Stations of Resurrection: Shelter for All 4-21-13

Today is the third in a series of sermons on Stations of Resurrection. There are only about 4 or 5 resurrection appearances of Jesus depicted in the Bible, including the appearance at the tomb with Mary, the appearance to Thomas, after the appearance to the other disciples, the depiction in John that we read last week of the risen Christ on the beach cooking breakfast for Peter, and the walk to Emmaus where the risen Christ appears in the breaking of the bread. We’re not reading all of them in this series. Today’s reading is from Revelation where the Risen Christ appears at the end of time and all those who trusted in Christ have been resurrected and come to earth to live in an ideal time of community and harmony.
I’m not much about preaching about worlds beyond this one. This imaginative, reading where Jesus comes back to earth and makes things right aligns better with my hopes and dreams for the future than some of the more individualistic and other-worldly speculation about resurrection.

Revelation 7:9-17 I looked again. I saw a huge crowd, too huge to count. Everyone was there—all nations and tribes, all races and languages. And they were standing, dressed in white robes and waving palm branches, standing before the Throne and the Lamb and heartily singing:
Salvation to our God on his Throne! Salvation to the Lamb! All who were standing around the Throne—Angels, Elders, Animals—fell on their faces before the Throne and worshiped God, singing: Oh, Yes! The blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving, The honor and power and strength, To our God forever and ever and ever! Oh, Yes! 13-14 Just then one of the Elders addressed me: “Who are these dressed in white robes, and where did they come from?” Taken aback, I said, “O Sir, I have no idea—but you must know.” 14-17 Then he told me, “These are those who come from the great tribulation, and they’ve washed their robes, scrubbed them clean in the blood of the Lamb. That’s why they’re standing before God’s Throne. They serve him day and night in his Temple. The One on the Throne will pitch his tent there for them: no more hunger, no more thirst, no more scorching heat. The Lamb on the Throne will shepherd them, will lead them to spring waters of Life. And God will wipe every last tear from their eyes.”
April 21, 2013

Stations of Resurrection: Shelter for All

My senior year in college, I signed up for a class in modern dance. I do not know what got into me. I had finished most of my requirements, and something possessed me to sign up for dance class. I had never been very coordinated. I had never danced much. I had never been very good at sports of any kind. And all of a sudden I was in a modern dance class with a bunch of women, and very few men.
We learned dance basics, ballet basics, a little history of dance, and we had one big performance at the end, that was total chaos as far as I could tell. But I really enjoyed it. That year, I discovered I had a body. I had never had any social reinforcement for doing anything with my body. I had lots of encouragement to think and read and write – all kinds of things in my head. But that year, I realized I was not as uncoordinated as I thought I was. I started to appreciate my body, and dance and play basketball, and pay attention to my body.
I was never any good at it, but it didn’t matter. As long as I enjoyed it, it was ok. And it gave me a life-long appreciation for people who are good at it, especially men. Later, I decided it was just about the most important course I took in college.
I believe in the resurrection of the body, partly because my body was resurrected that year. “I believe in the resurrection of the body.” This is one of the most outrageous claims of the Christian faith, the resurrection of the body. For those of us who grew up reciting the Apostles’ Creed every Sunday, it is a familiar claim. Let’s just remind ourselves of the Apostles’ Creed.  Some people here have probably rarely recited it.
I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth. And in Jesus Christ his only Son our Lord; who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead, and buried; he descended into hell; the third day he rose again from the dead; he ascended into heaven, and sitteth on the right hand of God the Father Almighty; from thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead.  I believe in the Holy Spirit; the holy catholic Church; the communion of saints; the forgiveness of sins; the resurrection of the body; and the life everlasting. AMEN.
If we didn’t get stuck on Jesus descending into hell, then we probably had the biggest question about believing the “holy catholic church” which just means the universal Christian church. By the time we got to believing in the ‘resurrection of the body.” we hardly had enough attention left to worry about it. But what did it mean?
“I believe in the resurrection of the body.” This is a wonderful claim Christians make – that the body is important. Just as I was given reinforcement growing up to think that my mind was more important than my body, our whole society, more and more, values the mind or the soul more than the body. The Christian faith says you cannot separate them.  We are our bodies. Our bodies are integral to who we are. Bodies matter to God.
Romans thought early Christians were odd because they cared so much about burying the dead – not just their own dead, but the poor as well. In Roman society, the bodies of poor people, if left unattended, were dumped in a common pit, a paupers’ grave. Some Romans thought this was terrible and formed societies to pay for burial or cremation. These societies had lofty rhetoric about ensuring everyone had a proper burial, but nobody actually wanted to do the dirty work of burial, of handling a dead body – except the Christians.
Christians insisted even on gathering the bones of those who had been executed for refusing to renounce their faith. They gathered the bones and put them in a place of honor and described them as capable of possessing the sanctity of the living holy person. [Thomas G. Long Accompany Them with Singing, p. 30-31] Because they believed in the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead – the bodily resurrection of Christ, they honored people’s bodies and said that all people should be treated with respect – not just their souls, not just their minds. The whole person needs to be treated with honor and respect. All God’s people need to be treated with honor and respect.

I believe in the resurrection of the body. Early Christians had rapidly evolving beliefs about what happens to the body when you die.  In the Bible, there are at least two beliefs about resurrection. The first is that people when they die are immediately resurrected and join God and join their loved ones in heaven. In our modern times, this belief has become separated from bodies. People’s souls are what are resurrected and reunited with loved ones. It’s about individuals and spirits.
The second view of resurrection, at least as strong as the first, is that Jesus will return and all the dead in Christ are raised and restored to life in a world made whole. This is one what we read about in Revelation – the final days where Christ returns and everyone comes back to bodily life and has what they need to live – shelter, food, water. Everyone will live together in peace and everyone will care for each other body and soul.  This view is more communal and more about the whole person, body and soul.
Both views of resurrection are imaginative and speculative.  I like to reach for the view of resurrection that is a bigger reach – that Jesus comes back to make the world whole, to make the world right – so that all people have food to eat, water to drink, and a place to live, all people have a reason to dance – with their whole being, dance, with body and soul, dance without aches or pains, dance like you’re 6 years old, dance like nobody’s watching, dance like you’ve come to life. Dance, because this is God’s good news.  Amen.