Today I’d like to talk about my body. Well, no, not my body – I actually want to talk about your body. Wait, no I don’t mean your body specifically – I want to talk about everybody’s bodies together. Actually that sounds creepy too.
I want to talk about the human body, that’s all.
Typically people assume the Christian faith focuses on the invisible – whatever occupies our hearts and minds – but while that is very true, physical bodies are not ignored either.
The Bible has lots of physical references to the bodies of many of its characters: some are tall, some are short; some weak, some strong; some hairy, some smooth; some ugly, some attractive; some fashionable and some not. There are descriptions of smells, sights, births, deaths, hunger and feasting. Most are punctuated with gritty details of sexuality, violence, and frequent body fluids to flesh out the scenes.
Consider the Genesis account of God’s creation of the world and his pleasure with it. All the flora and fauna are given unique and glorious bodies, as are his ultimate creation of man and woman. It was the appearance of sin on the earth that diminished their understanding of their bodies from whole and purposeful into something to be used and plundered.
You will recall that just before Jesus’ crucifixion he initiated a tradition that continues to this day in every truly Christian church. He sat at a table with his followers and broke some bread, describing it as his body then shared some wine, calling it his blood. For generations after that Christians would literally eat meals together, the bread and wine reminding them while feeding their bodies, souls and spirits.
When Jesus appeared to people after his resurrection, he appeared in bodily form. He walked and talked and ate food, giving importance to the human body. Resurrection – one of God’s final acts at the end of time – is a confirmation that we will be more than disembodied souls floating around in heaven; we will be re-created in the next life as the whole, perfect person we were meant to be.
The following gospel reading is scheduled for today in many churches and the background to it was a harsh reality in that time and place. Women filled the traditional role in the family home so if a woman’s husband died it was not unusual for her to be left without anything. For that reason there was a tradition where a brother of the deceased could choose to marry the widow – an arrangement that was meant to benefit each of them.
Intending to draw Jesus into a debate about what happens to those who have died, some religious leaders propose a highly theoretical question to him about a woman.
Then Jesus was approached by some Sadducees—religious leaders who say there is no resurrection from the dead. They posed this question: “Teacher, Moses gave us a law that if a man dies, leaving a wife but no children, his brother should marry the widow and have a child who will carry on the brother’s name. Well, suppose there were seven brothers. The oldest one married and then died without children. So the second brother married the widow, but he also died. Then the third brother married her. This continued with all seven of them, who died without children. Finally, the woman also died. So tell us, whose wife will she be in the resurrection? For all seven were married to her!”
Jesus replied, “Marriage is for people here on earth. But in the age to come, those worthy of being raised from the dead will neither marry nor be given in marriage. And they will never die again. In this respect they will be like angels. They are children of God and children of the resurrection.
“But now, as to whether the dead will be raised—even Moses proved this when he wrote about the burning bush. Long after Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob had died, he referred to the Lord as ‘the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.’ So he is the God of the living, not the dead, for they are all alive to him.” – Luke 20:27-38 (NLT)
The Sadducees didn’t believe (as other Jews) that the dead would be resurrected, but notice the assumptions they make while framing their question. A woman is the central character of their fictional story but she is only a prop, woven in as a piece of the background to help them make their point. In their story the woman was multiple-married and childless, the inference being that her body had a sexual purpose but little other value. They even base their question around presumed ownership, “whose wife will she be?” or, which man will she belong to?
Jesus’ answer, “Marriage is for people here on earth” is often used to suggest that marriage will not continue in the afterlife, but notice that he doesn’t actually dwell on that subject. He is more interested in the value of each person, especially the value of this fictional woman, regardless of how they are valued by others. He tells us that in the next life we (she) will be like the angels with no fear, and we (she) will be an eternal child of God.
You won’t be known by who you belong to but you will be known as a child of God. In the next life you will be the perfect ‘you’ that you were always intended to be.
Do you have a large mirror? Go to the mirror and look at it. Look carefully. I’ll wait…. (and I hope I hear lots of ‘oohs’ and ‘ahs’).
I’m guessing you look different than you did a decade ago. Depending on what stage of your life you’re in, you probably have more or less of something. Some of those things are invisible, like vision, arthritis, blood pressure, stress; others are more noticeable like hair, wrinkles, blemishes, fat.
But wait. That ‘you’ that you just looked at in the mirror – your body, soul, and spirit – you matter to God. Right now.
That is the larger point Jesus is making: “…he is the God of the living, not the dead, for they are all alive to him.”
You are more than a soul – you’re a body. You are more than a body – you’re a soul. You are more than body and soul – you’re a collective, eternally living spirit.
For those who have chosen the way of Jesus, life begins now and continues on forever because he is eternally about life, not death.