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There are several things in Paul’s letters that support the idea, Theory that he was dictating his letters and not pending them himself. I frankly think the most obvious reason can be found in the run-on sentences that seem to go in circles. I mean some of that is trying to do a direct translation from Greek into English which I have been told is not a particularly straightforward work, but I don’t think anyone ever accused Paul of not explaining himself enough- maybe not explaining himself well but he certainly enough.

We are coming to the end of Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, so he is putting together his final thoughts and arguments, reaching the climax of what he had to say.

We started with Paul as he talked about Jesus’ death, and ends his argument here on the resurrection. He reiterates what he had taught to them while he was there, that Jesus was raised and seen by disciples and apostles and other 500 people, bodily. Jesus ate and was touched, and was formed and flesh when he was raised from the dead. And because Jesus was raised bodily from the dead that is what our expectation needs to be also.

Many scholars think that Paul was upset because the Corinthians in this Metropolis city full of ideas, had absorbed the idea of the immortal soul and the bald body shell, spiritualizing the resurrection denying their own bodily Resurrection. Paul argues that if they don’t believe in their own bodily Resurrection they are denying that Jesus had one.

That is where I got stuck this week.

See, I think it’s one thing when Paul was writing in the year 50 when he believed that Jesus would come back bodily in the next 5 years that Jesus would raise everyone who had died bodily. And for 2,000 years people have been buried facing Jerusalem whether they were buried in Jericho, Palestine or Jericho, Ohio so when Jesus comes back and the dead are raised bodily, they will need Jesus to see when Jesus comes back. We’ve had to explain or create understandings or remind ourselves that humans were created from mud God can certainly reconstitute a person when Jesus comes back. (I learned after the sermon that in Jamestown, New England, the priest was buried facing west so he could greet his congregants upon their rising)

I think what we are to take from this part of this letter to the Corinthians is that when they were to die, they would kind of go into a holding pattern until Jesus came back, although that is not particularly made clear either.

And the thing is, I would guess that in the convening 2000 years most of us have landed where we think the Corinthians were at, the place that Paul took issue with–our souls are immortal and our bodies are the carriers for the soul.

Remember how Paul talks about death? That death is the last enemy and Jesus will vanquish it, conquer it. The last enemy that is death. It’s beautiful in those final verses asking death where it’s sting is, that we will not be overcome by death and yet, I wonder if there is a connection to that to how we fear death. Death has become something we desperately seek to avoid. Whole industries have developed to make it so we can live forever, kind of. And beauty industries to keep us looking young forever, as if looking older is like some cloak you can have put over you and hide from death.

Speaking of, I’d rather not think of death as an enemy or something to fear. In the last Harry Potter book The Story within the story basically ends with a man taking off the cloak of invisibility and greeting death like an old friend. Maybe for you the author, She-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named, and Harry Potter are not sacred enough for you, St Francis while naming parts of creation his siblings, he referred to death as his brother.

Now, professional theologians write treatises, volumes on systematics. Systematic theology means all of the pieces fit together and don’t contradict each other. It’s Paul building this argument, except with even more words and on every subject related to God, Jesus and the Spirit and creation, salvation, and the end of all things. It always seems really important to professional theologians that all the theologies don’t contradict, and when I professional theologians, I mean seminary professors. But I don’t think it’s the way the rest of us live.

While I watched a lot of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, hands coming out of graves kind of freaks me out, so I prefer to think of resurrection as more metaphorical and spiritual rather than bodily. But when John of Patmos in his Revelation speaks of a New Jerusalem on this Earth I cling to it because it tells me this Earth is important.

Which leaves us with a few options when it comes to this text and Paul. One: totally ignore and dismiss Paul, which I am often on board for. Two: except what he says fully as the theology we ought to be carrying with us from his time and context and fit it as is back into our world today. Three: find something meaningful

I pick the last one and here’s what I got: one: sometimes we are called to believe impossible things and two: our bodies matter.

Speaking of impossible things: the largest moth has a wingspan of 30 cm which doesn’t sound like a lot until you have a moth on your face. And I would not be as calm as this child is if I had him off of any size on my face let alone one that looks like it could carry her away.

But a caterpillar becomes the chrysalis, it doesn’t build it, the chrysalis has always been inside it. When the caterpillar is inside of the chrysalis, its cells explode, its muscles liquefy, it becomes goo.

Naturalists in the 1600s saw this and could only understand that the caterpillar had died and from its burial cloth, the chrysalis, would become a new life. The caterpillar was earth-bound a creature of soil and leaves and trees but the butterfly or the moth had no bounds. A death and a resurrection, a new life, fully embodied.

But it has to be the same, somehow. Someone did experiments on caterpillars introducing a smell and then giving them a little zap introducing smell giving them zap. And when the mall when the caterpillar became a moth that moth did not like the smell. Part of the caterpillar was still there in the moth.

In a time of Resurrection as people of the Resurrection, part of our hope lives in our memories, our remembering that they carry forward.

Around the same century, a scientist took a fat large caterpillar and a teeny tiny scalpel. He cut down the caterpillar’s back, opened it up, and beneath the skin were some of the structures of its future: the wings, antennae, and legs. Who the caterpillar would become, its resurrected creature, was already there before it became the chrysalis. The parts stay thin and wrapped up close to the outside of the chrysalis, waiting for transformation.

I may spend the rest of my life thinking about this. I will think about how maybe the caterpillar and the chrysalis and the moth were a trial run for the resurrection. Maybe God worked on getting those tiny wings inside that tiny body and transforming it over and over again until it was sorted out; until God raised Jesus from the dead, fully embodied.

And I will think about this because the world is weird and wonderful. And just when I think something could never be possible there is goo inside the chrysalis. And that at every point it carries who it is becoming and who it has been. And I think that is hopeful for life and for death and for everything that comes after.

Maybe we need a bodily resurrection of Jesus and an in-flesh transformation and resurrection of a caterpillar to a moth to believe that our bodies matter—that we, the church, are not just here save souls while denying the body and the life right now. Maybe we need it to remind us that we are not just containers holding souls, we are not the mortal coil we’re waiting to shuffle off. Our flawed and imperfect bodies matter.

Jesus was raised–body and flesh, showed up to his friends, was touched, and enjoyed food. So yes, of course, that means care for your body but I think it means eating the damn cake too if you can; feel pleasure, joy, and discomfort. Try not to cause it pain but feel it too when it comes. Your body carries memories: in scars and tattoos and in your cells. You carry the Gospel of the Risen Christ in your body and you transform from who you are to who you are becoming, because we are all becoming. And that is part of the Gospel we pass on: that we have seen Christ in ourselves, in our neighbor, in and with our bodies, in the kind touch of a loved one or dinner with a stranger.

Your body matters, and the body of your neighbor matters, too. It matters how we treat each other’s bodies, how we understand who gets to own another’s body, whose bodies are worthy of care, and whose bodies are worthy of life and healing. I believe you and I would say every body has a right to its autonomy and to flourish and to thrive–but the history both old and modern, with people whose bodies look and function differently speaks otherwise.

This might be the wrong sermon on bodily resurrection. I’m probably supposed to speak eloquently and convincingly and with certainty of the bodily future resurrection of everyone. I’m just not sure I can. And maybe one day I can be more convinced of the impossible thing of bodily resurrection that we are called to believe, but today maybe the impossible thing is to believe that our bodies matter. You matter–outside and in, physical and spiritual, tangible and abstract. And so does everyone else.

Being human is body and soul, and mind and heart. We give and receive touch, we enjoy food, dance, move, we breathe. Each of us, in our bodies, will carry this moment in memory and already carry all of the transformation of who God is preparing us to be.

And that is good news: hopeful and confusing.

May we live as those already transformed, and as those who carry our wings just under our skin, and those who are goo becoming who we are yet to be–filled with love and compassion and hope in impossible things.