Sunday, 3 August 2008

For all lovers and mourners....

"The hope concerning the resurrection of the body permits no disdain or debasement of bodily life and sensory experience - it profoundly affirms them and gives greatest honour to those aspects of 'the flesh' which some have defined as something to despise...
The resurrection is the event which renews the whole of life, here, amidst creation.
It means we are called as people to give up ourselves fully to the whole of life without any reservation". Jurgen Moltmann: The Coming of God.

It's as old as humanity -
whenever we speak of grace, sensuality, fertility, symmetry, elegance and natural beauty, whether it's in terms on the natural world, or several man-made creations, we almost always quite naturally speak of these things as 'she'. The testimony of scripture is no different. Wisdom is depicted by Solomon as the virtuous woman who feeds us well as opposed to the seductress who entices us into an alien and demeaning life (Proverbs 9) and the communities of Israel and the church are also equally described so. In the book of Ezekiel, for example, the people of God are defined as a woman, who from birth, is nurtured and loved by God, the naturalness of her form adorned and lavished, her every need being met (16:6-14).
This inherent connection between natural elegance and the feminine in terms of Biblical revelation clearly stems from the creation of Eve in Eden, the 'mother of all living' (Genesis 3:20).
It is only when we step away from this 'inherently good' design to 'life' defined by the present, fallen world, that we see that purpose demeaned and destroyed.

Whilst the pagan world of the Greeks and other ancient cultures seemed to venerate the feminine into divinity, it was at a dreadful cost. Women, as Plato viewed it, were 'mutilated males' who did not possess souls - the epitome of imperfection. This, of course, has to be the case amidst a culture where the very nature of humanity - engendered, sexual creatures, which are bound to a physical existence - was seen as no more than prison to escape through 'Gnosis' (mystical wisdom) and death.

We can, no doubt, make some measure of excuse for people who had yet to hear the richness and fullness of the message of redemption found in the 'grace and truth' made evident by God in the Incarnation of the Lord Jesus Christ, but what excuse do we have in the
church of the 21st century? Why, so often, do we so quickly and easily lean much more towards the de-personalising approach and dictates of the 'wisdom' which so troubled the early church of the Colossians than the natural delight and veneration of our creational humanity alluded to so richly in places like the Song of Songs?
The Greeks and others 'religious-ized' the natural to try and escape its immediacy - it's potent 'shout' of the fact that all of human life - male and female, 'naked and unashamed', speaks of the image of God, not the severed version they could conveniently display in their temples. The grace bestowed upon us should allow us to express a reality which weaves the life and gifts which spring 'from every tribe and people, and every nation under heaven', but the creative richness which God wishes us to use well is often muted and directed to be monotone when it comes to our 'religious' activities and relationships.

This must not be so!
The early church was plagued by all manner of issues and troubles, but it was a living community of the saints, and we are called to be the same - a body which makes the world spin as it views the astonishing and marvelous triumph of grace abounding amidst those once in darkness, now dancing in the light.

No comments: