A popular Saturday Night Live skit from the late 1980’s spoofed the body-building movement headed by Arnold Schwarzenegger. For a brief refresher see here. Dana Carvey and Kevin Nealon’s memorable Hans and Franz are a perfect introduction to today’s Reflection because God is here…to PUMP…us up! Waaay up as it turns out!
Our earliest Christian forebears asked their leaders a completely logical question, one which evidently the apostle spent a fair amount of time pondering. What will we look like in heaven? Will we have a body, the same body, or a new and redeemed body in the resurrection? Given the Hebrew Bible’s stories about angelic messengers, Jewish Christians knew angels were sufficiently corporeal to wrestle, speak audibly and walk with their Jewish heroes of old. Gentile Christians were sufficiently saturated in Greek philosophy and theater so as to be well acquainted with endless speculations over the nature of the physical body, the soul and non-corporeal apparitions. So they all wanted to know…whut up with resurrection bodies?
Of course they turned to their own eyewitness stories of the Risen Jesus for comprehension. Physical wounds visible, corporeal enough to eat with them, ephemeral enough to pass through locked doors, audible voice, ability to bi-locate (or tri-locate or multi-locate) according to Paul…okee dokee. (I first encountered this term of bilocation in Italy regarding their 20th century superhero patron saint Padre Pio, and if you are interested please see here for some serious European Catholic hagiography. Don’t say I failed to warn you!) They also turned to Paul’s excursus on the subject in I Corinthians chapter 15:35-58. Take a moment to read it.
Paul’s brilliant rhetorical use of dyad comparison here is masterful. Jesus/Adam. New man (Jesus)/Old Man (Adam). Seed/Grain. Heavenly/earthly. Physical/Spiritual (most definitely here for Gentile believers as Jews had no third gender for neuter objects in the Hebrew language). Perishable/Imperishable. Paul’s presentation addresses both Jewish believer anxiety about whether or not we will have an actual resurrection body (yes!) and Gentile believer anxiety about whether or not this new body will be different than our current body (most definitely yes!). Paul then tethers both anxieties together with a brilliant, rather rabbinic, ordinal explanation. First our body, then a new resurrection body which is still us and yet transformed, just like Jesus. And finally, just when our brains are about to explode, Paul lapses mercifully back into praise! But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Whew!
- While tempting to apply standard Anglican theological technique (call it a mystery, accept it, put it to organ and choir music, celebrate it liturgically, move on), this Christian tenet of our shared futures is vitally important. Please prayerfully re-read this portion of I Corinthians 15 again, and feel free to stop anywhere you feel tugged to explore/ruminate/reflect upon further.
- So what will your resurrection body look, feel and sound like? Have you ever wondered?! Can you try to?
- We are here to (insert “clap” here)….PUMP…you up! Waaaay up! What if all of worship, teaching, reflection, piety and morality here is a training session to prepare us for….there?!
Photo credit: NBC