Preached at Ascension Towson, Easter, 2017.
“He has been raised from the dead, and indeed he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him.” That’s the message the angel told the women to proclaim to the other disciples. And they hightailed it outa there.
They were full of fear and wanted to make some distance between them and that empty tomb. But they also were about to explode with joy. This was amazing news and they couldn’t wait to share it. They had a mission.
Suddenly, they were stopped dead in their tracks. It was Jesus himself!
They threw themselves at his feet and grabbed hold of him. And then, Jesus gave them the same instructions they had heard from the angel, “Don’t be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.”
And they did see him. The resurrected Jesus. A lot of people saw him. Like the women at the tomb, they spoke with him, and they touched him. It wasn’t just a resurrection of the soul. It was a resurrection of the body.
We take comfort in that because at Easter Jesus defeated the power of death, not just for himself, but for us, too. And we trust that, when we die, there is a resurrection in our future as well. But what if there’s more than one way to look at this resurrection of the body stuff. What if it’s not just about something that will happen to us one day, after we die?
There’s another way Jesus’ resurrected body is revealed to us. And to get at that, let me share with you a bit of Lutheran theology, that is really just something that you can read about in the Bible.
In Lutheran theology, being a Christian is never just about Jesus-and-me. We don’t have a personal Lord and Savior whom we carry around in our pocket. We Lutherans are really big on what we call the Priesthood of All Believers. We don’t stand before God alone, but we stand with others who receive God’s Word of grace with us. In fact, that grace comes to us through our brothers and sisters. Like the women in the Easter story, other believers bring the gospel to us and we bring it to them.
We stand together as a community. We support one another on our faith journeys. Together, we discern what God is calling us to do in the world. And together we do it. It’s not just about Jesus and me. It’s about Jesus and us.
And here’s the really big thing about the Priesthood of All Believers. The Bible describes this unity we share with the metaphor of a body. We are the Body of Christ. As Teresa of Avila wrote so eloquently back in the 16th century:
“Christ has no body now on earth but yours,
No hands but yours, no feet but yours.
Yours are the eyes through which he looks with compassion on this world.
Yours are the feet with which he is to go about doing good.
Yours are the hands with which he is to bless people now.
Christ has no body now on earth but yours.”
Sisters and brothers in Christ, we are the resurrected Body of Christ.
Of course, the Body of Christ doesn’t just gather in this place as an end in itself. We gather to be strengthened through the love we share with one another, through the hearing of the Word, the Meal we receive, through the music that sends our spirits soaring, through the gratitude we express to God with our words and our hearts. During this time when we meet in this place, we are nourished as Christ’s Body so that we can be Christ for the world around us.
- When we’re welcoming the stranger at worship, or advocating for the stranger in our community, we are the resurrected Body of Christ.
- When we’re providing lunches for the homeless, or tutoring students in an underserved school, we are the resurrected Body of Christ.
- When we’re welcoming neighborhood children into our nursery school or supporting Lutheran Campus Ministry, we are the resurrected Body of Christ.
- When we’re sending quilts to provide a loving embrace for those who feel abandoned, or praying for brothers and sisters in Nicaragua, we are the resurrected Body of Christ.
- When we’re caring for aging parents, we are the resurrected Body of Christ.
- When we’re exercising justice and compassion in our place of business, we are the resurrected Body of Christ.
- When we’re speaking out on behalf of those who can’t speak for themselves, we are the resurrected Body of Christ.
- When we’re offering a word of compassion to the forgotten, the brokenhearted and the lonely, we are the resurrected Body of Christ.
Whenever we’re doing the work of Christ in the world, we are his hands and his feet, and his eyes, and his mouth. We are the resurrected Body of Christ.
“Don’t be afraid,” Jesus said. “Go and tell my brothers and sisters to go to Ascension Lutheran Church in Towson. There they will see me.”