Sermon,  Sermons

Scandalous Body

With All Your Heart: Believe

Sermon video, part 1 of 2 (part 2 can be found here)

On Good Friday we gathered here together around the cross. It was an exquisite space, moment, to enter expansively into the experience of Jesus as he walked toward his death. We followed with the perspectival lens of Liberation Theology applied to the lived reality of the S. American marginalized, specifically around the time of Oscar Romero’s assassination.

We held the question, How is Jesus speaking to me, to us now in our contexts? I wrestled with, as I do every year, what precisely occurred when Jesus gave up his last breath? His body stopped circulating blood and shooting neuronal pulses, no longer pulling in oxygen. But to enter a space in which an aspect of himself – the Father, the Parent, the Creator of everything – to enter a space in which God would not be – what agony awaited him?

Jesus entered this other-dimensional space to transport – transpose – all the guilt and shame and inclination any of us – all of us – have to listen to a voice other than that of pure, divine Love.

As I meditated on these things, I tried to imagine what it would be like to be in a place where I am cut off from any goodness, any sort of comfort, companionship, community – where the only senses available to me are shame and fear, abject loneliness, utter darkness. This is probably where most of our poets and painters (and a few 1st century writers) envisioned fire as that “other place people go.”

But it is a reality for any of us, at least in part, when we do taste shame and fear and loneliness for a time. And it gives us a greater appreciation for the agony many endure due to brain chemistry imbalances or especially abusive histories.

Jesus willingly separated from himself – a member of the most intimate, closely knit communities (the Trinity) – in order to become this, what? Vessel? Cosmic sponge? His body receiving death in the most shameful manner – and went into that space where God could not go because God IS goodness and pure love, In Order To Fill It will himself, his presence, – the death of his body, separation of soul.

And then his soul returns and his lungs fill with air, his blood circulates and neurons fire. But this body can walk through walls! This body that now has holes in it, that can eat and hug, can defy physics. How is this possible? And what does this mean for each of us – and for the church. Because the New Testament is full of references to the metaphor of the church as Christ’s body.

From, Physics of the Impossible, by, Michio Kaku

Teleportation. It is possible. Chemistry allows for it: atoms collide to form molecules – sharing electrons that hold them together, and this idea in quantum theory that electrons can be in many places at the same time. People, however, contain trillions upon trillions of atoms. The electrons’ frantic movements even out in the massive project to form a human being so that they appear to be solid and permanent. Science fiction exploits this element of chemistry to indulge our fascination with time/space travel  . . .

Quantum entanglement can, theoretically, relocate atoms from one spot to another – regardless of distance. There are obvious problems with this when trillions upon trillions require entanglement . . . at the same time . . . in the same location . . . . Converting them to super cold light waves and beaming the atoms through fiber-optics cabling and then reconverting to original atomic state is more doable . . . It was demonstrated by physicists at MIT and U of CO  . . . but again, doing the same with the trillion trillions of atoms that comprise a person?

Still, it seems that Jesus’ resurrected body could do this on its own. The body of Christ – the body that redeems everything, in its perfected bodily form, can do what to us is impossible. The atoms can disassemble and permeate and slip through other matter – and reassemble.

If the Church is a metaphor for Christ’s body, what would that look like? The 15th station from Good Friday’s Stations of the Cross Visio Divina is:

15th  Station – Triumph of Life – “Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here but has risen” (Luke 24:5). With the ships of the Conquistadors and the factories of globalisation in the background, Christ out in nature with the sun symbolically overhead leads a march of landless Campesinos with martyrs of the struggle, including … Alice Dumont (Argentina), Santa Dias da Silva (Brazil), Oscar Romero (El Salvador), Chico Mendes (Brazil), Ita Ford (El Salvador), Zumbi (Brazil), Dana Tingo (Dominican Republic), Luisito Torres (El Salvador), Tupac Amaru (Peru), Enrique Angel Angelelli (Argentina), Luis Espinal (Bolivia) and Vicente Menchu (Guatemala).

We don’t know what happened exactly to Jesus’ physical body after it was considered dead, and placed in the tomb. But somehow, by receiving death and entering that space that is beyond God’s goodness – to fill, etc. the atoms and molecules did something new.

In Revelation 21:5, John is witness to the ascended Jesus: “And the one who was seated on the throne said, ‘See, I am making all things new.’”

poioœ – making  . . . all things new. Making – continuously – then, now, always . . .

panta – all, the whole

All things new. Perfectly buzzing electrons holding our atoms together in a new way, a way that allows them to do the impossible. Yet, do we view our bodies as just a bunch of atoms stuck together to make molecules, etc.? you see, I don’t believe we can see the church, the body of Christ, with awe and wonder at the beautiful, amazing things it can do, until we can see our own bodies in a way other than with frustration, shame or even disgust.

Remember last week when we spoke of 1Cor13:15, and that when our eyes were opened to the knowledge of good and evil, this rendered us blind to the inner soul, the true self, and of one another – and as Jesus is making things new, so our vision is clearing. When I lack faith, that is, when I do not participate in God’s creative act and being, I am like one who looks in a mirror and in turning away forgets who I am—forgets Whose Image I bear.

In The Greatest Showman, (thank you, Lysander, for suggesting this song), Hugh Jackman is PT Barnum. Despondent due to failed businesses, he finds human beings reviled by their communities for their so-called deformities, “freaks,” and celebrates them in the first exposition of its kind, that eventually becomes the Barnum & Bailey Circus. He becomes blinded by his success and forgets the humanity of the performers – and his family, really. In this scene he comes to his sense. How do we really see our bodies – and then, the worthiness of the person contained by it?

How do we really see our bodies – and then, the worthiness of the person contained by it?

Blinded by the lights – the Palm Sunday flashy lights of the people lining the streets (or the hope that we might have those lights shine on us)

Blinded by the surface glare of the superfluous, the outer form of myself, yourself.

Blinded by the expectations of others that are not you. That are not the true self

“Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?” Didn’t recognize, didn’t see Jesus until he said her name: “Mary.” He knew her, she knew him – the true self. Known. Loved. 

Blinded by the surface space – the outer body, is now transfigured. Jesus had to go first – “then you will follow” John 13:31-38 We will follow, in the same way, bodies transfigured.

            I read from Nadia Bolz-Weber, last week.

God reflects divine light (that darkness cannot overcome) off of (out of) me, even in my forgetting.

The Spirit of God is that light wave, the Source that transposes our very atoms into something new – still you, still me, but new.

Come back home.

To your body. To your true self. To your community.

Because you ARE Flesh become Word.