Monday, April 8, 2013

We Are the Wounded, Resurrected Body of Christ

By popular request, here is the text of what I remember saying in the sermon at the 10:00 am service on April 7, 2013

“Let everything that has breath praise the Lord. Hallelujah!” (Psalm 150)

I heard a story yesterday about a man who, when he was younger asked his father why there were all these different Christian denominations, and his father said, I drink Molson’s, you drink Labatt’s, it’s all just beer.

But one of the disputes that has grown up over the years – one of the things that has lead to the separation of the Body of Christ into several Churches is the question of power. Sandy Anderson said at our earlier service that real power in our church does not rest with the Parish Council, “frankly, they’re not that smart.” I’m quoting Sandy. Real power rests with you, the people of the Church. But I would take it one step further, power in the church rests with the Holy Spirit dwelling in the hearts and minds of the gathered community.

Our Church has always taught this, power in the Church resides in the Holy Spirit – Not with the Queen, not with the Archbishops of Canterbury, or our bishop or Synod, but in the gathered community, in the community gathered in the Holy Spirit.

The Parish Festival – This is Your Church; coming later this month, is all about realigning the power grid in our Church.

This morning we heard one of the great psalms of the Bible. It is the sort of psalm that should be proclaimed loudly and perhaps even standing. Before the service Madonna said that she was going to have everyone stand for the psalm, I sort of frowned, I was joking, but she didn’t have us do it. One person, not even the rector, should have that much power.

I have often said that if I were to write my autobiography (and who else would)… I would entitle it: Thomas, Nicodemus, and Me. After Jesus these are my two favorite characters in the Bible.

Nicodemus was one of the leaders of Israel; he went to see Jesus “under the cover of darkness.” His encounter with Jesus is a significant one. Jesus, it seems even ridicules him a bit, finally saying to him that he could explain where the wind comes from and where it goes and Nicodemus wouldn’t believe him – how can Jesus expect him to understand spiritual things. But Jesus does tell him that he, that all of us are to be born again, born from above, born of our higher selves.

That brings us to Thomas. Even today, when someone doubts something we tend to call them a Doubting Thomas. Over the centuries, generation upon generation, we have mistakenly thought of him as the doubter. Perhaps he was simply demanding equal rights, his fellow apostles had an experience of the resurrected Lord, and he simply wanted the same, equal experience. He wanted to place his hands in the wounds of Jesus Christ. And he was granted the opportunity, he saw and believed.

Another significant feature of the story is that the apostles were in a locked room. There were fearful. They worried that people might recognize them. They were worried that people might accuse them of being companions of Jesus, the rebel who was put to death. They were worried that they might be put on a mock trial and put to death, just like Jesus was.

But Thomas wasn’t with them. He wasn’t in the locked room, he was out in the world, perhaps he was brave. Perhaps, all these years, all these centuries, we should have been calling him Thomas-the-Brave.

But neither of these nick names are found in scripture, he is not called Doubting Thomas in the Bible, nor is he called Thomas-the-Brave, he is called the Twin. Scholars have wondered who his twin is. His twin is not actually named. Some have suggested that he is Jesus’ twin. Not that Mary gave birth to twins but that he bore enough of a resemblance to Jesus that he became known as the Twin.

So, when the apostles told storied about the Risen Lord people might have said, it was just that guy over there who kinda looks like him. They could say Thomas wasn’t even there. And they could claim that he even appeared when Thomas was there.

In the midst of all this is a blessing. A blessing, not for the apostles, but for us. For us, all these generations later, who were not firsthand witnesses to these events. “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe."

As I have said many times before, and a central theme to many of my sermons: We are the Resurrected Body of Jesus. We are the Church; we are the Body of Christ in the world today. And just like the resurrected Body of Christ, we too are wounded.

I saw a poster recently that was deeply offensive. It had the word “Jesus” on it, but the middle letter, the “s” was the “s” from Superman’s chest. The resurrected body of Jesus Christ is not a super body, it is a wounded body. It cannot run faster than a speeding bullet, it cannot repel gun shots. It is not a super body from another planet. It is a body that hurts; it is a body that suffers pain. And as the Church today, as the resurrected Body of Christ, the Church suffers and is wounded. …And evermore shall be so…

The whole point of the incarnation: The whole point of the life of Jesus Christ, his teachings and healings, his passion and death, and the wounded resurrected Body is that God, like one of us, like kin, suffers pain. God suffers with us; God suffers as one of us.

Before I came to this community (in my former parish) I read an article in the local paper, a weekly newspaper that had a guest sermon. I was horrified to read that that the author thought that the problem with the Church and the world today was divorce and that we shouldn’t allow it and that we shouldn’t let people live together either. I kick myself every time I think about it, I wrote a response, but I never sent it in. I know that it might have been tolerable if it had been written by one of them… but it wasn’t, it was written by one of us, a fellow Anglican. What I wish I had sent into the paper, as a response was, “you might not be welcomed in his Church, but you’re welcome in mine: if you’re divorced, come to my Church! If you’re living together, come to my Church! If you’re feeling rejected or judged by others, come to my Church!”

All who suffer are welcome in the wounded and resurrected Body of Christ. This Church welcomes all who are diseased; all who are confused; all who are abused or addicted. This Church welcomes all who are feeling lonely or broken; all bodies that are overweight… or underweight. This Church welcomes the lost and all who doubt.

There are those who won’t enter those doors, who won’t come into this place because they think we’ve already judged them; they feel as though they have to be perfect before they can join us, before they can enter the Body of Christ. And if that were true, if we had to be perfect before we could come here, well, this place would be empty. It is our mission to let them know that they don’t have to be perfect to come to this place. Here they can find a place of welcome, of safety and perhaps a place of healing.

Here in this place everyone can enter knowing that their own wounds, their suffering will be accepted and acknowledged. And like Thomas we can promise to touch one another’s wounds and find welcome, safety and healing.

“Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe." 

1 comment:

Jeepers said...

This was one more of your great sermons John ! Thank you for all the effort you put into making your sermons as interesting as they always are and for being such a great preacher !
Have a wonderful week.
God Bless,
Peter & Di