Sermon: Embody Me

Sermon: Embody Me

Luke 24:36b-48

St. Andrew’s Scots Memorial Church
April 15, 2018

You are within us and among us, O Christ,
as the one who is alive for ever.
In the sorrow and the the sufferings of our lives you are with us
as the one who holds the key of new beginnings.
There is no ending in the world.
There is no fear in our lives.
There is no despair in our hearts,
that your living presence cannot unlock.
You are within us and among us, O Christ,
as the one who is alive for ever.
Celtic Treasure by Philip Newell

Caro Cardo salutis. The flesh is the hinge of salvation; the reality beyond sin and death is not up yonder in heaven. It dwells in the innermost reality of our flesh says theologian Karl Rahner. “Handle me,” says the resurrected Jesus. “See my hands and feet, that it is myself,” he says to the frightened disciples who think they are seeing a ghost.

Jesus came back to life with a body visibly broken, full of scars from the crucifixion. It’s understandable that the disciples who are returning to Jerusalem to face the current dangers don’t really want to see the marks of His public execution. Furthermore, they are reeling because Rome’s ultimate form of social control, torture through crucifixion, had not defeated Jesus. The believers were caught between the fear of the terror of the State, Pax Imperium, and the awe that comes in the presence of divine power, Pax Christi.

Are we not the same, caught by the fear of the world’s powers to wipe us off the map with its drones and missiles, and the awe of God’s power of life over death?

Nancy Eiselan in her groundbreaking book, The Disabled God: Toward a Liberatory Theology of Disability says quite simply, “The resurrected Christ is revealed as the disabled God.” On a slip of paper found in his jail cell after his death, Dietrich Bonheoffer echoes the same when he says, “Only a suffering God can help.”

Dear Ones, let this sink in. Jesus, our redeemer, our savior, comes back to us full of scars. He is disabled.

He not only suffered in his life but he comes back with the marks to remind us. Why is this so important? Is it only about proof that he is Him? Or that he is human? The wounds show that he has gone though danger and not around it. Caro Cardo salutis. The flesh is the hinge of salvation.

What do your wounds tell about your life? Are they visible or do you hide them? What if, like Jesus, you led with them instead of your piety or attachment to beliefs and dogma?

Hands and feet were a major part of Jesus’ ministry and thus, a significant part of his post resurrection story. He healed with those hands. He washed his disciples feet and commanded them to love each other as he loved them. Hands and feet were and still are important.

The poet Denise Levertov, says in On Belief in the Physical Resurrection of Jesus:

We must feel
the pulse in the wound
to believe
that ‘with God
all things
are possible,’
bread at Emmaus
that warm hands
broke and blessed.

Jesus has a hungry body too. In one of the most delightful lines in scripture, he asks, “Do you have anything to eat?” They answer, “broiled fish.” And he eats the leftover fish in front of them. Proof again that he is not a ghost and that he is their dear brother Jesus who loved to eat and drink with the tax collectors and other sinners. Eating is about recognition and utter joy and the sanctification of table fellowship. It is a basic human need.

It is a fore taste of the heavenly banquet to come. Caro Cardo salutis. The flesh is the hinge of salvation.

So the movement of this post resurrection story goes like this. First, Jesus appears and offers himself as peace, then he shows them his scars, and requests food. Next he does Bible bible study. And only then does he commission them to be witnesses of repentance and forgiveness.

“Then he opened their minds, so that they might understand the scriptures (24:45). Jesus came back to walk with his traumatized friends in order to prepare them for their own transformation. He needs them, they who are “slow of heart” or who lack courage to understand, that since the beginning of biblical history the prophet’s death is not necessary but it is inevitable given the character of imperial states. The task of theological reflection, or studying scripture, happens under the shadow of death says theologian Ched Myers.

Is this not true for us too, Dear Ones? Are not real bodies being shot or severely wounded in Gaza each Friday under a black cloud of smoke? Are not people dying from cancer there too because there is no medicine for them or because they can’t get a permit to leave and get treatment? Are not Palestinian children being detained, imprisoned, and tortured here— some as young as 13? And didn’t over the weekend some of our countries represented here just bomb another country because killing is wrong? Caro Cardo salutis. The flesh is the hinge of salvation.

Finally, Dear Ones, are we not like those first disciples studying scripture or coming to the table of life under the distant sound of sirens each Sunday? We, too, are asked to open our blind eyes, deaf ears, and hard hearts to the difficult truth of discipleship under the shadow of death in this holy city of Jerusalem.

So let us first welcome the one who has come to stand among us during our time of trial; let us not be afraid to touch his and everyone else’s bloody wounds; let us feed those who are hungry for food, real food; let us feed those who are hungry for justice; let us deliver real justice not just statements of condemnation or rebuke.

Theologian Clarence Jordan says, “God raised Jesus not as an invitation to us to come to heaven when we die but as a declaration that He himself has not established a permanent residence on earth. The resurrection places Jesus on this side of the grave, here and now in the midst of this life. The Good News of the resurrection is not that we shall die and go home with him but that he is risen and comes home with us, bringing all his hungry, naked, thirsty, sick, prisoner brothers and sisters with him. “

Dear Ones, welcome Him and them like He has already welcomed you. Feed them what you’ve got. Share. Become his hands and feet. Embody him. Your salvation hinges on this.

Rev. Loren McGrail, member of Lyndale UCC, Minneapolis, MN and an associate member of Wellington Avenue UCC, Chicago, IL, serves the YWCA of Palestine and is an ecumenical partner with St. Andrews Scots Memorial Church in Jerusalem (Church of Scotland).