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New Bodies Available
May 4, 1980

St. Paul's United Methodist Church


Our culture is preoccupied with our bodies, like the ancient Egyptian royalty who went to such great lengths to preserve the mummified body. When you do have pain or illness in your body, of course you are concerned and will do almost anything to relieve the suffering. We also are concerned about our appearance. We put cosmetics—oil and cream—on us to mummify, to preserve it. Some people are so concerned about their bodies, they're even freezing them. Did you read articles recently about the warehouse over in Emeryville that has bodies frozen in storage, waiting until a cure for the disease which killed the body is found? Then they will thaw the body. I don't know what happens then, but they will thaw the body. 

To our culture which is so concerned about this body, I have great, good news today. There are new bodies available. You can all have a new body—but there’s only one small condition. You have to die first! Our scripture lesson from 2 Corinthians affirms the belief that new bodies are available. In the 15th chapter of 1 Corinthians, Paul discussed the resurrection of the body, a belief we affirm when we say the Apostles Creed— I believe in the resurrection of the body. As biblical Christians, we do not profess belief in the  immortality of the soul because we believe in the resurrection of the body. This physical body will be taken, and a new spiritual body will be given in which our personality and our memory are retained. We believe through the resurrection of the body, the intricate relationship that exists between our physical body and the mind, the brain, the will, the emotions, the feelings, the memory, the personality, all that makes up who you are, is retained in the resurrected body. 

In the scripture lesson, Paul gives us two images to explain the process. He first likens the body to a house. It's like a house we live in. The house will get old and decay, deteriorate and crash down around us, fall down dilapidated around us. And then God, the chief carpenter, the chief architect, will build us a new house, a new spiritual body. 

Paul uses the image of clothing. He said the body is like a suit of clothes that we put on. The clothes gradually wear out. They rip, tear and wear out from patching, mending and dry cleaning. They fall into shreds. And then God, the chief tailor sews us a new set of clothes. 

The resurrection of Christ, which we celebrate this Eastertide, gives us a picture of what happens. Christ appeared to many after his death in a body. Many times they didn't recognize him until he revealed himself to them. But he was in a body and his body could go through walls and doors. Paul says you and I will have a spiritual body like that. 

Many persons claim that they have seen their deceased loved ones, their deceased family. They claim that maybe it’s just a glimpse, but they've seen their loved one in a body, in a spiritual body and they recognize them. 

Now with the advance of modern science, many persons have been pronounced clinically dead and then have been brought back to life with very interesting and fascinating experiences to tell. Dr. Raymond Moody has researched some 300 of these cases, and has reported many of the findings in his book Life After Life, which is in the church library. He finds a similarity through all the experiences that he studied—a similar pattern or process. First, they heard the doctor or those working over them talk about their death, pronouncing them clinically dead. They then heard a buzzing or ringing sound and they moved through a long dark tunnel. When they emerged from the tunnel, they were able to look down on their own body. They were in a new body looking down on the old body. They heard the doctors talking, they saw everybody working on the body, and later they could relate what had gone on in that room. 

Then, while they were perplexed, puzzled and bewildered about this, deceased relatives and friends came and stood with them. Then a special being clothed in a bright light came. Some called this being Jesus, some said an angel. The angel began to lead them away. Some of them said the angel would show them incidents out of their life for their evaluation and comment, like a process of judgment. 

How interesting and fascinating! Maybe it's all illusion and fantasy. But how do we know? How do we know we will have new bodies and that there is an eternal life? Interesting cases like that may help us to not face death with fear, but realize that it is not going to be a frightening experience. But the real evidence, the real evidence for our life hereafter is God's own witness. Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 5:5, “God is the one who has prepared us for this change and he gave us his Spirit as the guarantee of all that he has in store for us.” God has given us a lay-by plan, a down payment, an earnest in the Holy Spirit. When you want to declare your intentions to follow through on a contract, or to make a purchase, you make an earnest payment, a down payment that testifies to your willingness to see it through. God has done the same for us. God has given you the Holy Spirit in this life right here and  now as a guarantee, an indication of what is to come. 

As you open yourself to God's Holy Spirit, as you feel the presence of God in your life with accompanying love, joy and peace, you will also receive the assurance and confidence that the future is bright, wonderful and glorious. You will feel the assurance that you will have a new body and a new life in eternity. May Holy Communion this morning be an opportunity again for the Holy Spirit to visit you and give you the assurance and confidence that you are in God and that in God, you will have eternal life. 

Paul goes on in this passage to say that when you really believe you will have a new body, and when the Holy Spirit moves in your life, you can face the future with confidence. Your attitude in this life is not to look behind, but to look ahead and to face it with courage. He writes in 2 Corinthians 4:16-17, “Never become discouraged. Even though our physical being is gradually decaying, our spiritual being is renewed day after day.” The small and temporary trouble we suffer will bring us to a tremendous and eternal glory much greater than the trouble. This body decays, deteriorates and falls apart—the eyes fail, the ears fail, the mind fails. It's painful. There's suffering. There's cancer. There's heart failure. This body will fail. 

But, face the future with courage because it's only temporary. The greater glory will outshine any temporary inconvenience and suffering. Face the future with courage and anticipation. 

Paul wrote how he anticipated the future of eternal life. He wrote, “We are full of courage and would much prefer to leave our home in the body and be at home in the Lord.”  Let the old house fall down.Take off the old suit of clothes; prefer to have the full glory of God in heaven. Yet, Paul’s willing to stay. More than anything else, however, he wants to please God, whether in his home here or there. What an attitude! What a spirit! 

Face the future with hope and anticipation. Be willing to stay here for whatever God has for you to do, for whatever God calls you to do. What a way to live! The best is yet to come, but be willing to stay here and suffer whatever has to be suffered because it is God's will. 

Hear the good news! New bodies are available. Can you hardly wait?

© 1980 Douglas I. Norris