Sermon for Easter 2 Yr B 2018
There has been a tension within the Christian Faith between what we might describe as heaven and earth, body and soul, flesh and spirit.
It is possible that the tension has always been present and I think I can discern it in the writings of Paul, where he questions whether life with God is to be desired above life now, and in Matthews Gospel we clearly get the tension in chapter 26 when we read the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.
I also believe the tension comes through from early Jewish writings and the way in which a life after death was discussed and a gradual emergence in Judaism after the exiles had returned to Jerusalem, in a resurrection.
Today we are most likely to believe in a resurrection, a life after death, though we may vary in how each individual sees this working out.
When John wrote his gospel at the end of the first century, the idea of resurrection was well established. Yet the relationship between this world and the world to come was still puzzling.
Thomas speaks for many of us when he says he needs to see proof, even to feel proof, that this world and the world of the resurrection are connected.
It was all very well to speak of Jesus being raised to life again, but was this world and the next connected…. Did the life of heaven have anything to do with the life of earth?
Needless to say the Christian Church has continued this debate and people still sit on many fences.
Where does the body/flesh lie in the grand scheme of things?
It seems to me that our bodies do indeed play a huge part of what I am and what God has created in me, or formed in me. I also experience God through this flesh too. There is no great divorce or great divide, and it is one exciting thing about talking of incarnation… God becomes human.
The Christian Church sees incarnation focused in Jesus, it also sees resurrection focused in Jesus.
Richard Rohr reflects,
We must begin by trusting what God has done in Jesus. We cannot return to a healthy view of our own bodies until we accept that God has forever made human flesh the privileged place of the divine encounter. We have had enough of dualism, enough of the separation of body and spirit, enough over-emphasis on the body’s excesses and addictions. We must reclaim the incarnation as the beginning point of the Christian experience of God. (Rohr)
This week saw the 50th anniversary of the death of Martin Luther King. Hearing his last address this week made me realise what a prophet of his time he was and that a more fuller understanding of resurrection means seeing the life of this world as part of it.
Hope in both this world and the world to come was crucial to him. He famously said:
“If you lose hope, somehow you lose that vitality that keeps life moving, you lose that courage to be, that quality that helps you go on in spite of all. And so today I still have a dream.
—Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929-1968)
Thomas was able to witness that the life of God and the life of earth were vitally connected, and in seeing this he was the first disciple to be able to declare “my Lord and my God”
Various hymns have been able to express this
Now is eternal life if risen with Christ we stand..
Christ is risen, we are risen!
Shed upon us heavenly grace,
Rain and dew and gleams of glory
From the brightness of Thy face;
That we, with our hearts in Heaven,
Here on earth may fruitful be,
And by angel hands be gathered,
And be ever, Lord, with Thee.
Christopher Wordsworth, Hearts to heaven and voices raise