Sunday, April 12, 2015

Sermon: Quasimodo Geniti (Easter 2) – 2015

12 April 2015

Text: John 20:19-31 (Ezek 37:1-14, 1 John 5:4-10)

In the name of + Jesus.  Amen.

Christ is risen!  He is risen indeed!  Alleluia!

We often hear people say nowadays, “I’m not religious; I’m spiritual.”  I think what they often mean by this is something like this: “I want God on my terms, and so I’ll treat my faith like a buffet line, and take only what I want.”

And what our sinful nature wants is a sterile, defanged, and easily controlled belief system.  We like being “spiritual” because it sounds so pious, but in fact, being “spiritual” means taking the body out of the equation.  The sinful flesh loves this because it means the body can do whatever it wants: be it sexual immorality, gluttony, or physical laziness and absence from carrying out our vocations.  A spiritual religion doesn’t concern itself with chastity or with visiting “orphans and widows in their affliction” and keeping oneself “unstained from the world” as St. James describes, as opposed to what he calls “religion that is pure and undefiled before God.”

But “being spiritual” is even worse.  For it is to miss the whole point of what the human spirit was created to do: namely, to animate a human body, to dwell in human flesh, to live in the perfect glory that God meant for us on the first day in which He made man in His image and breathed life into his physical body.

There is a term for “being spiritual”, separating the body from the spirit.  It’s called “death.”

To be truly alive is to be like Jesus after the resurrection.  For on that first Sunday after the first Easter, the disciples were locked in a room in fear.  And who came to visit them?  Not a ghost.  Not a phantom.  Not an idea in their heads or feelings in their hearts.  Rather Jesus, the incarnate God, the bodily resurrected Son, came to them.  He did not come bearing a socially-acceptable, safe, and self-serving spirituality.  Rather He came bearing His body, standing in the flesh among them, and He said to them: “Peace be with you.”

The peace of God comes bodily: with Jesus, through Jesus, and in Jesus.  It is not an abstract idea, but a fleshly reality: “the peace that passes all understanding.”  Jesus gives the apostles the Holy Spirit and the authority to forgive sins: “Receive the Holy Spirit.  If you forgive the sins of anyone, they are forgiven; if you withhold forgiveness from anyone, it is withheld.”  And yet this Spirit is not given to the apostles spiritually, but rather bodily.  For the Lord “breathed on them.”  He ordained them by His physical contact, in much the same way as Jesus touched the sick to cure them, touched the demon-possessed to release them, and touched sinners to forgive them.  The apostles would later pass this Holy Spirit-wielding authority to forgive sins to other men, not through telepathy, not through happy thoughts, not through navel-gazing, but through the physical laying on of hands.

Jesus did not come to make the world spiritual, but rather to make the world more physical and more alive than at any time since the Garden of Eden.

And when St. Thomas the doubter came by next Sunday, our Lord Jesus did not offer Him a mystical vision, positive energy, or an aura: rather He offered St. Thomas His very fleshly body, and His bloody wounds, given to him physically for him to see and touch.  Thomas did not grope around for a spiritual experience, but rather stuck his finger into the Lord’s hand and side.  And Thomas confessed: “My Lord and my God!”  He did not believe in Jesus the ghost or Jesus the literary character.  He believed in Jesus: God, the Son of Man, who took flesh in order to die, who died in order to rise, who rose in order that we too might rise, and do so bodily.

Another son of man from an earlier day likewise had an encounter in the Spirit of the Lord that was anything but a “spiritual” experience.  For Ezekiel saw a field of bones.  And when the prophet preached the Word to these bones, the breath, that is, the spirit, entered them.  But the result was not spiritual, but physical: “I will lay sinews upon you,” says the Lord, “and will cause flesh to come upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and you shall live…. And there was a rattling and the bones came together.”  And then came sinews and flesh and skin.  And when the breath, that is, the spirit entered the flesh, the flesh came to life: “an exceedingly great army.”

The Lord did not speak through Ezekiel promising a vague spirituality, but something shockingly physical: “Behold, I will open your graves and raise you from your graves…. And you shall know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves and raise you from your graves, O My people.  And I will put My Spirit within you, and you shall live.”

How remarkable this Word is, this promise fulfilled before the doubting eyes of Thomas, whose hands touched the reality, whose eyes saw physically, and who himself would go on to baptize, preach, and administer Holy Communion in the flesh until his dying day.

Anyone who would try to “spiritualize” Jesus is attempting to tame Him, control Him, and reduce Him to a moralizing milquetoast instead of submitting to the Almighty One who conquered death by dying, and who physically rose from the tomb so that we too might rise.

Again, dear friends, this is not about spirituality, but about Jesus: His body and His blood, the water that flowed from His side, and the touch of His nail-scarred hands, hands that forgive sins, cure disease, cast out demons, and restore life even to the dead.  This is Good News, dear friends, and you experience this Gospel physically, from your Holy Baptism which you experienced not spiritually, but in the flesh; from the preached Word and Holy Absolution through which comes faith by hearing; and from Holy Communion, the flesh and blood of Jesus received by flesh and blood sinners, for forgiveness, life, and salvation.

“For everyone,” says St. John, “who has been born of God overcomes the world.  And this is the victory that has overcome the world – our faith.  Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?  This is He who came by water and blood – Jesus Christ.”

Dear friends, our Lord does not compare us to phantoms that run on positive thoughts, but rather to “newborn babes” who “desire the pure milk of the Word.”  For “He is risen from the dead” and He “stood in the midst and said, ‘Peace to you.’  Alleluia.”

And this is how we can confess in the flesh: “I believe in… the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting.”  For He has come in the flesh, and we receive His flesh in our own flesh, and like Thomas, we confess Him, the flesh-and-blood Jesus to be “[our] Lord and [our] God!”  Amen.

Christ is risen!  He is risen indeed!  Alleluia!

Hison the sickness of sinto the next - and d w liars and sons of the devil, tament, a bloodye people on In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen. 

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