Date: April 8, 2007
Scripture: John 20: 1-18
Sermon: Jesus is still with us–we are a part of his body
Pastor: Rev. Kim Wells
I know it is hard to imagine, but 2,000 years ago, there were no video cameras or cell phone cameras or recording devices – no reality TV. We know only from historical accounts that Jesus was crucified. He died on a cross, as did many others who were considered a threat to the Roman government. But was he left on the cross to be consumed by scavenging animals as most people who were crucified? Was he buried in a mass grave with many other victims, which was also the custom of the time. Was he put in a tomb which was discovered empty three days later? We don’t know for sure. We will probably never know the actual facts of Jesus’ death and surrounding circumstances. We probably won’t ever have scientific proof.
We do know that his friends and followers were moved to continue the ministry and mission. We do know they invited others to find joy and hope in the Jesus’ life. We do know that the earliest New Testament writer, Paul, refers to the faith community, the church, as the body of Christ.
So in continued fellowship, worship, and service, Jesus’ friends experienced his presence in powerful ways even after he had been killed. And we still experience Jesus’ presence in the church today. The church is still showing the world who Jesus is by carrying out his teachings and his ministry, by being his body.
We can see Jesus in Eastminster Presbyterian Church in Wichita, Kansas. They had the architectural design all done for the building of a new sanctuary. They were ready to embark on a major building project. Then a devastating earthquake struck Guatemala. A lay person in the congregation asked one simple question, “How can we set out to buy an ecclesiastical Cadillac when our brothers and sisters in Guatemala have just lost their little Volkswagen?” Instead of building the new sanctuary, the church raised the money to rebuild 26 churches and 28 pastors’ homes. [From Hunger for the Word: Lectionary Reflections on Food and Justice Year C, Larry Hollar, ed, quoting Ronald Sider’s Living More Simply.]
Michael Hayne tells us of his visit to Mother Teresa’s home for the dying in Calcutta, India. Just before I reached the home an old woman had been brought in from the street in a filthy condition. She was barely recognizable as human. “Come and see,” said Sister Luke, and took me across a curtained off trough. She drew back the curtain. The trough was filled with a few inches of water in which was lying the stick-like body of the old woman. Two Missionaries of Charity were gently washing her clean and comforting her at the same time. Above the trough, stuck to the wall, was a simple notice containing four words: “The body of Christ.” In the dying woman, yes. But also in those caring for her. [from Resources for Preaching and Worship, Year C, compiled by Hannah Ward and Jennifer Wild, quoting Michael Mayne, A Year Lost and Found]
We can see Jesus in the life of Bonita Spikes. Her husband was an innocent bystander in a convenience store robbery. She was called to the hospital and as the curtain was pulled back she saw her husband’s dead body with a bullet wound to the chest. She was aching for revenge, but the killers were never found. She realized that as long as she held on to her desire for revenge she was prolonging her own pain. She got involved with a ministry to those on death row spending time with prisoners, their families, victims and their families. Spikes is against the death penalty which she sees as a way of honoring her husband who was opposed to it. [from Christian Century, 11/28/06, quoting the Baltimore Sun 11/07/06]
We can see Jesus in the Sunday school class of Plymouth United Church of Christ in Fort Collins, Colorado. They have helped the students of Rawdat El Zuhur School in an impoverished area of East Jerusalem. The church school children send dollars to the school each month and also send a CD with a song about peace and a beautiful prayer book. The whole congregation got involved. That is just one example of the more than 900 children at 13 sites around the world who are assisted through the United Church of Christ sponsorship program. (From UCC News April/May 2007, p.A7)
And we can see Jesus in the little church in St. Petersburg, FL opening its doors to offer hospitality to the homeless.
We can see the presence of Jesus here in our world and our lives right now through the church, his body. The church molds and shapes people to live the Jesus life – to care for one another, act justly, love with compassion, forgive freely, serve with sensitivity, give and share with generosity. Whenever we see the church being like Jesus, sharing God’s, love and care, we are seeing the presence of the Resurrected One.
We may never have proof of what happened to Jesus’ actual flesh and bones. There will never be photos or videos to tell us what actually happened to Jesus. But we know his presence is still with us in the church because we experience his ministry and his forgiveness. We experience his call to new life, especially when we have gotten ourselves into trouble. We offer ourselves in love and service. We work for peace. The healing, the forgiving, the sharing, the serving, the hospitality, the bridging of differences, the growing and learning that people experienced with Jesus is still going on today in the church.
Yes, Jesus is still with us. We know it because we are a part of his body. Amen