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Show Me Your Resurrection – Br. Nicholas Bartoli

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Br. Nicholas BartoliLuke 24:36b–48

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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7 Comments

  1. Claudia Booth on April 16, 2017 at 18:21

    Yes, Brother, I believe and have experienced what you have said and know that resurrected life in the world can be a reality and often is in my work. However, this requires discipline, focus, space and time for silence and deep prayer. I find these things to be a luxury and difficult to come by in the chaos of life in the world, especially at work. As a member of a choir, I have noticed a certain struggle in the church during the liturgical year. It is remarkable how much pressure we put upon ourselves to produce for others the holiest of times. Does the gathered community sense this stressful tension? Is it necessary? Is the tension part of the death that comes before the resurrection? Part of me yearns for a liitle balance, more room for God in the creative process. Does this make sense?

  2. David Cranmer on April 15, 2017 at 21:44

    I am not sure that I have understood this sermon. But I have understood showing resurrection as living as a person who has been regenerated by the Holy Spirit. I have thought that by having died with Christ and raised from the spiritually dead, I am by my actions to show the love of God to those with whom I interact. Is this what is meant by “show me your resurrection”?

  3. Betsy Field on April 15, 2017 at 20:55

    I loved reading this imperative tonight
    before Easter Day. It so reminded me of my granddaughter, age 7, who rises to every challenge, expectant, hopeful, enthusiastic, fearless. I think I will take a lesson out of her playbook and follow … determined,watchful, ready for
    resurrection.
    Thank. I loved every word.

  4. Verlinda on April 15, 2017 at 18:39

    Amen.

  5. Charlotte Brown on April 15, 2017 at 10:54

    Thank you Br. Bartoli. A spot on messsge for Holy Saturday and for every day! Beautifully and poignantly articulated!

    Deep gratitude to you and all the brothers at SSJE for the excellent Lenten Study, “5 Marks of Mission” and for what your faithful outreach ministry means to so many of us around the country. You are much appreciated. I fully intend to support this important work.

  6. Patricia Eustis on April 15, 2017 at 09:31

    Thank you so much. I have to prepare a sermon for Easter and I know what it is I want to say but you have added a new dimension. We are resurrection people and how do we live that way, not just loving others. I think to be a resurrection person is yes, being, but it must also include action that’s why I like you writing.

  7. SusanMarie on April 15, 2017 at 07:26

    This is a stunning message on Holy Saturday, the day before Resurrection. The implications of this path of surrender and spiritual connectedness are monumental for this and all seekers. You have given me exactly the message — and the challenge — I need and want as I spend this day in silence and waiting, pondering the meaning of Resurrection. This is now my koan: “Show me your resurrection.” I’ve been waiting a very long time to be provoked into “some lived response or a certain kind of awareness.” Of course, God’s timing is always perfect. This now changes everything. What a gift and a blessing. Tonight at the Vigil, I will proclaim “Alleluia!” with a new awareness and intent.

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