Front and center in today’s gospel is the body of Jesus: we have two stories of two different appearances that Jesus made to his disciples following his resurrection, and both stories highlight the embodied nature of the risen Lord. But there are some very interesting and very significant subtleties at work here as well: what it means to be a body and how the experience of embodiment bears on the life of faith has changed. Before the cross, being a body meant one thing, but now after the cross being a body means something else.
Today’s gospel lesson tells a story, but the meaning of the story may not be immediately apparent. We may miss the meaning of this story because the story doesn’t follow the pattern we’re used to seeing in other stories. Normally, when we hear a story, there’s a beginning, a middle, and an end, and where’s the meaning usually found? At the end. We see this pattern all the time: we read it in books, we see it in movies, we hear it in jokes, and we use it when we construct an argument. Point one, point two, point three: conclusion. This happened, then that happened, and then this happened, and they lived happily ever after.
There’s a noticeable tension at the heart of this morning’s gospel, and understanding this tension is necessary if we want to experience the kind of blessedness Jesus describes.
Oftentimes, we read the Beatitudes as a kind of prescription for spiritual living: these are guidelines for those who want to be good, faithful, spiritual people. When we approach the Beatitudes in this way, we end up abstracting them a bit, turning them into something like religious aphorisms. Be humble; be temperate; be merciful; be pure in heart. That sounds good, right? Be nice to others, and they’ll be nice to you: that becomes the lesson of the Beatitudes when we treat them as principles for spiritual living.
Today’s gospel lesson makes a profound spiritual and theological point, but it’s one we’re likely to miss. Unless we have some familiarity with the cultural and historical context of first-century Palestine, it’ll blow right by us. And this spiritual and theological point is especially important for us, because it bears immediately on how we think of ourselves as followers or disciples of Jesus.
Advent 3 Matthew 11.2-11 We’ve all, I’m sure, had the experience of looking forward to something only to feel let down when it actually occurs. The experience of anticipation can be both exhilarating and terrifying. When we expect something is going to happen, we inevitably begin to associate certain feelings with our anticipation. We look […]
The year was 1939. The Second World War was shifting into high gear, and the British government was preparing for the inevitability of conflict with Germany.
In an effort to shore up the resolve and readiness of the British people, the government commissioned a series of posters to be printed and displayed throughout England. Three separate designs were developed: one would be blue, one would be green, and one would be red. All three posters would have an image of the crown of King George VI, and each design would include a simple, straightforward message.
You all know what vertigo is, right? Well, get ready.
The feast we celebrate this day is deeply subversive; it is deeply disorienting. It may not seem like it at first, but when we unpack the meaning of this observance of all the saints, we find several things going on that profoundly challenge the way we usually think about ourselves and the way we think about the world.