John to the seven churches that are in Asia:
Grace to you and peace from him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven spirits who are before his throne, and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth.
To him who loves us and freed us from our sins by his blood, and made us to be a kingdom, priests serving his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen. Look! He is coming with the clouds; every eye will see him, even those who pierced him; and on his account all the tribes of the earth will wail. So it is to be. Amen.
“I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.
When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”
But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.” A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.” Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.” Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.
I have never actually compiled a list of my all-time favourite movies, or a list of what I would consider the best movies.
I don’t know how long that list would be, but three of those movies would be movies based on books by the writer Stephen King, who primarily writes horror and supernatural fiction, which is not my genre at all.
Those three movies are The Shawshank Redemption, The Green Mile and Stand by Me.
Stand by Me is a movie based on a novella by Stephen King, called The Body, and it is about four 12 year-olds who decide to go on an adventure and look for a body. A boy by the name of Ray Brower from a town fourty miles away has gone missing. One of the boys has heard his older brother talking with someone about the discovery of a body along the railroad tracks, and so the four of them think it would be cool to go and discover the body, and get some fame for being the ones who discover the body.
So, the four of them, tell their parents that they are going camping and set out on an adventure to find the body, which they eventually do, although the finding of it is not nearly so exciting as they think.
I don’t know if you remember the first time you saw a dead body. For some it is pretty traumatic. One of my university professors worked for CUSO many years ago. CUSO is a developmental agency and so this professor went to Africa to teach for a year along with his wife and two children. As they were driving from the airport his two children saw their first dead body, just lying on the road.
Where I grew up in New Brunswick, the custom was for the body of a deceased person to lie in the funeral home for three or four days and a good percentage of the community would go to the funeral home and pay respects to the family and see the body lying in a casket.
And so in today’s gospel lesson, the body figures prominently. Jesus appears to his disciples in bodily form.
Thomas wasn’t there and won’t believe that it is real, unless he not only can see the body of Jesus, but he can touch the body of Jesus.
And so Jesus appears again and Thomas is there and Jesus tells Thomas to touch him, to put his hands on him and feel the nail scars and where the spear pierced his side. Thomas reaches out and touches Jesus and then says “My Lord and my God.”
I believe the resurrection of the body. That is a literal statement but a metaphorical statement as well.
It is one thing to intellectually say, that I believe Jesus’ body rose from the dead, but what does that mean and why is it important?
Why is the body so important?
Most of us believe that when we die, the body is just the dwelling place of the soul or spirit which goes to God, so why is the body so important.
What does it mean when we say “I believe in the resurrection of the body.”
After all, bodies seem to be very temporary things and as we get older we experience the body failing in various ways. Our eyesight, our hearing, our knees and other joints. Things going on in our arteries and veins. Slowing down, less energy, our memories failing, brain cells dying.
Heart Disease, Cancer…or other scary diseases that say the body is not being renewed but is degenerating.
And yet, Jesus comes to the first disciples in a body. A resurrected body.
And in part it is to say that the body is good and worth saving.
So much of western theology is theology that is filtered through Greek Philosophy.
The Greeks believed the soul or Spirit was Good and the body was bad and the ultimate goal was to free the Spirit from the body.
Since some of the greatest early theologians were steeped in Greek thought, much of Christian theology had that Greek philosophical framework. Augustine and Aquinas knew Greek philosophy very well. The Reformers too were very much influenced by Augustine and Aquinas, sometimes arguing against them, but often adopting some of their philosophical underpinnings.
And frankly so much of Christian thought has downgraded the body and put all the eggs in the basket of the Spirit or Soul and so for many Christians the goal of Jesus was to free the soul from the body so we all go to heaven after we die.
But what if Jesus came to save not only us, but the body?
What if Jesus was not trying to save us from our bodies or save us from this world?
What if Jesus was about the saving of our bodies and of this world?
If the primary message of Jesus is that the Kingdom of God’s love can come on earth as it is in heaven, then the primary message of salvation is not saving us out of this world for heaven, but that we humans can be born again or transformed so that God’s love and God’s way can be experienced here and now.
We are saved here and now.
And if we are saved here and now, then you kind of need your body, don’t you?
And if Jesus came to say that salvation is about forgiveness and reconciliation, about repentance and going a different direction, about forming a family, God’s family where all people would be welcomed and there would be equality and justice, then we all need bodies in order for us to interact with each other.
When we were created, we were created out of the dust, and life was breathed into us, and we were called good. The body was good.
We need hands to touch and embrace one another. We need lips our hands or mouths or bodies to communicate with one another. We need brains and minds to think and reason and communicate and understand.
You see God created us to be in relationship with one another. Our bodies keep us bound to one another.
Freedom is not about being free from our bodies. Freedom is living in a body and having the freedom to love one another, to enhance one another, to complete one another.
Freedom is for us in separate bodies to become one metaphorical body, and to participate lovingly and freely in that body.
We believe in the bodily resurrection of Jesus, not so we can escape our bodies, but so that Jesus could create his body here on earth as one family of love.
But notice the body that Jesus comes back in. It has the nail scars, the wounds, the marks of pain and suffering.
Jesus doesn’t appear in a perfect body, and yet so much of the world strives for perfect, sculpted, wrinkle free, ageless bodies.
Jesus comes back in a wounded body. It reminds that many of the hurts we have in life are for keeps. The pain, the suffering, the rejections, the betrayals, the knife in the back, are things we can be healed from, but the scars will always be there.
The girl or boy who was molested as a child, may heal, but can never be grown up who was never molested.
Those who are alcoholics or who are addicted to anything, may recover, but they will always be addicts.
Not just Jesus carries the sign of his suffering in his body, we all do. There is research to show weight gain or weight loss, depression, tiredness, and other physical and mental illness or weakness is tied to emotional and mental pain.
And so, Jesus comes to us today in his wounded and broken body and invites us to touch him and feel his wounds. In so doing he understands the pain in our lives.
In so doing he is present to us in a real way for every time we hurt, Jesus hurts, so that every time we hurt we can know that Jesus is present.
And Jesus comes to redeem and save our bodies. Maybe your body is aging and failing. Maybe your body is broken or sick. Maybe you think you don’t look like a beautiful body. Maybe you are ashamed or your body. Maybe you like to look at pictures of young beautiful bodies and fantasize about them, or about your own body.
And Jesus wants to redeem your body and tell you that it is good. It isn’t perfect but it is good
For Jesus in his bodily resurrection honoured the body. He honoured bruised, broken, imperfect, scarred, failing and disabled bodies. He honoured real life bodies, because those real-life bodies are stories of real life.
He honours you and your body and the real life you have with its pain, its joys, its relationships, its failures and its successes.
And Jesus wants you to reclaim not only your soul, but your body. Love your body. Love yourself.
And Jesus wants you to think not only of people’s souls but their bodies.
Give a cup of cold water to those who are thirsty. Give a coat or some clothes to those who are cold or naked. Bodily visit someone who is in prison. Share food with one another and with the hungry. In fact, when we share food with one another we are to discern the body, the group, the family, the community.
Feeding the body is one of the ways we worship, we love, we commune with each other and with God.
Don’t hit another person’s body. Don’t harm another person’s body. Don’t do violence to a person’s body.
In fact, don’t hurt or say nasty things or do violence to the larger body, the metaphorical body either.
We all have bodies. Jesus came to save us and make our bodies to be his body.
To be his hands to minister to those in need.
To be his feet to take good news all over the world.
To be his mouth to tell people they are loved.
To be his eyes to see those in need and to see into the hearts of one another.
To be his ears to listen to one another.
To be his mouth to taste and see that there is much in this world that is good and should be preserved and cherished and enjoyed.
Jesus has come to save you and your body.
In yoga, part of what we do is learn to listen to our bodies.
It is very common to ignore our bodies and just do whatever we want…
But if listen to our bodies our bodies tell us things, like…
We need to eat…
We need to drink…
We need to rest…
We need to stretch something…
We need to move…
We need to strengthen…
We need fruits or vegetables or protein…
We need to change something… because we are stressed…
Jobs, relationships, work habits, personal habits…
And when we really listen to our bodies…we start being able to listen to our souls or spirits…
What it is we really need not only for our bodies but for our spirits…
And there is a connection…
And when we listen to our bodies, and to our spirits, we are now in a place to listen to others…
…listen to the greater body….the family, the community, the world, the church….
And these greater bodies are like the body of risen Jesus. They are wounded, they are flawed, they are broken, they are disabled. They carry scars.
Some people are turned off to church institutions because there are people in the church who are far from perfect, or even angry, or even sometimes one or two who seem downright unchristian…
That is the nature of all our greater human corporate or communal bodies.
They are not perfect. there are members in them who are broken, and flawed and evil and selfish… In fact, every communal body is broken and flawed and partly evil, because it made up of imperfect humans.
And yet we cannot do without them. And they do great good.
And you are part of these communal or corporate bodies. Families, church congregations, communities, provinces, nations, political systems, education systems, medical systems, etc…etc…
And the healthier your body, your life, your soul is… the more you bring health to that body, that communal body…
Because for most of us it is belonging to a larger body than our own physical body that makes all the difference in the world.
It is when your body connects with another body or bodies…
..touching, sharing, eating together, loving, listening, fighting for or with…defending,…advocating… sacrificing… communicating, forgiving, reconciling…creating…healing
That we become God’s body…Christ’s body and life seems to be so worthwhile.
Stand by Me is a great movie, enjoyable, funny, moving, serious and heartwarming…
It is about four 12 year-olds having a kind of “rite of passage” as they embark on a journey to find a dead body.
And they find it. And they confront the reality of death.
One of the kids, Gordon, who is the narrator in the story says:
“The kid was dead. The kid wasn’t sick, the kid wasn’t sleeping. The kid wasn’t going to get up in the morning anymore … or catch poison ivy or wear out the eraser on the end of his Ticonderoga No 2 during a hard math test. The kid was dead.”
They confront the reality of death. But they had all been confronting the opposite of life for some time.
Gordie’s older brother was in the army and died in a car accident, and his grieving parents have ignored him.
Chris is physically and verbally abused by his dad and older brother and is considered a loser because of his family’s criminal reputation.
Teddy’s father suffered post-traumatic stress disorder and in a fit of rage burned Teddy’s ears against a stove and his father ended up being committed to an institution.
Vern is chubby and bullied by others and harassed by his brother.
The boys are all wounded. They are all flawed. They all carry scars. They are like the body of Jesus…
And what saved them is each other. What saved them and helped them confront the reality of death and the reality of their wounds, is that there is greater strength in being a body together. A body of friends that listens and tells stories and understands, and share wounds and hurts and vulnerabilities and bears one another’s burdens.
Stand by Me is about four wounded boys who find a body, but find, for that moment at least, that when they stand together as a body, they are healed and loved and not just any bodies but somebodies.
I believe the resurrection of the body.
I believe Jesus saves not only souls but our bodies, so we can be his body to one another.