Rev. Danielle K Bartz April 18, 2021
Luke 24:36b-48 “Miracle Made Flesh”
A poem by William B. Jones entitled ‘Day One’ includes these lines: “slowly it dawns it has been undone,/bruised yet healing from wounding/wondering what next after this,/he rises and eases through walls.” The poem ‘Day One’ is about the resurrection of Christ. The poem doesn’t describe the resurrection as a moment when Jesus is healed from his execution, flying through the walls on wings, skin glowing. Rather, the poem describes Jesus slowly realizing life is returning to this body, his body that is still carrying wounds. The poem describes something miraculous, but at the same time it describes something so human, so real, so bodily, that I can almost begin to grasp the unknowable of God’s miracle.
The Easter season in the Christian church, just one week longer than the season of Lent, begins with stories like we heard today – stories of the risen Christ appearing to his disciples. The season of Easter then concludes with scripture that reminds us of the intimacy of God’s love and presence in our life. That God is not distant and separated from humanity in all of its pain and glory, but rather God is in the midst of all that brings us joy, and all of that which brings us to tears. The Easter season reminds us God is incarnate, God takes on human flesh, God breathes our air, God feels the soil of our earth, God knows what it means to love, and God knows what it means to suffer. The incarnation is the miracle we celebrate at Christmas, and in many ways, the incarnation is the miracle we celebrate at Easter.
In the scripture we heard today, Jesus appears to the disciples after they had discovered his tomb empty. He greets them in a familiar way, “Peace be with you” but the disciples don’t trust their eyes. The scripture states they thought they were seeing a ghost. “Touch and see” Jesus says to the disciples of his body – touch and know that I am real and made of flesh and bone. Then he asks them for a meal, and they watch as Jesus eats fish – further proof that his body was before them, that he had indeed been raised from the dead; that this was not a ghost or a spirit in front of them, it was a body, a person, a miracle made flesh.
The bodily resurrection of Christ is one of the greatest mysteries of our Christian faith. But I am not here to convince you of the fact of it. I would never expect you, or me, or anyone to have a complete and total understanding of God. If you are not sure about the bodily resurrection of Jesus, you are in good company. I am not sure either. In fact, you and I are in great company. Today’s scripture makes it clear the disciples were also not sure. Verse 41 reads: “While in their joy they were disbelieving and still wondering.” Joyful. Disbelieving. Wondering. Perhaps that is exactly what it means to be an Easter people. Filled with joy, though still disbelieving. But, ultimately, wondering. Wondering, as the line from the poem ‘Day One’ says, “wondering what next after this.”
So I am not here to convince you of anything. I am not convinced of anything myself. But today, this day, what I am finding so comforting is that this miracle is grounded in the body. In the incarnation – the holy takes on human flesh and lives as we live, experiences life as we experience life. Birth and death – and the entirety of human existence that exists in between: life. Our faith tells us God experiences that entirety.
The entirety of Jesus’ life is not recorded in the Gospels. We get snapshots along the way. We are reminded of the miracles, the lessons he taught, the care he showed for the outcast. That we see. But that was not all. His life was more than that and we easily imagine because his human life would have been reflective of our human life. His body growing tired after a long day and a relief of laying down to sleep. The feeling of a cool drink of water on a hot day. Sitting around a table laughing with friends so much the stomach muscles start to ache. Holding hands with someone. Feeling the breath and heartbeat of someone held close. Boiling hot anger. Inexplicable joy. Fear at the unknown. Grief at loss. Jesus experienced the entirety of humanity. God experienced the entirety of humanity. That means God experienced the pain of wounding and the pain of death at the hands of a state afraid of him.
But that is not the entirety of the story. Our faith points to the miracle of resurrection – of a body wounded, broken, mistreated, abused, wronged – and that body alive once again. But, that body once again alive is not made perfect. The wounds still exist. The ache of violence still rests in the flesh. In today’s scripture, Jesus shows the disciples his hands and feet. And while not made explicit, I believe his hands and feet still bared the wounds of being nailed to the cross. In other Gospels we hear of Jesus pointing to a stab wound on his side, even tells Thomas to place his fingers inside of that injury. The bodily resurrection of Jesus did not mean his body was made perfect again. His body still carried the trauma of what he had experienced. But his body lived once again. It is this idea that a wounded body can still be filled with life that is giving me hope today.
Each of us have experienced wounding and trauma. Each of us have been hurt or sick. Each of us carry scars on our bodies. And each of us have been wounded in our spirits – that part of ourselves that the world cannot touch but that world can effect. And yet, here we are. Here we are still drawing breath, moving, living. Here we are, wounded and yet alive. That is a miracle – a miracle of Easter. That is the miracle given to us by God.
And our body as a people, as humanity – our communal body is greatly wounded as well. War, state-sponsored violence, racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, hunger, pandemic – all of these are wounds our body as humanity carries. And our spirit, our communal spirit, carries wounds as well. Hatred towards one another. Words that lash. Betrayal of trust. These are wounds our spirit as humanity carries. And yet – here we are. Here we are “wondering what next after this.”
The joy of Easter does not rid the world of the wounds that we carry, either individually or communally. The joy of Easter does not make everything right again. The joy of Easter is a reminder that life is possible. That we can continue to live despite the wounds. That we can continue thrive despite what has been done to us. The joy of Easter doesn’t fix the hurt of our world. The resurrection of Jesus did not rid his body of the violence done to him. The joy of Easter is the hope of life, the promise of life. The resurrection of Jesus is the hope of our faith, the promise of God made flesh.
I have said before and I will say again: to be Christian, to be an Easter people, is a bit like a moment of dissonant counterpoint in music. When the melody of our lives and the melody of God’s promise do not quite create harmony. And yet – here we are. Living as Easter people, as a people promised resurrection. As a people promised harmony. That is why the wounded and yet living body of a resurrected Christ is giving me so much hope today.
I opened my sermon with a poem and I want to close with one. This is entitled “Wounded Garden” by Steven Garnaas-Holmes:
Even as the golden dust of the resurrection falls,
settling on our shoes like heaven’s pollen,
as we look up at angels receding,
as the exuberant news echoes in our hearts,
even now, stepping into new lives
of joy and gratitude,
our hearts are broken,
we lament… we are silent… we scream.
Injustice continues its hungry rounds,
death is granted permission to hunt on our grounds.
Another shot rings out.
We cry out. How long, O Lord?
But we don’t cry alone.
The song rises—the sorrowful, courageous song,
the hymn of gentle defiance,
still flows through the throats of the faithful.
this wounded garden, this is the very place of resurrection.
We who have died and been raised are not afraid
to cry out, to be silent, to listen, to act, to sing.
We will do justice, and love kindness, and walk humbly with God.
We will no longer be afraid
to do justice, to love kindness, to walk humbly with God.
Even in the lingering darkness we are not afraid.
For Christ is rising. Christ is rising indeed.
Good and Gracious God,
In a world where many would seek to damage your creation, bring hatred to your people, show violence to your children … help us always to be grateful for the gifts of love and life, for the glimpses of transforming beauty and unending wonder. Take us now, and use us well to combat evil and destruction wherever we find it.
In world driven by greed and a lust for power; where the material threatens to overwhelm the spiritual; where goodness seems too frail in the face of badness … help us not to give up on righteousness and truth; to believe that you can use well the gifts we offer; that you will call forth the gifts of your people again and again.
In a world where people are broken at the hands of humanity and by the vagaries of nature … help us to trust the healing of your blessing and love, placed even now in the hands of those who seek to face down injustice and champion human rights; who stand in the dark places with your light held high; who give of themselves for the sake of others.
In a world where we struggle to understand pain and suffering, and, most especially, in the lives of those we love … we bring before you those for whom we weep; those we embrace in our hearts; those to who we reach out in the yearnings of our prayers …
In a world where we can feel so insignificant and helpless … help us to know you have a place for us; lift our spirits when we don’t feel good enough; fit us into your plan in amazing ways.
In a world where so much is focused on the here and now … help us to remain bound with those who have gone before us; to rejoice in our fellowship in the one kingdom of your love; to give thanks that, from time to time, we have a glimpse of eternity. Amen.