Thursday, May 3, 2012

Let's Get Physical

Sermon from April 22, 2012
(Easter 3 – Year B)
Luke 24: 36-48
St. Alban’s Episcopal Church, Waco, Texas

Alleluia! Christ is risen!
The Lord is risen indeed! Alleluia!

In 1981, Olivia Newton-John had a famous song, a song entitled “Physical.”
“Physical” evokes a time of a renewed interest in physical fitness, as well as interest in leg warmers and pastel spandex, as Olivia sings:
Let’s get physical, physical.
I want to get physical.
Let me hear your body talk.

And in the Gospel of Luke, the risen Jesus gets physical, really physical.
His risen body of flesh and bones talks and walks into rooms and asks for a piece of fish to eat. 

After Easter, the risen Jesus is not just some ghost or purely spiritual being.
After Easter, the risen Jesus has a physical body.

When I listen to Christians speak about death, I hear some people talk about how their souls will go to heaven and their bodies will cease to exist ever again.
Yet this is not a scriptural understanding of the resurrection of the body.
Just as Jesus receives a new and re-created body in his resurrection,
We also receive a new and re-created body in the resurrection of the dead.

This resurrection of the physical body is even proclaimed in the Old Testament.
In Ezekiel, the Spirit of the Lord breathes new life into dry bones.
And dead bones take new flesh and new skin and new bodies, as they become a new creation.

In the New Testament, in the 15th chapter of Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians, Paul writes about the resurrection of the body.
The Apostle Paul proclaims that the resurrection of the body is a mystery, as our bodies become a new creation.

Both Ezekiel and Paul sing about resurrection:
Let’s get physical.
I want to get physical.
Let me hear your body talk. 

Sometimes I wonder:
What will my resurrection body look like?
First of all, I don’t think it would be too much to ask of the Holy Spirit to breathe into my old bones and to restore me with a full head of hair.
And other than the full hair of my youth, I would like for the Holy Spirit to order up a combination of George Clooney and Brad Pitt for my resurrection body.
Certainly in the resurrection of my body, I can receive 6-pack abs and a squared jaw of power.

Yet in the resurrection of the body, I’m afraid that the Holy Spirit is less concerned with giving me a body that will look good on the red carpet.
I believe that the Spirit is more concerned with the resurrected Body of Christ, a physical body that can walk and talk and ask for a piece of broiled fish, today.
And if you want a glimpse of what a resurrected body looks like, it will probably not look like a celebrity on Dancing with the Stars.
If you want a glimpse of what a resurrected body looks like, then just look around this room.
For we are the Church.
We are the Body of Christ.
We are the resurrected body that walks and talks and eats pieces of broiled fish.
So let’s get physical.

When I was a child, being a Christian seemed purely otherworldly and spiritual.
Sure, I knew stories from the Bible from Sunday school.
Yet my faith had not been embodied, my faith had not been fleshed out into something physical.

However, I think that I have told you before that, on one occasion, my little church youth group took a “field trip” to the Episcopal Church of the Redeemer in Houston.
Church of the Redeemer was on fire with the Holy Spirit.
And that fire of the Spirit took hold of many of us kids and breathed new life into our own youth group.

Our youth group was quite unusual, in that most of us did not go to school together.
There were at least 5 different high schools represented by the teenagers in our group.
Yet the Holy Spirit breathed new life into us who were rivals - and made us into a new creation.

We became a resurrected community, a body that was made up of an unlikely assortment of jocks, band nerds, druggies, cheerleaders and misfits.
New life was breathed into our bones and new flesh appeared.
Some of us started a brand new Sunday evening worship service at our church, completely led by the youth.
I remember that an adult walked into that worship service one evening and saw an assortment of 40 teenagers gathered around the altar in prayer.
And this adult exclaimed:
“This is what it looks like to be the Body of Christ.”

When 40 youth get physical,
When 40 youth are bound together by Jesus Christ, all receiving the Body of Christ,
Then we see what the physical, resurrected body of Jesus looks like.

You see, the Church is not a social club.
We are not only concerned about lofty spiritual matters.
We are the physical, resurrected Body of Christ.
So let’s get physical.
Let me hear the body talk –
Let me hear the body talk and walk and feed and breathe new life into the world.

For in the resurrected body of Christ, in the Church, we do not just talk about peace and hope and love, as if they are concepts.
In the resurrected body of the church, we get physical - and we walk through walls to proclaim:
“Peace be with you!”
And we proclaim peace in our worship, by exchanging the peace with all sorts and conditions of people.
And we proclaim peace outside of worship, by being agents of peace and justice in the world instead of agents of competition and violence.

In the resurrected body of Christ, we do not just talk about hunger and thirst and scarcity of human resources.
In the resurrected body of the Church, we get physical - and we give pieces of broiled fish and bread to the hungry.
We feed in worship by offering the bread of heaven, the Body of Christ, to all.
And we feed outside of worship, by tangibly giving, giving, giving to those in who are hungry and are in need.

In the Body of Christ called the church, we are not just concerned about spiritual matters.
Instead we get physical - because our risen Jesus is not a ghost, but is flesh and bones.

In the Gospel of Luke, Olivia Newton-John does not serenade us in spandex and legwarmers.
In the Gospel of Luke, the risen Jesus gets physical, as his body talks by saying:
“Look at my hands and my feet.
Touch me and see.
I’m hungry - do you have anything to eat?”

In this risen Body of Christ on this earth:
Look around at each other - and see hands and feet.
Touch each other - with peace and justice.
Feed each other - and the world. 
Let’s get - physical.