It does not end with a body
2015 04 19 – Toronto New Life Mennonite Church Sermon (translated into Spanish)
It begins with the body
Injury and illness
Confinement and control
It begins with the body.
We know that. Everyone knows that. But some people do not know that it does not end with the body. It does not end with a corpse nailed to a cross. It does not end with a body hidden away in a tomb. It does not end with a body going missing, rumours of nighttime theft or impossible new life. It does not even end with a body disappearing into the sky, disappearing into myth.
The Good News begins with a body but it does not end with a body.
A body is vulnerable. Jesus was vulnerable from the moment of His conception. Mary, pregnant and unmarried could have been killed, or simply shunned, denied healthcare and community support. We celebrate the miracle baby who had no human father but sometimes forget the miracle that he and his mother survived the first night in the stinking stable.
The Good News begins with a body.
The Good News also begins with Jesus coming to his cousin John to be baptised. Plunged into the water, in a symbol we remember as a sort of death. “Who am I to baptise you?” Asks John, “who am I to plunge you into death and raise you to new life? Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. Who am I to make you vulnerable?”
But he obeys and Baptizes Jesus. And John faces his own baptism of death, not too far in the future. Murdered and mutilated. As a message to other radical prophets. To warn them that they are vulnerable. They are bodies, and bodies can be broken.
That is the Good News that Herod knows, that Caesar knows, that all tyrants know. Prophets can be killed, and bodies can be broken. But we know that it does not end with a body.
We have a different Good News. A better Gospel. And yes. Our Good News begins with a vulnerable body, and that body is broken, murdered and mutilated. As a message to other radical prophets.
But it does not end with this broken body. After all, this is Good News. The Good News of Jesus is not “rebels will be punished”. It is “punishment is over”.
Jesus rises from the dead. And his disciples are startled and terrified and thought that they were seeing a ghost.
Jesus says ‘touch me and see’. And he says ‘do you have anything here to eat?’
He begins with his body. He reminds them that he is still a body, like them, however new and strange and different. He is still hungry.
I once heard about a small sect of passionate Christian believers who were eagerly expecting Jesus to return to Earth. They said ‘when he returns, we do not know where he will appear. But we know that he will need a place to live’. So they bought houses. In major cities around the world, they bought houses so that when Jesus comes back to rule creation, in those first days, he would have a house to live in. A bed, a kitchen, a bathroom.
Imagine the faith of these believers. To think of something so small, but so essential.
They have recognised that it begins with the body. And so did the disciples. In the passage from the Acts of the Apostles, Peter has commanded the lame beggar to walk, in the name of Jesus, and he is healed.
He does not explain to him who Jesus of Nazareth is, and why his resurrection from the dead is Good News, and invite him to a Torah Study. He commands him to get up and walk and the man, lame from birth, goes dancing into the temple.
They began with the body. And then, just as the Risen Lord explained to them, they open the minds of those around to explain the scriptures.
Jesus said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things.”
Jesus calls them witnesses. They witness his death and resurrection and also witness his instructions and teaching. You see, in the Acts passage, what happens.
Peter addresses the crowd and tells them. ” you killed the Author of life, whom God raised from the dead. To this we are witnesses. And by faith in his name, his name itself has made this man strong, whom you see and know; and the faith that is through Jesus has given him this perfect health in the presence of all of you.”
Peter explains that he is a witness, and everyone else also becomes a witness to the healing power of the name of Jesus.
They witness a body that they have known to be lame for forty years, now dancing. But it does not end with this body. It never ends with a body.
It does not end with the broken body of Jesus, miraculously talking and eating with his friends. It does not end with the broken body of the lame man, miraculously dancing in the temple. The Good News does not end there. The Good News moves to new bodies, new lives, bringing new healing and restoration, and forming the Body Of Christ.
The Good News of Christ’s Body on earth today is not the end.
New things begin with the body. God moves beginning with the body. Listen for the invitation. ‘Do you have anything here to eat?’ Maybe that is your chance to feed Jesus. Maybe that is your prompting to join in with God’s new thing.
Listen for the invitation. ‘Examine my wounds’. I am human, just like you. I am vulnerable, just like you. I am where it starts. I am where God is preparing to move, to heal.
Healing is not the end. Feeding is not the end. But they are essential. How can anyone come to know the Good News of Jesus Christ unless they first know it in their body? The disciples could not understand that Jesus would die and come back to life until they experienced it, until they saw his wounds and ate with him. The lame man could only receive his healing, but once he had received it, he could offer his life.
Healing is not the end. Feeding is not the end. But they are essential. How can we worship Jesus without feeding and healing? How can we recognise Jesus unless we examine his wounds and eat with him? That was how the disciples learned to recognise Jesus. And they continue to seek Jesus among the poor, the hungry, the wounded, the lost. For that is where you meet God.
When we sit down to eat with a friend, a stranger, an enemy, we are nurturing Christ’s Body. We are making it stronger. We must be listening for those words. “Have you anything here to eat?” It is an invitation to holy work. To nurturing Christ’s Body and sharing in the witness of the Good News. It begins with the body. And we do not know where it will end.