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The Changed Body Is the Key to Easter

April 03, 1999|the Rev. Ron Baesler | The Rev. Baesler will lead Easter services at 7 and 8:15 a.m. at Messiah Lutheran Church, 4861 Liverpool St., Yorba Linda. (714) 528-0920

The story begins like a mystery movie. The case of the missing body. Of course, the body Mary Magdalene was looking for wasn't simply missing. It no longer existed.

She was looking for a dead body, a cold body, one whose cells were already dissolving, a body already wrapped with the sharp smell of death, a body already on its slow inevitable journey back to the soil from which it came. That was the body Mary was looking for. No, the story is clear: That body no longer existed.

But there was a body. Make no mistake about that! It was a body that spoke: Woman, why are you weeping? he said. It was a body you could touch: Do not hold on to me, he said. It was a body with a familiar face: I have seen the Lord! Mary announced. It was a body so much like the body which they'd wrapped in grave clothes and laid in the tomb, it was so much like that body, they had no doubt about it: This is Jesus.

And yet, and yet . . . This was not just the same old body. That much also was clear. Yes, this body had the deep scars of the nails in his hands, the deep scar of the spear in his side but this body was not bound by the old physics of this old world.

This body, this real and recognizable body who was Jesus, stood as Lord over space and time. Closed rooms? No problem! Miles and moments did not limit this body. Days and doors did not control this new body. They had controlled and limited the old body of Jesus, but not this one. This new body was surprisingly, wonderfully free.

Make no mistake about it: The Jesus that Mary saw, the Jesus that we celebrate today, was no hologram, no divine special effect cooked up for Easter morning. This was not one of those "X-Files" encounters--it was not an oblong blur, fuzzy around the edges, that may or may not have been physical--no! The Easter Jesus is a real Jesus with a real physical body. And yet "physical" in a new way. Maybe we can say this Easter Jesus now has a spiritually physical body . . . or a physically spiritual body!

We are here today to celebrate the resurrection. But every Sunday when we gather we celebrate it. We announce in our declaration of faith: I believe in the resurrection of the body. We don't say "I believe in the resurrection of the immortal soul," or "I believe in the resurrection of the eternal mind." We say body. Body! What is it with the Christian church and the body?

Why did this new risen Lord, charged with the full power of God, insist on a body? Wasn't this body business just a temporary, stopgap measure taken up merely for the sake of us poor, spiritually deficient folks?

We are here today to celebrate the beginning of God's totally new creation, to celebrate the beginning of God's victory over all the distortion and destruction in this world. And what is our first glimpse of it? It's a body! A real body. Sunday after Sunday we announce it: I believe in the resurrection of the body. What does it all mean?

First of all, it means that God wants to be related to you in all of your uniqueness.

Many of you saw the movie "Jurassic Park." Remember how they claimed to have made the dinosaur? They found a mosquito locked inside a bit of clear amber. Inside that mosquito they found a tiny bit of blood from a dinosaur. That tiny bit of blood contained all of the genetic code of the dinosaur. And then somehow they triggered the multiplication of those cells. And voila! . . . a dinosaur.

Well, that was a bit of fiction. But what is not fiction is that every cell in your body carries the DNA that defines who you are. That DNA, that little package of genetic material in each cell, contains instructions that if written out would fill one thousand 600-page books. Every cell carries your fingerprint. All of these billions and billions of cells and each one is uniquely, marvelously you. Every cell in your body carries the blueprint of you.

We are bodies, you and I. Yes, I know we're more than bodies. But today, on Easter Sunday, God wants to tell you: Bodies are not nonessentials, bodies are not mortal shells that you simply throw away like a cocoon after the butterfly's gone. The Bible says it many times, and today you can look to the risen Lord and you can hear it spoken to you: Your spirit, your soul, mind are inseparable from your limbs, hair, stature, eyes, speech. By raising up the body of Jesus, God says to him and God says also to us, "I love you--the unique, special, body-defined person that is you."

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