Someone on the more mature side of life said. “Forget the health food. I need all the preservatives I can get.” One person who had some trouble in the kitchen, confessed, “I read recipes the same way I read science fiction. I get to the end and think, ‘Well, that’s not going to happen.'”
A reporter hears about an American Indian man with a phenomenal memory. He decides to interview him so he tracks him down and knocks on the door. The man opens the door and the reporter says, “How.” The American Indian replies, “How.”
The reporter says, “I hear that you have a prodigious memory.” “This is true,” he says. “Well, what did you have for breakfast 25 years ago today?” the reporter asks. Without hesitation, the man replies, “Eggs.” The reporter is polite but doesn’t think there’s much of a story here, so he goes on his way. Twenty-five years later, the reporter is retired and traveling the country, and happens to be in the American Indian’s neck of the woods. He says to himself, “I think I’ll see if that Native American guy with the memory is still around.” He finds the man’s house, knocks on the door, and sure enough the now even older fellow answers the door. The reporter says, “How,” and the American Indian says, “Scrambled.”
That’s not really about food or eating but it is funny.
It’s not really fair for me to talk about food and eating. I’m 6’4” and naturally thinly built. Me talking about food and eating is like getting a swimming lesson from a fish. “You just flip your tail back and forth, and you swim!” Well, it’s not quite like that for me but I’ve got advantages, no doubt.
But I do have to say that if there is one thing, just one thing that could make a big difference for folks who are trying to do better with eating and diet and health, that one thing would be to drop the soda and pick up water.
I also think exercising is important. But if there’s one thing, it’s definitely get rid of the sugar (and that includes fake sugar) in drinks and hit the H20 big time instead.
Because our bodies matter. What happens to us usually happens to our bodies. What we do to ourselves we do to our bodies, most of the time.
In our text this morning, the resurrected Jesus has nail prints in his hands and feet, a spear wound in his side, and of all things, he eats fish. It’s body issues after body issues this morning. It’s as if it’s not enough for Jesus
to say, “Look at what happened to my hands, my flesh. Check this out! I’m still hungry. I’ve still got a stomach and everything!”
If there’s any part of our body that is more natural, more human, more animal, than our appetite and our stomach, I can’t think of it. Our appetite leads us to eating which of course leads us to getting rid of what we eat. Pretty earthly stuff.
And scripture refuses to turn away from it. In this resurrection story, it embraces the most human, most natural, and earthy part of our lives.
So often we look at the Bible and assume something. We assume, consciously or not, that it fell from heaven, in a way. We assume these were people weren’t writing when other people were writing. We forget that our authors were thinking when other people were thinking—different thoughts from our authors is what I mean.
Our scripture had to contend with other scripture saying life was this way or God was that way or you guys over there don’t know what you’re talking about because we believe this is how it is.
The New Testament, the Gospels, weren’t written in a vacuum, or as if dropped from heaven. That’s not possible. It’s not humanly possible. The Bible, and certainly the New Testament, was written in the middle of a storm (or more calmly, a conversation) of possible other ideas, even contrary and opposite ideas about who Jesus was, what God is, what the nature of reality is, and more.
We’re hearing our side of the argument. The story of Jesus eating fish tells in a very shorthand and powerful way what we believe is true: The body matters—and it matters so much we proclaim as Christian truth, the resurrection of the body.
Now I need to take a moment here, and play, well, the devil’s advocate. It’s something I do in order to dig a little deeper into things, religious things, Christian things. I’m not someone who just accepts things just on the surface. I’ve got to know what I know is true and right, and that usually takes a little more time and effort to get to.
So I’ve got to ask, why? Why the resurrection of the body? I mean, who cares if we have bodies at that point? Why would I want mine anymore? It was great for awhile but it didn’t work out so well in the end. Besides, everyone knows we aren’t just our bodies. We’re spirit, soul. That stuff is more important anyway, right? Why do we as Christians make such a fuss about the body, and the resurrection of the body, anyway?
To answer that I’ve got to take you on a short tour. Does anyone know where Nag Hammadi is? It’s in Egypt, Upper Egypt, or southern Egypt. About 1800 years ago it had a library that housed a lot of ancient texts and stories. At some point, they were buried in the dry Egyptian ground, preserved until 1945, when they were discovered.
This immensely important discovery includes a large number of primary “Gnostic Gospels”—texts once thought to have been entirely destroyed during the early Christian struggle to define “orthodoxy”—scriptures such as the Gospel of Thomas, the Gospel of Philip, the Gospel of Truth, and the Apocalypse of Peter.
Like the vast majority of texts in the Nag Hammadi collection, the Apocalypse of Peter is heavily Gnostic. It was probably written sometime between 100-200 CE. The text takes Gnostic interpretations of the crucifixion to the extreme, picturing Jesus as laughing and warning against people who cleave to the name of a dead man, thinking they shall become pure. According to this text:
“He whom you saw on the tree, glad and laughing, this is the living Jesus. But this one into whose hands and feet they drive the nails is his fleshly part, which is the substitute being put to shame, the one who came into being in his likeness. But look at him and me.”
I know it sounds crazy.
Why do I bring this up? Because Gnosticism had a real religious presence in the world in which the brand new Christian faith was trying to establish itself. Obviously from the Apocalypse of Peter, we see that Christianity and Gnosticism interacted. But they weren’t the same thing.
Gnosticism is an umbrella term that modern scholars use to describe a number of religious movements in the ancient Roman world that had several common themes: Members of Gnostic sects had a secret knowledge not available to others; a dualistic outlook that opposed spirit and matter, body and soul; and last but definitely not least, a hatred of the physical world that was often believed to have been created not by God, but by a lesser, evil demigod to imprison the souls of human beings.
In Gnosticism, human beings are literally trapped in their bodies and salvation means to be released from the body. Only the Gnostics, those “in the know,” understand this.
This is why the free and non-Crucified Jesus is laughing at everyone because they think they’re crucifying him. But all they are doing, he says, is nailing spikes into the fleshy Jesus, who isn’t him, the spiritual one.
For Gnostics, for Christian Gnostics, and you know now there were those back then, the body doesn’t matter at all. In fact, it’s the problem, the essential problem, the whole problem. If we never had bodies, we’d all be better off. If creation was never created from this earthy stuff, everything would have been much better. Creation for them is the work of, well, definitely not the God we believe in.
Before we go on, I’ve got to tell you a true story.
It was a busy morning, approximately 8:30 am, when an elderly gentleman, in his 80’s, showed up to have sutures (stitches) removed from his thumb. The nurse took his vital signs and had him take a seat, knowing it would be over an hour before the doctor would be able to see him. The nurse saw him looking at his watch and decided since she wasn’t busy with another patient, she’d evaluate his wound. It was healing well, so she talked to the doctor, got the needed supplies to remove his sutures and redress his wound.
She asked him if he had another appointment this morning somewhere else. He said no. He needed to go to the nursing home to eat breakfast with his wife. He said she had been there for a while, suffering from dementia. The nurse asked if she would be worried if he was a bit late. He told her she no longer knew who he was—not for the last five years.
Surprised, the nurse couldn’t help to ask, “And you are still going every morning, even though she doesn’t know who you are?” He smiled and said. “She doesn’t know me, but I still know who she is.” The nurse says she had to hold back tears as he got up to leave.
We really are connected to our bodies, and to the bodies of our loved ones. Bodies matter. A good God made them and we are in some way forever connected to God through them and because of them.
So many people read the resurrection stories as if the writers were trying to tell us about what our resurrected bodies will be like. That’s what we want them to be about. Unfortunately what’s actually true is that they’re not written with giving that information in mind.
The first thing the authors had in mind is to proclaim the same God of the earthly creation is the same God of the eternal resurrection. If the body was good in the first creation, then that body in some form will be maintained in the recreation, the resurrection.
It has to be this way. In the resurrection, God doesn’t reject his first creation, throwing away as disposable the earthly part of us. The resurrection has to be the resurrection of the body in order to affirm our faith in a good God.
The resurrection stories are written to illustrate, to confess our faith, to proclaim our faith in the one true God of life, over death, and into life eternal.
The second purpose for the resurrection stories is tell us how and where and when we will have “Jesus” moments, resurrected and alive forever Christ moments.
That’s why these stories begin with nobody recognizing him. Not until Christ breaks bread do they “see” him; not until they see his wounds and touch him do they “understand;” not until they go to Galilee will they be able to “meet” him; not until he has shown them where to put their nets in the water and they haul out 153 fish, a huge catch, do they realize Jesus is directing them.
What am I saying? I’m telling you Christ’s resurrection, and the biblical stories that tell us about it, point us not to heaven. No. They actually are trying to point us back to earth, back to our lives today, to our fears, to our faith as we walk it and talk about it and make it come alive with the living, risen Christ, the one who breaks bread with us, the wounded Savior, the one who asks us to meet him where we live, who directs us to build the church with people from a huge diversity of God’s creation.
To do this is to live not just for today, or tomorrow, but eternally–to live by the power of Christ’s resurrection.
Can anybody say Amen?