There’s a story about a Zen Buddhist monk who visited St. Joseph’s Abbey in Spencer, Massachusetts. This monk so appreciated the prayer and quiet that he offered to lead a retreat for the monks at Spencer incorporating some aspects of his Zen practice. The retreat included features such as short interviews during which the instructor would offer the student a “koan”. A koan is a statement or question not so much meant to be answered rationally, but rather meant to provoke some lived response or certain kind of awareness. One day, one of the Spencer monks entered the interview room, sat down, and noticed a copy of the New Testament sitting open before the Zen monk, who smiled, and said “I like Christianity. But… I would not like it without resurrection.” Then he leaned forward very close to the Spencer monk and said “Show me your resurrection… That is your koan. Show me your resurrection.”
In Luke’s gospel there are six times that Jesus shows his resurrection to his followers, each one with a different emphasis. In today’s reading, for example, Jesus provides proof of his physical body, eating the food his followers offer and inviting them to touch him. In this way, Jesus demonstrates that the resurrection is not about something that only exists on a spiritual, heavenly plane far above where we live in the world. It’s about something we can experience here and now with our earthly bodies, and something we can share in the spirit of love with others. St. Anthony of the Desert, for example, said “God… can make resurrection of our own hearts from the very earth, and teach us that we are all of one substance… for the one who loves [one’s] neighbor loves God, and the one who loves God, loves [one’s] own soul.”
When Jesus shows his resurrection to his followers he commands them to open their eyes and look, and he opens their minds and hearts to a new kind of awareness, an awareness that encompasses the spiritual reality of the risen Christ. But Jesus doesn’t stop there since resurrection also includes our more conventional, every-day experiences. Whenever we recite the Apostle’s Creed we say that we believe in the resurrection of the body. We believe not in disembodied resurrection, but one that includes our whole selves. Living in en-spirited bodies means that resurrection combines aspects of both body and spirit to shape our experience of Christ in the world — until we find ourselves at that point where the spiritual reality of God and the conventional reality of our earthly existence become indistinguishable. The theologian, Paul Tillich, writes “Resurrection says mainly that the Kingdom of God includes all dimensions of being. The whole personality participates in Eternal Life… [and] we can say that [a person’s] psychological, spiritual, and social being is implied in [their] bodily being.”
In his letters, St. Paul struggled to put into words this non-dualism, and he used the term “spirit body” when referring to the union of the conventional reality of the body in the world, and the spiritual reality of God’s Kingdom in heaven. This truth is difficult to express in language, because ultimately it’s a mystery beyond rational thought, beyond our egos, beyond our false selves — a mystery expressed in the trinity as an eternal relationship of loving participation meant to be experienced and shared by all of us. Mark McIntosh, an episcopal priest and theologian, writes that “in such a perspective, being human means being drawn into that endless resource and generativity which may lead one in love for the other beyond what seems like the very bounds of human existence into the death of self… [leading] to that ultimate creation of the human being which we call resurrection.”
About the only thing we can say for sure is that the fruit of our resurrection, our rising by Christ, with Christ, and in Christ, is to live our lives as prayers of thanksgiving, bearing witness to God’s Truth, reflecting the Light of Christ, and serving in the Spirit of Love. So, show me your resurrection. That is your koan. Show me your resurrection. Or, better yet, let’s show each other. Let’s show the world.
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