April 26, 2009
Scripture: Luke 24:36-49
Sermon Title: “The Body of Christ”
Rev. George N. Miller
Life is sensual. Unless you were born with a disability or involved in an accident, you’ve been blessed with at least five ways to experience Creation: touch, taste, sight, sound, smell.
These senses allow us to particapte in a world that is wonderfully sensual. Just think of Spring. We see colors, smell flowers, hear the songs of returning birds, feel the sun upon our skin, and hopefully participate in at least one BBQ.
Being created in the image of God makes us more then just sensual beings, we are also spiritual and intellectual.
Our sensuous body, our thinking mind, our spiritual soul are all interconnected in a dance in which neither one is more important then the other.
The body can not be separated from the mind, the mind can not be separated from the spirit. When one part suffers so do the others, when one part soars, it lifts up the other two.
If you’ve known anyone with Alzheimer’s you’ve seen that as their memory is lost the body changes form and the spirit starts to diminish.
Two people in the hospital with the exact same condition? One gets visited by family and friends, prayed for by clergy. The other has no one coming by. Which one will keep a more positive spirit? Which one will maintain a sharper mind? Which one will heal better?
Send a hungry child to school and see how they struggle to learn, and how it affects their mood. Give that child a hot meal and see how their behavior changes and their grades improve.
We are sensuous beings. Our body, mind and spirit are entwined, each a part of living a fully realized life. And I believe Luke understood this.
Read Luke’s gospel and you’ll discover ways in which the author includes not just the senses but mind and soul into his account of the Good News.
If Mark writes like a frantic mother sending her kid to school with an energy drink, Luke writes like a mother who’s been cooking all day, has set the table with candles, has Sinatra on the stereo and is saying “Sit and eat, manga.”
Sensuality seeps into Luke’s story. Jesus is not just born, he’s conceived in the womb, wrapped in bands of cloth, and placed in a manger. He is circumcised, and held. He grows strong, but Jesus is not just a body: his mind is filled with wisdom, his spirit experiences temptation, he eats, he drinks, he weeps.
Jesus uses his body to reach out to other bodies. He uses stories and teachings to reach out to minds. He cares for the soul by forgiving sins, speaking peace when no peace exists, and telling folk to not be troubled by worldly issues.
But just as sensually and fully as Jesus lived, that is how the authorities tried to destroy him.
They abused his body, they played mind games, they tried to break his spirit through humiliation. Ultimately, they assumed death would be the only way to stop him.
But the authorities were wrong. Not even death could contain Jesus, for God would vindicate his Son.
Luke, being an master storyteller, makes Jesus’s resurrection just as sensual as his birth and life. “Look,” he has Jesus say, “Look at my hands and feet. See that it is me. Touch. Touch me and see.”
He has Jesus eating a piece of fish, and afterwards he says Jesus opened the disciples’ minds to help them understand.
That is part of what we are learn from Luke: that the resurrected Christ can’t be separated from the baby that was wrapped in cloth and cradled in the arms of Simeon.
That the resurrected Christ can not be separated from the rabbi who told stories, shared meals, forgave sins and healed bodies.
And that the ministry of Jesus could not be stopped, for against all expectations, Christ continues to live on, not just in the Resurrection. But in the church.
More then the stones the church is built from, more then the wood we sit upon, the church is indeed the Body of Christ, one way by which Christ continues to be present to the world today.
The church is a living entity. And because it is living, it is sensuous.
Have you ever thought of the church that way before? As sensually alive?
There is the physical body. The architecture, the stained glass, the candles, the rooms.
The church is sensuous in touch. The Passing of the Peace, the breaking of the bread.
The church is sensuous in sound. The tinkling of the keyboard, the lifting up of voices in song, the footsteps of children in Sunday School.
The church is sensuous in taste. The celebration of Communion, chili cook-offs, and bake sales.
The church is sensuous in smell. Coffee brewing in morning, food in the oven, flowers on Easter.
The church, as the Body of Christ, is a living entity and it is more then just sensual, it is spiritual, and it is intellectual.
There is the mind: Sunday school, Bible Study, and after school programs.
There is the spirit: the Word read and preached, the sacraments shared, the assurance of forgiveness, the peace of knowing one is not alone in this world.
The church is a living, sensuous entity. But one of the realities of being sensuous is the reality of death.
Flowers, as beautiful as they are, at some point die. Trees, no matter how majestic, at some point fall. People, no matter how dear to our heart, at some point take their final breathe.
And if churches are indeed sensuous, they also have a life span, each one different then the next.
Our church is dealing with its own issues of sensuality and existence. This is our 85th year. We’ve had our share of trials and tribulations. But somehow, the church has found a way to survive.
Over the past few years there has been new life: a community food pantry, after school and summer programs, two choirs, a Veteran’s Corner, a craft group, a softball team, concerts, block parties, trick-o-treating, Men’s Group, Peace Garden. Children laughing, learning and singing.
All these things became part of the church’s body, mind and soul.
But as much as we have grown, as a body we have suffered. People have left or stopped coming. Many have died or can’t physically be here. Diminished finances make it hard to take care for the body.
And when the body becomes weak, it’s hard for the spirit to continue. The faithful who have remained have worked so hard, so long, that many are tired and drained, resulting in lower energy. Events have smaller turn out. Emotions for some have become charged, while others have become downcast.
Where the body and soul go, so goes the mind. Maybe that’s why it seems like attendance for the Bible Studies have hit a plateau, while no new children are attending our after school program.
What do we do, where do we go? Is this church, as part of the Body of Christ, to continue living, is it to die or to be placed on hospice?
Today, after service and our group photo, we have the task of truthfully discussing the future of this particular body of Christ, and that is how we are encouraged to approach the dialogue: that this is Christ’s church, an extension of his body, and with any body there is celebration and joy, there is also grief and loss.
But know this: no matter what happens Christ will still live on. That is, after all, the meaning of the Resurrection. That even when the powers that be tried to silence Jesus with death, he was still vindicated with an Easter voice.
The Resurrection Experience means that though we may be faced with what seems like a deafening “No”, God finds a way to introduce a loud “Yes!”
That when something seems like an end, God introduces a new beginning.
That when something appears as a discontinuation, God steps in and offers transformation.
Nothing can stop the work of God in the world. Nothing can stop the Resurrected Christ from appearing in our lives.
No matter what happens to this particular body, the whole Body of Christ remains, finding new ways to continue being present, new ways to move, new ways to make God’s voice heard in the world.
We should be proud that not only have we been a part of this particular body of Christ, but that we are part of the universal Body of Christ no matter where we go, no matter what we do.
And in that there is comfort, and in that remains the Good News: that as long as we continue to see, touch, smell, hear, taste, as long as we continue to be of body, mind and spirit, Christ continues to work, the Spirit continues to move, God continues to rule and we can continue to be present to one another and to the world as part of Christ’s Magnificent Body.
Thanks be to the Spirit that fills our very beings, thanks be to God who molded us in a holy image and thanks be to Jesus Christ who was born, lived, died and resurrected as a sensuous being.