Friday, 11 April 2008

The Spiritual Man

"Christianity is the most materialistic of all religions... The others hope to achieve a spiritual reality by either negating or ignoring matter, calling it illusion (maya) or a minor transition
to something higher... Christianity, focused upon the Incarnation, regards matter as the vehicle truly marked as the instrument of the Spirit". William Temple.

As I walked through the wind, hail and rain today of a typically English "Spring" morning (!), I found myself reflecting on just how good, how right it felt to be dressed in my body. I know we all have moments when being physical is troublesome - aches and pains, stress and illness, but in those moments when our flesh allows us to engage with the world around us properly - even in the heart of a rainstorm - we can re-discover the vivid joy of being alive, of tasting all that 'He has made beautiful in its time', and that is truly wonderful.

It makes me consider eternal life.
Remember how it began, there in the garden - humanity 'naked and unashamed' in rich communion with God and creation. How do we find ourselves feeling when we consider that vision of the first temple?
Does it make us long to be comfortable in our bodies?

The Apostle Paul certainly wants us to consider it well.
In 2 Corinthians, he talks about how this current 'tent', though it perishes in death, will become a 'house' provided by God to clothe us forever. It is when we are thus adorned, he writes, that we will no longer be 'naked' (without an immortal body), but appropriately dressed for the eternal (chapter 5 verses 1-5). This marries with his earlier teaching in 1 Corinthians, where, again, he describes how the mortal, through resurrection, is clothed in immortality (chapter 15).
There is something vital here we have to realize - the body you have is not something discarded forever at death. Yes, it will go into the ground, will become dust, but though it be destroyed in this fashion, 'in this flesh, I will see God' (Job 19:26).
Being clothed in this body - redeemed, renewed and resurrected - is at the very heart of our understanding of redemption. It is because of this reality, notes Paul, that the entire created order is waiting, groaning for the day when this 'glorification' takes place that it to can share in this liberation (Romans 8:20-23).

So, the next time you find yourself smiling as you enjoy the spring weather because you feel 'comfortable' in your frame, think about the garden, about Adam and Eve enjoying that majesty and beauty, and then remember the precious promise that is ours - those days will be seen again.

"Not in another flesh, but in my own shall I be resurrected.
Some think the soul will be clothed with another body, but it would be improper to call that a resurrection.
If the body did not rise again, the believer would not be completely happy, for, though a soul can subsist without the body, yet the desire is always for re-union.
If only the soul exists in heaven, then we are never truly redeemed".

Thomas Watson - A Body of Divinity.


Sensuous Wife said...

ABsoLUTEly beautiful, Howard. Right on!
I was just talking to one of my dear girlfriends about this very thing today. How getting our concept of God right has been the way to get our concept of ourselves right, especially when it comes to body image issues.

Her doctor tells her she is underweight. My doctor tells me I am overweight. Yet both of us are dancers very comfortable in our bodies, and increasingly more comfortable as Himself continues to heal our hearts.

I was just telling her today, how I used to think when in the New Testament it says "the flesh" "don't live according to the flesh" I used to actually think that meant my very bone and muscle and skin were inherently bad. Thank God for a wonderful friend and counselor who told me "uh no, dearie that whole idea of spirit good body bad, that's not the Jesus point of view, that's gnosticism."

Just this afternoon, I told my friend while she drank a Coke and I drank a diet Jones, how the incarnation itself was God's re-affirming the body and reclaiming physicality as a good thing. Restoring the state of "and the Lord God looked upon all that he had made and behold it was VERY good."

Love that!
This whole idea evokes one of those deep sighs of rest and relief and contentment every time I think about it. It's the good news that never gets old.

and you told it so well, Howard!

Howard said...

Many thanks for your reply.

It is the constant bane of the church - dualism, dressed up as 'good spirituality' which actually drains our faith of it's crucial message - God is reconciling this world to Himself through His Son. The God who is here is evidenced in Jesus Christ, the 'fullness of God, bodily revealed' - that is the absolute and defining 'mystery' we have to encounter and proclaim - not merely in words, but in the manner in which we break and share life.