Wednesday, April 6, 2011

I am the silent one inside

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do: by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and to deal with sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, so that the just requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.

For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For this reason the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God's law—indeed it cannot, and those who are in the flesh cannot please God.

But you are not in the flesh; you are in the Spirit, since the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. But if Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also through his Spirit that dwells in you.

- Romans 8:1-11

I don’t like the dualism of this passage; it operates under the Pauline assumption that everything to do with physical matter is impure, while everything spiritual is pure. This was a Greek idea that had begun to affect Judaism and took strong hold in Christianity. But the Hebrew idea is that the body and spirit cannot be treated as separate things, because it is in their working together that the miracle of life occurs. And since Christianity is based on God coming into bodily form, how can we possibly keep the two separate?

My father-in-law said to me the other day, “I have an analogy for this. The body is the hardware. The mind is the software. The soul is the experience of the user interacting with the other two.” That’s much better.

Paul begins to redeem himself in verse 9: “But you are not in the flesh; you are in the Spirit, since the Spirit of God dwells in you.” Then he lapses back into dualism by asserting that some people are still “in the flesh” because they don’t have “the Spirit of Christ.” It reminds me of that bumper sticker: “Got Jesus?” As if we could go to the store, buy some Jesus, and drink it.

Yet every week, I go to the altar rail and consume the Body and Blood of Christ. There’s a deep mystery at work here. Acclimated to having this meal every Sunday, if I miss a week, I notice. It’s not unlike going to Grandma’s house every single Sunday—there’s a relationship there that I need to keep fostering. But in this case, that relationship will never end.

In the meantime, it’s still Lent, the weather’s still lousy, and spring seems worlds away. At this time of year, it’s easy for me to fall into self-doubt and become my own worst enemy. So back to church I go—back for another round of bread and wine, of silent prayer, of communal prayer and singing, of visiting with the other travelers on the road. Time to engage the mysteries yet again. And yet again, I will feel that thrill of seeing something of what God sees—in me, in those I love, and in the world.

Here’s Paula Cole with a song for emerging from the cocoon: “Me.” (And what a fabulous video, too!)

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