Christ has…us

The text of the sermon, based on John 14.23-29, preached with the people of St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church, Spartanburg, SC, on the 6th Sunday of Easter, May 22, 2022.

The words of Teresa of Ávila,[1] the 16th century Spanish saint and mystic, constitute an Easter meditation on the life and labor of any Christian in any age at any time:

Christ has no body now but yours.

No hands, no feet on earth but yours.

Yours are the eyes through which he looks compassion on this world.

Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good.

Yours are the hands through which he blesses all the world.

Yours are the hands, yours are the feet, yours are the eyes, you are his body.

Christ has no body now on earth but yours.

A point driven home, to heart by today’s gospel passage.

“Jesus said to Judas (not Iscariot)”,[2] which begs the question: What did Judas (not Iscariot) ask Jesus?

On the night before his arrest and trial, crucifixion and death, Jesus, knowing the end is near, prepares his disciples for life without him. He teaches them many things. Among them, the relationship of loyalty and love: “They who…keep my commandments…love me…and I…love them and reveal myself to them.”[3] Then Judas asked: “Lord, how is it that you will reveal yourself to us and not to the world?” In other words, Jesus, is your revelation of who you are only for us, your disciples, “the insiders” or for everyone? And if for everyone, then who will reveal it?

Revising and reflecting again on Teresa’s words:

Christ has no body but ours.

No hands, no feet…but ours.

Ours are his eyes…his feet…his hands…we are his body.

Christ has no body on earth but ours.

Big job? Yes. Impossible job? Yes. Then has Jesus set us up to fail? No. (Although a cursory glance at the history of Christendom and the incidents of violence, duplicating the crucifixion, perpetrated by Christians against others, demonstrates there is plenty of failure to go around! But it ain’t Jesus’ fault!) For as he taught: “The Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name (and, for us, already has sent!), will teach you everything and remind you of all that I have said to you.”

The Holy Spirit. God’s indwelling[4] presence and power. Inspires us. Inspirits us. Breathes in us the peace of Jesus. The shalom of God. The experience and our awareness of our wholeness, wellness, rightness with God that empowers us to speak and act as Jesus.

Christianity is an incarnational religion. God, who is Spirit, takes flesh in Jesus, and, through the same Spirit, takes flesh in us. We, again, are Christ’s body, hands, feet, and eyes. So, paraphrasing Judas’ question to Jesus: How do we reveal Christ to the world?

This is my answer. As I read and interpret the gospels, Jesus is the embodiment of Divine love and justice; unconditional benevolence and fairness for all. As I live, I am conscious of loving you and being fair with you, even and especially when we disagree or fail to fulfill our expectations of one another. For by faith, I trust the Spirit to revive in me the power to love and to be just so to try again.

That’s how I reveal Christ to the world. How do you do it?

There is an olden story. When Jesus ascended into heaven, he was greeted by the heavenly chorus of angels. One asked, “O, Son of God, who will carry on your ministry on earth?” Jesus answered, “I have left disciples, soon to be apostles who will carry the message of the nearness of God’s Kingdom to the ends of the earth.” “But,” the angel said, “what if they fail? What other plan do you have?” Jesus answered, “I have no other plan.”

Because Christ has no body on earth but ours.

© 2022 PRA

Illustration: Saint Teresa of Ávila’s Vision of the Holy Spirit (1612-1614), Peter Paul Rubens (1577-1640)

#revealingChristtotheworld #Christhasnobodybutours

[1] Teresa of Ávila (March 28, 1515-October 4, 1582)

[2] Jesus had two disciples named Judas; Judas Iscariot, who betrayed Jesus, and Judas, son (or brother) of James. See Luke 6.16 and Acts 1.13.

[3] John 14.21a, c

[4] Regarding the nature of God’s empowering presence within us, I refer to Jesus’ testimony: “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever. This is the Spirit of truth…(whom you know)…because he abides with you, and he will be in you (John 14.15-17a, c; my emphasis).

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