The season of Easter continues, but the excitement fades as we tuck Jesus safely into the future, anticipating his return, (but not too quickly, or he’ll spoil the fun). For many of us, the step after resurrection is the ascension which separates us from God’s Messiah and makes us settle into a very long wait.
For Paul, the most powerful and present tense image of Jesus Christ raised from the dead is, “the Body of Christ.” In most of his letters, Paul points to the people of Christ as his body in the world, right now, in this place. The risen Lord is not “away,” but present through the power of the Spirit right in front of our faces. “If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honored, all rejoice together with it. Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. (1 Corinthians 12:26-27)
In John’s writings, the risen Jesus is present and real in love. The church, the followers of Jesus, are knit together by the Spirit into a “beloved community.” This community is loved by Christ and infused with love and power, making Christ’s presence real, tangible, a force for the transformation of all things – now! “No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God lives in us, and his love is perfected in us.” (I John 4:7-21) You may not be able to see God right now, but you can see love manifest in the people of God. John maintains that this is seeing God!
For both Paul and John, the Church is a holy thing, a bearer of divine will and power. The actual presence of the resurrected Jesus is found in the Church. That is not something we think today. We tend to think of the Church as a flawed institution with waning power that has injured too many and gotten too much wrong. That is all true. Yet, the Church is also the resurrected Jesus in this world.
Right now, one of the Body of Christ (Frank Peters) has used his gifts to create beautiful handmade benches. He’s auctioning one off to raise money for our food pantry, which is staffed and run by other saints in this place (Pamm Cox and her crew). Our sisters and brothers at the two Roman Catholic parishes in town have recently donated bunches of food to our pantry, to add to the mounds collected by the young people of the congregation. This is the risen Body of Christ, the Beloved Community in action. You see Jesus standing in front of you?
As death has come to family after family in the last couple of months in our congregation, dozens of saints have gathered around the grieving family members to care, support, offer presence, and hope. I’ve seen it with my own eyes. I can testify! I have seen Jesus standing in front of me!
I could go on… and on. The point is, even the midst of pandemic, suffering, hunger, grief, and death, I have seen the resurrected Jesus alive and well, risen in the hands and feet of the people of this congregation.
Maybe you sometimes stand off and figure your words, or care, or gifts are not enough. You’re wrong. If we love in the smallest way, we manifest Christ in our midst. He is risen, risen indeed. Think how powerful the work of Christ would be in the world as the Body of Christ strides through the suffering of the world with everyone being part of the body. Think of how much love could change the world if all who call on the name of the Lord joined arms and showed the love placed in our hearts. That is the reality of resurrection promise right here, right now in the Body of Christ, the Beloved Community.
Pax Christi – Tim Olson, Lead Pastor