What God is About
A recording of this sermon can be found here beginning at 19:25.
1 Corinthians 15:12-20: Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say there is no resurrection of the dead? If there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised; and if Christ has not been raised, then our proclamation has been in vain and your faith has been in vain. We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified of God that he raised Christ—whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised. If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have died in Christ have perished. If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.
But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have died. (NRSV)
Greetings to you and peace from God our Father, the Lord Jesus Christ, and the Abiding Holy Spirit.
In Christ, my hope rests on the resurrection of the dead, of corpses, of bodies. That someday, I and everything else will be swept into a new life.
All the good and beautiful things in my life are rooted in my body. All the moments of my life that have shimmered with peace and love and grace and joy I have passed through in my body. A long drink of ice cold water on a hot day of pulling weeds when you can feel the water slide all the way down your chest and rest right below your ribs. Tucked between my children in my bed, listening to their long and steady breaths, soaking in the dim silver light of winter pouring in through the window before closing my eyes to join their nap. Eating grapes in Athens that I purchased from a street grocer that are so big and so soft and juicy and full of seeds that it takes five bites to eat one. Listening to drums so loud and lively that you have to move; you have to dance. Watching the sunset over the lake again and the water looks like it is covered in crystals. The loons call and sigh to each other. The bat wings make the stars wink.
In Christ, I hope for and wait on the resurrection of the dead, the redemption of matter, because every good and beautiful thing in my life has come through my body.
But our culture regularly tells us that our bodies are good for nothing but production and consumption. Our bodies are machines of meat meant to be subdued and made useful. Our bodies are valuable when they are engaged in work, and working hard. Our bodies are not of value when they are sick or old or tired or grieving or need time to heal. Bodies are meant to be busy.
If our culture allows us to identify with any part of our body, it is our brain. Our body is there just to keep our brain running, right? So that we can absorb more data, see more ads, read more articles, watch more shows, give more likes, add more comments, respond to more texts, keeping the chain going. And anxiety and loneliness continues to grow.
The ancient Greeks that Paul was writing to thought the body was pretty suspect too. Fallible and unreliable with all its emotions and feelings. Corrupted and corruptible. Many of them saw death as the moment they, their souls, were released from their tainted flesh and they returned to their pure spiritual state.
In spite of our culture’s view of bodies, I long for the day when God finishes God’s work of resurrecting the dead. Partly because every good and beautiful thing in my life is tied up in my body. But mostly because of what God has been about and God has been about bodies, created stuff.
From the beginning when God created humans in God’s image, formed them, breathed life into them and said it was “very good” to the birth of God’s own body, formed in our image, God’s son, Jesus Christ. From Jesus turning water into wine, good wine, to him using his saliva to heal the eyes of a blind man. From Jesus lifting up bread and wine and saying “this is my body given for you” to Jesus submitting his body, God’s body, to a shameful, painful death. From our resurrected Jesus standing before Mary and voicing her name to Thomas handling Jesus’ wounds. From creation to incarnation, birth to death, resurrection to now, from eating to drinking, laughing and crying and shouting, feeding and healing, talking and listening, God’s love has manifested in bodies, in corpses, in matter. God’s movement throughout all of time has been to get closer to bodies.
Paul writes to the ancient Corinthians and to us, “If there is no resurrection of the dead, … we are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified of God that he raised Christ.” Then we do not see what God has been about.
I took one biology class in college. At the beginning of our unit on DNA and genetics, our professor told us that each of us was literally one in a million. Between our parents lay a million potential combinations and we were the one that happened. God does not strive to strip away the wonder of creation. In Christ, we have received a promise that God strives to bring all the wonder and beauty and joy of creation to its fullness. God strives to make us whole, us and our bodies, us-our bodies.
In Christ, I hope for and wait on the resurrection of the dead, of decay, of ruin - the redemption of matter. I look forward to the day when I walk down the streets of a new city while eating a grape so big and so soft and juicy and full of seeds that it takes seven bites to eat just one while my face is warmed by the light of God, dwelling right in our midst, illuminating the activity of every street, the growth in every garden, the winging of every bird. Every good and beautiful thing.