, here. I’m just observing differences. But we believe that in the person of Jesus Christ, we know God. We have seen God.
And so, when Jesus shows up and asks to eat some fish after he’s been buried and put in a tomb a few days prior, we realize that in the divine embodiment of Jesus, even death itself is reordered.
I can see you out there wondering, “so what?”
Every time we try to reduce our faith to a spiritual experience that is disconnected from the way we live with our bodies here and now, we should remember resurrected Jesus walking into a room and asking for something to eat.
That’s what the disciples were confronted with that first Easter season and it is what we face today.
They had abandoned their fishing nets and followed him.
They had left their families and their pension plans to serve this itinerant rabbi.
They listened to him talking about dying and rising.
They called him Lord.
They heard him teach.
And when he showed up in the room, they were still terrified.
I don’t really want to blame the disciples for this fear, because we’re still coming to terms with it. But they had been with his body. Had traveled with him, sat at his feet and learned with him. They had fished with him and gone to a wedding with him.
And they still hadn’t internalized, or come to understand, what he was saying to them about himself and his body.
And we have to be careful about that too. Because while our faith should inform our morals, values, and beliefs, it can’t stop there. It isn’t enough to say we’ve accepted Jesus Christ as our personal savior if we don’t apply our faith to the very way we live with our bodies.
It isn’t enough to say something, to believe something in our heads or our hearts. We have to believe it with our bodies. We can’t read and believe Bible verses about God wanting us to feed the hungry and then ignore the starving people in our community and world.
We are embodied people, not just souls.
And we follow the God who became human, lived among us, touched the unclean with his hand, healed people’s bodies with his touch, and fed people by passing around loaves and fish.
We follow the God who wept when his friend Lazarus died.
We follow the God who spoke and called Lazarus from his tomb.
We follow the God who turned over the tables in the temple and called for justice for the people in his community.
We follow the resurrected God who showed up among his disciples, spoke words of peace, showed them the wounds in his hands, and asked if they were going to be eating soon.
So, how does the bodily resurrection inform the way we live together?
I see it every day. In the way you feed people at meals and coffee fellowship and the way you bring food and other supplies for agencies in the community.
I see it in the way you volunteer at the school next door, sitting with children and helping them read.
I see it in the way you greet each other during the Passing of the Peace. For those of you who have been here for a while, I hope you appreciate how impressive our newer visitors are. Because you hugged them when they were strangers—and they came back the next week! They are Intrepid souls who can join in to the passing of the peace in this, the Church of the Hug.
I see it when you gather with people who are dying, to guide their bodies through the end of the earthly journey with love, companionship, and comfort.
I see it when you make this church safe for children and their bodies. You do background checks on staff and volunteers. You welcome children into worship and let them know their bodies—sometimes loud, sometimes wiggling— are welcome here too.
I see it when you meet together to run in the foothills with the running group, or to gather together for study and meals and fellowship.
I see and hear it when we worship together in this place, lifting our voices together in songs of praise.
I see it when we pray for healing of bodies from cancer and other disease.
I see it when you overcome your fears and worries to do something you’ve never done before, like be a liturgist, or share a musical talent, or create a painting to leave in the prayer center.
And we have to remember Jesus asking if the disciples had any snacks when we are going about our lives. Because there are other bodies out there who are hungry, who need a hug, who need to know that they are loved, and who need to know that God doesn’t just care for their disembodied souls. God cares for our whole embodied lives.
I read a story this week about a woman in San Antonio who has a food truck with which she feeds homeless people. Joan Cheever also sometimes takes her food truck, Chow Train, around the country to feed people after earthquakes and tornadoes and hurricanes.
She’s facing fines from the city, however, for feeding people without a permit. More than that, she’s experiencing a growing trend across the country, where 33 cities have made it a crime to be homeless.
From the article:
“It’s essentially a crime to be homeless in San Antonio, which has created a bizarre back-and forth battle between the Municipal Court and the SAPD, where the police hand out tickets to the homeless and the courts throw them right out- 8,600 citations over a two month period last year. Benches mysteriously vanish. It doesn’t appear to be enough though, as the police are now targeting charity organizations for encouraging the homeless….12.8% of the nation’s low income housing has been lost since 2001, putting any kind of stepping stone for social mobility even further away from America’s homeless. 1 in 45 American children are homeless- 1.6 million kids. ”
How are we to respond to the news that 1.6 million children have no place to shelter their bodies each night?
How are we to respond to the news that 14.5 percent of U.S. households—nearly 49 million Americans, including 15.9 million children—struggle to put food on the table?
If we follow the resurrected Jesus showed up and was hungry, asking to be fed, we ought to be troubled and concerned by these statistics.
The other passage we heard this morning is a short snippet from 1 John. And from reading the letter, it appears that the community was divided about who Jesus was.
While the gospel of John made the claim “the word became flesh and lived among us, full of grace and truth”, there were some people in this community trying to claim that Jesus was more spiritual, that his bodily life didn’t matter. The piece we heard this morning also suggests that there was some confusion about when/if Jesus was returning.
But what struck me, in light of Luke’s gospel story, was this sentence:
“Beloved, we are God’s children now; what we will be has not yet been revealed. What we do know is this: when he is revealed, we will be like him, for we will see him as he is.”
It was a clear reminder to me that God is just not concerned about our souls getting to heaven some distant day off in the future. We are God’s children now. And more than that, we know that we are children of God because Jesus was God’s son and we are like him.
Which means that everything that we experience in our bodies, Jesus can understand. So from the beauty of love and affection, to the pain that we feel when our bodies fail us, from the joy of companionship, to the pain of death, Jesus experienced that as well.
Friends, the good news of the resurrection is that God became flesh, lived among us, died on a cross, and rose from the dead and asked for something to eat.
We are children of God NOW, and the resurrected Jesus comes to stand among us, bring us peace, and ask for some food. So this week, go out and live your life, giving thanks for your bodies, caring for the bodies you meet, and enjoying this life we’ve been given. Amen.