Sunday, April 15, 2012

Homily for Quasimodo Geniti (The Second Sunday of Easter)

Thomas 2


John 20:19-31; 1 John 5:4-10; Ezekiel 37:1-14

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.

Whether its vampires or zombies, our culture today seems to be fascinated with the “undead”. In the 1980s we had “The Lost Boys”. Later, Anne Rice had her “Interview with the Vampire”. Then, along came “Buffy, the Vampire Slayer”. Since then we’ve had teenage vampires, romantic vampires, and all manner and sorts of vampires you can imagine. And, then came the zombies. “Night of the Living Dead” has been revisited again and again. “28 Days Later” introduced the zombie-apocalypse genre. Then, just a few years ago, Quentin Tarrantino took a stab at zombies in his Grindcore tribute “Planet Terror”. Today, one of the hottest shows on television is “The Walking Dead” on the AMC network, the most-watched basic cable drama telecast in history. In case you haven’t figured it out yet, I’ve read the books, I’ve watched the shows and the movies, and I can’t wait until “The Walking Dead” returns in the Fall.

Thus, when I saw a cartoon on Facebook last week, I have to confess that, though the subject was a bit impious, if not blasphemous, I had to snicker a bit. The cartoon depicted a zombified Jesus coming out of the tomb. The caption coming from His mouth was “Brains!!” You know, I’d just never thought of that before. I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised that people today might make a zombie connection with Jesus’ resurrection from the dead. Indeed, it’s quite possible that the disciples’ thoughts were not that much different. When our resurrected Lord appeared to His disciples on Easter evening, He quickly showed them His wounds and invited them to touch Him, and then He ate some food before them to demonstrate to them that He was not a ghost, or worse. In Luke’s Gospel, Jesus reassures them saying, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me, and see. For a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.”

You see, there’s a big difference between ghosts and spirits, and even vampires and zombies, and our resurrected Lord Jesus. Unlike ghosts and spirits, Jesus was raised with a flesh and blood human body. And, unlike vampires and zombies, Jesus is not the living dead, but He is the living living. Our resurrected Lord Jesus is flesh and blood, body and soul, living, breathing, eating, drinking – just as He was for thirty-three years during His earthly life – just like you, only, His body is glorified, incorruptible, and imperishable – as your body will one day be. In His body, Jesus could walk through closed doors. He could vanish and appear when and how He wished. And He could, and He did, ascend to the right hand of His Father in heaven, in His flesh and blood body, forty days after His resurrection from the dead. He reigns and rules there as the living proof of your resurrection from the dead and ascension into the presence of the glory of the Holy Triune God.

The disciples did not recognize Jesus at first because His appearance was somewhat different. Though Peter, James, and John were permitted a preview glimpse of Jesus’ glory at His Transfiguration, the disciples had never seen Jesus in the fullness of His glory. He was the same Jesus, but different; somehow He was even more. He was glorified. The Apostle John later taught that what he witnessed having occurred to Jesus would also happen to you, saying, “Beloved, we are God's children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when He appears we shall be like Him, because we shall see Him as He is.” In a very real way, I can say that I don’t know you as you truly are. What I behold, what you behold when you behold each other, is something considerably less than what you were created to be and, indeed, what you will be in the resurrection. What will you be? Who can say for certain? But we do know this much: You and your body will be like Jesus in His glorified body, never hungering, never thirsting, having no need, want, or lack at all, and most importantly, never dying, for, “We know that Christ being raised from the dead will never die again; death no longer has dominion over Him.” You will be like your First Parents, but better, indeed, you will be what they longed to be, and now and eternally are. Whatever faults and wounds and defects others see in you, and that you see in others, will be glorified like the wounds of Jesus – they will become as glorious scars.

That’s part of the significance of Jesus’ resurrection; His thirty-three years of life, His mother and father, His childhood and adolescence, His friends and disciples, even His suffering, crucifixion, and death – these did not disappear, they didn’t go away, they weren’t left behind, but they were resurrected and they were glorified! In His resurrection, Jesus became the fullness of who He truly was and is. In the same way, you will not be raised a different person, with different memories and different relationships, but you will be raised as yourself, but glorified, as you truly were meant to be. In the resurrection, you will be the whole you, the real and true you. But, maybe you’re thinking that you’d rather not take your old baggage with you? Foolishness! You are who you are. All the things you’ve experienced and done, both the good and the bad, will be resurrected and will be glorified. They will not harm you and hurt you, just as Jesus’ wounds no longer harm or hurt Him, but they are glorious scars of eternal reminding: It is finished. Sin is forgiven. Death is defeated. Life reigns.

The Episcopalian theologian Robert Farrar Capon has a fascinating take on this. Concerning the returning Prodigal Son and Thankful Samaritan Leper, Capon writes, “everything about us goes home, because everything about us, good or evil, dies in our death and rises by [Jesus’] life. The son’s prodigality goes home, the Samaritan’s leprosy goes home; and so does your lying, my adultery, and Uncle Henry’s embezzling. We never have to leave behind a scrap! Nothing, not even the worst thing we ever did, will ever be anything but a glorious scar.” “And that is a gift,” Capon continues, “because we don’t have to deny one smitch of our history. […] the Samaritan goes away with his life saved because, like the prodigal, he has not put his derelict life into the forgettery. At Jesus’ feet he sees himself whole: dead and risen, and outcast and accepted, a leper and cleansed.” What is raised in the resurrection is the whole you, but better. Unlike vampires and zombies, which are something less than human, in the resurrection you will be fully human, which is more human than you are even now.

And, as goes humanity, so goes all of creation. In His death and resurrection, Jesus has made, and is still making, all things new. Along with humanity, all creation, plunged into corruption by Adam’s sin, has been redeemed and is being restored. The earthly paradise God made, corrupted by our First Parent’s sin, is redeemed, renewed, and made even better in the resurrection. Eden’s Tree of Life, which, because of man’s rebellion, became a cursed tree of death upon which the Second Adam and New man Jesus Christ was crucified and died, has been redeemed and restored and renewed so that it is present in the New Paradise, flanking the River of Life and providing life and healing for all, as a new and better Tree of Life.

The difficulty you have is that all you can see of the resurrection is the death. When Sunday morning came around, all of Jesus’ disciples believed Him to be dead. The women came to the tomb to finish preparing His body for burial. Their greatest concern was how they could get into the tomb since they believed that a great stone blocked the way. When they found the tomb open and Jesus’ body gone, even with the absolution and proclamation of an angel, they still didn’t believe and they were afraid. When the women finally told Peter and the other disciples, they did not believe their word. And, even when our resurrected Lord appeared amongst them behind closed doors, they were afraid and didn’t believe, until He showed them His wounds and ate some food in their presence. Then they were glad when they saw the Lord.

We know from today’s Gospel lesson, the historic text appointed for this Second Sunday of Easter, that poor Thomas wasn’t with the disciples that Easter evening. Where was he? We don’t know, but likely he too was hiding somewhere in fear just like the others. When the disciples told Thomas that they had seen the Lord, Thomas infamously replied, “Unless I see in His hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into His side, I will never believe.” For this statement of stubborn unbelief, Thomas has received the moniker “Doubting Thomas”. But, was Thomas really all that bad? Yes, and no. He didn’t believe, that’s clear enough, and that’s bad. However, he was confident to confess his unbelief and what it would take for him to believe, and that’s good. Moreover, I think that Thomas merely spoke what the others were thinking in their hearts. I’m actually very thankful for Thomas, because I am Thomas. I need to see and touch Jesus too in order to believe. And, I think you’re probably Thomas too. Thankfully, mercifully, graciously, Jesus comes to you in His resurrected and glorified flesh and blood body to bring you peace in His Words and in His Wounds. What He gives you, He gives as a foretaste of what is to come. Jesus knows how hard it is for you who have not seen to believe, and so He speaks His Peace to you, He shows you His Wounds, and He invites you to eat and drink of Him so that you may believe and have eternal life in His Name. Again, unlike both vampires and zombies, He does not come to you dead in order to take life from you, eating your flesh and drinking your blood, but Jesus comes to you alive to give His flesh and His blood to you to eat and drink that you may receive His life.

Even now your Lord Jesus is present with you with His Word of Peace and with His Holy and life-giving Wounds to raise you to new life in Him and to feed, nourish, and strengthen you in faith in Him that you, like Thomas, may not disbelieve, but believe, saying, “My Lord and my God!” Indeed, Thomas did not remain doubting, but he is believed to have traveled to India to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the people of that land. Likewise, you have been raised to new life in Jesus Christ that you may go and tell in word and deed the Good News that Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!

In the + Name of Jesus. Amen.

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