Such a lovely room

Such a lovely room

Sunday, April 18, 2021

YEAR B 2021 easter 3

Easter 3, 2021
Acts 3:12-19
1 John 3:1-7
Luke 24:36b-48
Psalm 4

In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Amen.

The point of today’s sermon will be that bodies matter to God.  There’s your thesis statement.  Bodies matter to God.  Let’s start here: the way we know that God cares about our bodies is because of the bodily resurrection of Jesus.  We proclaim it in the Creeds all the time.  We believe in the resurrection of the body.  Not some floaty mysterious poltergeist spirit wafting in and out of sight.  A body.  In today’s gospel, Jesus goes out of his way to prove it by asking, “Have you anything here to eat?” They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate in their presence. 

Bodies matter to God.  Specific bodies.  Our bodies.  About a year ago, Levi our organist called me in a panic because he had accidentally set off the alarm at church and didn’t know the password when the alarm company called.  That meant they would be dispatching the police.  I ran to my car and frantically called the alarm company to call them off, as I raced over to church imagining the worst.  Why?  I wouldn’t have panicked if this were someone from the Altar Guild, or the secretary, or the sexton.  Well . . . I panicked because Levi is black.

Last week, in the middle of the trial of a police officer for murdering a black man, a different police officer in a routine traffic stop killed another black man, essentially just down the street.  Two days later, police in Chicago released footage of an officer shooting a 13 year old brown boy.  I honestly don’t know how some parents can sleep at night.  And . . . black and brown bodies matter to God.

And on top of all that, we have the mass shootings here in America.  So far in 2021, there have been147 mass shootings in the United States.  147.  It’s only April.  God knows how many more we will have to endure by the end of the year.  And all of those bodies matter to God.  Guilty or innocent, white or black, Asian or Hispanic, young or old.  All these bodies matter to God.

So . . . do they matter to us?  Sometimes I wake up and hear about another mass shooting and I think, “Well, what can I even do about that?”  When I get an alert on my phone that another person of color has been shot by cops, I always think back to that time I raced over here, imagining the worst when Levi set off the alarm.  Sure, things might have gone fine that day if I hadn’t panicked; but we’ve seen how quickly misunderstandings can escalate when some people are holding guns.  And it is unnerving when someone you love is on the other end of that gun.  It’s a hard time to care about bodies in this country.

But . . . we’re now in our third Sunday of Easter.  Two weeks ago we were proclaiming the resurrection of the body of Jesus, declaring that God has brought victory over death.  Jesus has been raised from the tomb, and that means death is not the final word.  Because Jesus rose from the dead, we too shall rise from death on the last day.  Resurrected into God’s kingdom with the saints in light.  With bodies.  Actual.  Physical.  Bodies.  

And yet, as we heard, when Jesus comes to the disciples and says, “Peace be with you,” they were startled and terrified, and thought that they were seeing a ghost.  They didn’t understand; they were afraid.  He asks, “Why are you frightened . . . why do doubts arise in your hearts?”  He shows them his hands and feet.  And then, “While in their joy, they were disbelieving and still wondering.”  While in their joy they were disbelieving and still wondering.  Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?

Even though we have just experienced the celebration of the joy of the resurrection, we look around at everything we are seeing right now.  And while we are in our joy, we too are disbelieving and still wondering.  We thought Easter was supposed to fix all this.  Or, at least make it better.  Or, at least for things not to keep getting worse!  While in our joy, we are disbelieving and still wondering.  That really captures it I think.

The disciples see the resurrected Jesus, because he comes to them.  Again.  They don’t find Jesus; he finds them.  Again.  They don’t recognize Jesus; he recognizes them.  Again.  They know they are seeing something, but they cannot believe what they are seeing.  They don’t believe their eyes.

And so how does Jesus try to convince them?  With his body.  His real, physical body.  He asks for some food, and they give him some fish.  He says to them, “a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.”  (Which is just another way of saying, bodies matter to God.)  Jesus is raised in a physical body, wounds and all.  The suffering he endured is not erased or papered over.  It’s all still there, for everyone to see.  And still, they cannot believe their eyes.  They don’t recognize Jesus.

All of which raises the question, do we recognize Jesus?  Do we believe our own eyes?  Is Jesus here among us?  And, if so, where do we see him?  And so now we go back to the question asked in the Baptismal Covenant.  “Will you seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving your neighbor as yourself?”  Seek and serve Christ in all persons.  Do we recognize Jesus in others?  Can we believe with our own eyes that we are seeing Jesus?  Can we agree with God that bodies matter?  The answer to the question in the Baptismal Covenant is, “I will, with God’s help.”

That’s the only possible way to do it.  The only way to see Jesus in the bodies of those around us is with God’s help.  The disciples couldn’t see Jesus, and Jesus was standing right in front of them!  Look at my hands.  Look at my side.  Give me some fish and watch me eat it.

And “while in their joy they were disbelieving and still wondering.”  In this little section of Luke’s gospel we heard, we never do find out if the disciples came to believe.  Last we heard, “while in their joy they were disbelieving and still wondering.”

And that puts you and me in good company.  Yes, we are living in the afterglow of Easter.  We are “in our joy,” just like the disciples.  But while we are in that joy, we are still disbelieving and wondering.  And here’s the good news about that: Jesus doesn’t give up on those disciples.  He doesn’t require them to believe before he shows up.  In fact, they literally disbelieve and he still shows up!

We are living in hard times, in so many different ways.  It is tempting to throw in the towel, to give up, to declare that it is all just too far beyond fixing.  I’m sure the disciples were in that same mindset as Jesus shows up to them.  He has been arrested, tortured, and killed.  In a real, physical body.  As best they can tell, he is gone forever.  It’s over.  Just turn out the lights and go home.

But it’s not over.  It’s never over.  Because God is always bringing life out of death, always bringing salvation to those who are dead in sin.  God never gives up on us, even when we have given up on ourselves.  And we don’t even need to believe for God to work miracles, because Jesus comes to the disciples even in their disbelief.  Jesus comes to us in our neighbors, in the lives and bodies of those around us.  All of those around us.  With God’s help, you and I will seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving our neighbors as ourselves.  With God’s help.  May God make it so.


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