Belief, Bodies, and Freedom

Second Sunday of Easter

Acts 5:12-32
Psalm 118
Revelation 1:4-19
John 20:19-31

The temptation, even post-Resurrection, not to believe in the risen body of Jesus Christ our Lord – well, it’s real. How many Christians – theologians, bishops, and pastors among them – have wrestled with the claims we make about Jesus over the centuries? Some have said, “Jesus is resurrected in our memory.” Others have suggested that there’s no need – not really – to believe in the risen Lord. What matters is that we follow his message, more or less to love each other.

I think our particular difficulties with the resurrection, as 21st century people, stem from the ways we understand our bodies. We think we can do things to our bodies – real, powerful things, and that we are primarily the agents of change. So we want to lose weight: starve our bodies, wake up early to get to the gym. We want more beautiful noses, cheekbones, breasts, or we want to lose the paunch: find a doctor of our choosing and cut and chisel them in the operating room. We want to defy aging and death: perfection can be had when we select and buy products and procedures that are all scientifically proven.

By contrast, Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection do not demonstrate that kind of procedural control over the body. Quite the contrary: “Into your hands, I commend my spirit,” says the Lord of all life, as he dies on the cross. Read more

Difficult Freedom

Fourth Sunday of Lent
Joshua 5:9-12
Psalm 32
2 Corinthians 5:16-21
Luke 15:1-3, 11b-32

With regard to last week’s readings, Jim McCoy began in meditation on William Stringfellow’s description of the freedom of the church… “you are freer than you think.” During Lent, worship in our congregation recalls repeatedly Jesus’ temptation in the desert, which echoes the Exodus from Egypt and the Israelites’ wandering in the desert. Prior to the gospel reading, we sing “forty days and forty nights/thou was fasting in the wild/forty days and forty nights/tempted, and yet undefiled….” If the dramatic event of liberation from the tyrannical Pharaoh speaks to us clearly of what we are freed from, the desert experience is key to learning what we are freed for. Read more

Freedom and Obedience


Galatians 5:1, 13-26

In Bound to be Free: Evangelical Catholic Engagements in Ecclesiology, Ethics, and Ecumenism Reinhard Hütter notes that speech about freedom often confuses different types of freedom. The freedom of autonomy differs from political freedom which differs still from Christian freedom. Hütter structures his book around three different modes of being free: free to be Church, free to live with God, and free to speak ecumenically. This week, as the congregation hears Paul proclaim “For freedom Christ has set us free” the preacher will do well to help the congregation discover that Paul is boasting of the freedom to be Church. Read more

Ultimate Imagination


Daniel 7:9-14; Revelation 1:4b-8; John 18:33-38a

Some years ago, a friend of ours who was a major player on the Nigerian political scene nearly met an untimely death but survived. After confronting his mortality—his end, Takai abandoned his ascendant career trajectory and told his children that they would receive no inheritance from him. Their inheritance would now come in the form of a ministry he would establish to care for needy widows and orphans. Today that ministry cares for and brings together hundreds of Christians and Muslims in fractured northern Nigeria. Takai’s confrontation with the end unleashed imaginative energy for discipleship and ministry.

Admirable as it is, Takai’s story makes little sense to us because we believe something entirely different: it’s a world without limits that allows for creativity and life at its fullest. Read more