In one particularly memorable passage, Jesus compared the Pharisees to “unmarked graves, which people walk over without knowing it.” Or in another place he said, “You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men’s bones and everything unclean.” That is, the Pharisees looked alive; but in reality they were zombies. Literally, the walking dead.
I would like to think that I am unlike the Pharisees in that regard, but if I’m being honest with myself I would have to admit that I often feel like a zombie. In other words, I look like Andrew, but something’s … I don’t know … off. Like the character in the movie Men In Black who’s skin the alien invaders inhabit. Of course he looks like himself, but something’s just not quite right. Eventually the skin starts decomposing, and the jig is up. That’s me sometimes. Walking, rotting flesh.
I hate those times with all of my heart. Times when I feel like I’m a walking echo or rumor of myself. I hate them in small part because my “job” (pastor) demands I be alive and present with people, so that it’s abundantly frustrating when I’m not. But I hate them in large part because deep down I sense that that state of affairs is simply not the way it’s supposed to be. I’m not supposed to be a rumor.
The more I’m with people, the more I get the sense that most of them live most of their lives as rumors, zombies, echoes. They present themselves as alive, as the real deal, the genuine article, etc., but they are really filled with death. And death, as the great theologians from Augustine onward have taught us, is really not a “thing” at all. Death is a “no-thing”. It is literally voidness, absence, nothingness. Which means that most people are no-things walking around trying to look like some-things. Sadly, sometimes “most people” is simply “me.”
The antidote to this, as the great mystical theologians like St. John of the Cross have taught us, is simple: we need to come home to God. Communion with God is the fundamental and only way the walking dead come back to true life and become real, living persons who can celebrate and create and love and wonder and care. John of the Cross and others instruct us that Communion with God, carried out in the warp and woof of daily life, leads finally to Union with God, where the soul is united with God and as a result the body (which is the frontier between our invisible souls and the visible universe) becomes alive. We become what we were created to be: habitations of the Divine.
This morning I am remembering that. I am remembering that Paul says that we are “temples of the Holy Spirit”; literally, we are houses for God to live in. I am vividly aware this morning that in the absence of real communion with God, I am like a house with no one living in it. Or even worse, a house that I live in all by myself … with no furniture or light fixtures or paintings. A dark and terrifying prison of the “self”. God wants more for Andrew than that. He wants to live there too. To make the “self” that I live in “homey”, by filling it with the furniture and decor of his own infinite Goodness and Mercy. And he wants me to live fully in my “self” too, with Him. Together, we’ll turn the lights on in the self called “me”. Hopefully people will be drawn to the light.
This all begins to happen when I adore Jesus. Here is his promise to us: “He who loves me be loved by my Father… and we will come to him and make our home in him” (John 14). God is the greatness of the human soul. May we come to him to commune with him early and often … and may our souls ever come to life in his presence.
Grace to you today … Sunday … Resurrection day.