Sermons That Work

One of the Most Interesting…, Easter 3 (B) – 2003

May 04, 2003

One of the most interesting and unique phenomena in American politics in recent decades was the emergence of Jesse Ventura – the maverick, independent, former Governor of Minnesota.

What made Ventura truly unique, of course, was his former occupation as a professional wrestler. Jesse “The Body” Ventura used his massive frame to slam other wrestlers around the ring for many successful years. In those days, his physical being, not his brain or character, distinguished him as a popular cult figure.

Since Governor Ventura decided not to run for reelection in 2002, I wonder if it would be possible to borrow his wrestling name for evangelistic purposes. Does today’s Gospel make us wonder if modern culture might not want to refer to the central figure in the story as Jesus “The Body” Christ?

On second thought, probably not. But it is a passage in Scripture that is all about the body of the Lord. Jesus shows the disciples his hands and feet. Jesus fuels his body by eating with the disciples. The risen Christ proves that he is no ghost.

Many Christians today tend to think of Jesus in almost entirely spiritual terms. Nevertheless, today we cannot help but see him in physical terms, risen in flesh and blood, in hair and bone, brain cell and vocal cord. Today we find Jesus coming to reveal that his body, as every human body, is a place where God exists and reveals all that is holy.

Jesus risen in his body means that our human bodies can carry the very existence of God and can hold the presence of God’s spirit. As Jesus’ body took on new life through God’s power in the giving of the life of Jesus for us, so that we might know we are worth dying for, then through the sacrifice of his body, now risen, we can come to see in our bodies the same possibilities for new life. Our bodies, our selves, can be raised through the resurrection of Christ’s body.

Today’s resurrection story proves not only that Jesus rose from the dead, but also that his body could never again be taken away from his followers, could never again be taken away from the world. How can this be true? It is true because the Body of Christ is us. The church is the continuation of Jesus. We are the Body of Christ. We are Christ’s hands and feet, arms and legs, eyes and mouth, and Christ’s check book. We are everything Jesus is in the Gospel, for we are his body.

The disciples recognized him as the risen Lord when he ate with them. After they had recognized him, Jesus unlocked for them the truths of God. Jesus made it clear at the Last Supper that we would have a way of re-calling him to our presence and by eating from his body to become his body.

In today’s Gospel we find Jesus eating another meal with his disciples. He made eating and drinking together the primary way of experiencing the Resurrection. He uses eating and drinking to teach us and draw us to him. He uses this most universal way people affirm and experience relationships in community. We eat with Jesus. We eat of Jesus. We eat his body, and we become his body.

Clergy and Lay Eucharistic Ministers are the ones who distribute communion, giving bread and saying, “The Body of Christ.” But, in a way, everyone, laity and clergy alike, distribute the Body of Christ in various ministries. Imagine when you give a check to a worthwhile charity, placing it in the treasurer’s hand and saying, “The Body of Christ, given for you.” Imagine delivering Meals on Wheels, saying “The Body of Christ.” Imagine at a visit to a prison extending an encouraging word of love and adding, “the Body of Christ.” Imagine teaching the truths of God to a Sunday school class, and concluding by saying, “This is the Body of Christ.” Imagine spreading the Good News to those who do not know the Lord, telling others about the joy you find in your faith, and declaring, “Share with me the Body of Christ.”

Let us go forth with the power of today’s Gospel message firmly implanted in our lives, renewed and reflecting the words of St. Augustine:

You are the Body of Christ. In you and through you the work of the incarnation must go forward. You are to be taken. You are to be blessed, broken, and distributed, that you may be the means of grace and the vehicles of eternal love.

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Christopher Sikkema


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