Sixth Sunday of Easter: The Substituted Acts Passage – Going on a journey & being lead by the Divine

During the night Paul had a vision: there stood a man of Macedonia pleading with him and saying, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” When he had seen the vision, we immediately tried to cross over to Macedonia, being convinced that God had called us to proclaim the good news to them.
We set sail from Troas and took a straight course to Samothrace, the following day to Neapolis, and from there to Philippi, which is a leading city of the district of Macedonia and a Roman colony. We remained in this city for some days.” (Acts 16:9 – 12)

A couple of questions occurred to me as I prepared to write about this passage; actually two main questions and ones that I have wondered about since I was reading the bible for the first time on my own – how did Paul know the man was from Macedonia? The answer must be, I thought then as now, there was something distinct about the man that convinced Paul it was someone from Macedonia. In our modern times we sometimes suppose (and to our shame) and prejudge that someone has a certain “look” about them. We think – that person must be from such and such a place because of the way they look and dress. In our modern times, we should not judge like that. But in the times that Paul lived so few people traveled and intermingled in marriage/children that people of specific geographic areas shared many common attributes.

The second question is, why did Paul believe it was a message from the Divine that he was to go to Macedonia? Could it have not been just a random dream? That question rests greatly, I imagine, on how certain Paul was that the man was from Macedonia and what Paul’s past experience was in discerning what Macedonians look like. If the dream gave clear signs of the man’s background and identity – things that Paul would not have known from his own experience, it probably was a message from the Divine.

“On the [S]abbath day we went outside the gate by the river, where we supposed there was a place of prayer; and we sat down and spoke to the women who had gathered there. A certain woman named Lydia, a worshiper of God, was listening to us; she was from the city of Thyatira and a dealer in purple cloth. The Lord opened her heart to listen eagerly to what was said by Paul. When she and her household were baptized, she urged us, saying, “If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come and stay at my home.” And she prevailed upon us.” (Verses 13 – 15)

Decades ago when I first encountered this passage (and quite honestly up to this point) it never occurred to me to wonder why they were gathered outside the city by a river (apparently there were not enough male Jews/male worshipers of God to constitute enough for a synagogue/temple) nor why a man of Macedonia called them there, and yet it was to a woman they first ministered to and converted. Nope, have no explanation for that. And you can bet the biblical commentators of this passage had nary a word of explanation for that. That of course may be to their credit, that they let pass the fact that a man called Paul and his colleagues to convert women. Apparently, in addition, the journey into Macedonia signifies the movement of conversion from the central area where Jews were in predominance to what the biblical scholars called the more “European” parts, ie. Gentile. And indeed that is where Paul seemed to be called to, outside of the traditionally more Jewish areas.

But actually I do not want to belabor the point – sorry if it seems that I already have. My point really is that when the Lord God calls us, we need to travel to where the Divine has directed us. Even if it is somewhere we have never been before. Even if it goes against the norms we have known previously. Even if it takes us outside of our comfort zone. Paul, the Paul who exhorted women to be silent in worship services, was lead to a powerful woman who ran her own household and who was very successful. He did not question the appropriateness of her conversion but went where his Lord God lead.

May we do the same! Selah!

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Third Sunday of Easter: The Substituted Acts Passage – Pondering on our conversion stories

Meanwhile Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any who belonged to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem. Now as he was going along and approaching Damascus, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him.” (Acts 9:1 – 3)

You know beloved reader, Saul/Paul really did not change who he was – he just changed sides. The same perseverance that fueled his persecution of the new believers motivated him to preach and make converts to belief in Jesus Christ. When one takes about changing one’s life and being “reborn” it does not necessarily mean they are a totally “new creation.” It means their purpose and goal in life has shifted. But it is the same person with the same gifts and talents – just re-purposed for the Divine.

“He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” He asked, “Who are you, Lord?” The reply came, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. But get up and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do.” The men who were traveling with him stood speechless because they heard the voice but saw no one. Saul got up from the ground, and though his eyes were open, he could see nothing; so they led him by the hand and brought him into Damascus. For three days he was without sight, and neither ate nor drank.” (Verses 4 – 9)

Now my perspective in the above comments may come from my own “conversion story.” Which really was not a conversion as much as growing into faith. At each critical stage of development in my life I re-committed myself to the Divine. Young child, older child, coming into adolescence, adolescent, very young adult, and then young adult. After deciding to attend seminary, it was less of a new step and more of a being steeped in faith. For others maybe it was a complete change and turnaround, just as Paul I am sure would tell his conversion story.

“Now there was a disciple in Damascus named Ananias. The Lord said to him in a vision, “Ananias.” He answered, “Here I am, Lord.” The Lord said to him, “Get up and go to the street called Straight, and at the house of Judas look for a man of Tarsus named Saul. At this moment he is praying, and he has seen in a vision a man named Ananias come in and lay his hands on him so that he might regain his sight.” (Verses 10 – 12)

Now it is at this point of the story where, for me, a deeper faith story comes to light.

“But Ananias answered, “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much evil he has done to your saints in Jerusalem; and here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who invoke your name.” But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is an instrument whom I have chosen to bring my name before Gentiles and kings and before the people of Israel; I myself will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.” So Ananias went and entered the house. He laid his hands on Saul and said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on your way here, has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” (Verses 13 – 17)

We, as believers, may do the “easy” stuff of faith. But there are those called to risk a great deal . . . . or everything in the name and for the sake of the Divine. And I speak from experience when I say, you cannot always know how it will turn out. All you can do is be faithful to the call of the Divine. Saul/Paul was in dire straights – blind and dependent on those who he had originally sought to persecute. As you may remember, beloved reader, in the Jewish society of that time there was no possible way for someone who was blind to make their way in the world. Blind men (and women) were dependent on charity and alms, and family members who might undertake for them. Saul/Paul must have been frantic.

Ananias must have been equally shaken. To voluntarily go to where Saul/Paul was staying and identify himself as a follower of Jesus. Who knew if it might have been some elaborate plot to catch a “Christian”?

“And immediately something like scales fell from his eyes, and his sight was restored. Then he got up and was baptized, and after taking some food, he regained his strength. For several days he was with the disciples in Damascus, and immediately he began to proclaim Jesus in the synagogues, saying, “He is the Son of God.” (Verses 18 – 20)

And woe betide to anyone who tried to dissuade Paul of his faith in the Lord God and Jesus Christ. Adamant to the extreme. Unwilling to settle for half or lukewarm faith. All or nothing for Paul!

Who were you, beloved reader, before you came to faith? What is your conversion story? What skills and talents that you had before have you used in service of the Lord? Are you using the best of your skills and talents in service of the Lord? And finally, what skills, talents, and traits did you have to turn aside from because of your new faith? Important questions! May you continue your journey through the post-Easter season toward what the Divine has called you to, retaining the very best of yourself! Selah!

Holy Week – Friday: Epistle Passages and Gospel Passage – The story moves ahead with great speed

Since, then, we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast to our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who in every respect has been tested as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (Hebrews 4:14-16)

I went back and read the complete article – that actually comes from a longer study that Blosser did. He says “Paul had to explain the death of Jesus to a religious culture that had sacrifice at its center. Thus Paul saw the cross as the ultimate sacrifice that once and for all negated the need for all further sacrifice. Paul does not argue the theological issue of whether salvation is achieved by sacrifice but only the divine status of Jesus as God’s ultimate sacrifice.“ [Let’s let Jesus speak for himself] I also went back to make sure my comments on previous days reflect accurately what Blosser said. If you read the article yourself, and you find discontinuity, that would be because I made a misstep. I must admit I was relieved to see that it was indeed Paul’s intent to explain Jesus’ death to “old school” believers that caused him to make the emphases that he did.

“This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, says the Lord: I will put my laws in their hearts, and I will write them on their minds,” he also adds, “I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more.” Where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer any offering for sin. Therefore, my friends, since we have confidence to enter the sanctuary by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain (that is, through his flesh), and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us approach with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.” (Hebrews 10:16-22)

I was also relieved to read that Paul’s basis his contentions and arguments on Old Testament scripture – that is, he basis his discussion on what was already established in the “old school” thinking. I think maybe I can move on now! And, because Paul has the Old Testament “covered” I can move on to the Gospel passage, which holds the essence of the story of Good Friday during Holy Week.

“After Jesus had spoken these words, he went out with his disciples across the Kidron valley to a place where there was a garden, which he and his disciples entered. Now Judas, who betrayed him, also knew the place, because Jesus often met there with his disciples. So Judas brought a detachment of soldiers together with police from the chief priests and the Pharisees, and they came there with lanterns and torches and weapons. Then Jesus, knowing all that was to happen to him, came forward and asked them, “Whom are you looking for?” They answered, “Jesus of Nazareth.” Jesus replied, “I am he.” Judas, who betrayed him, was standing with them. When Jesus said to them, “I am he,” they stepped back and fell to the ground. Again he asked them, “Whom are you looking for?” And they said, “Jesus of Nazareth.” Jesus answered, “I told you that I am he. So if you are looking for me, let these men go.”
This was to fulfill the word that he had spoken, “I did not lose a single one of those whom you gave me.” (John 18:1-9)

It is, beloved reader, a long story; it actually lasts from Maundy Thursday evening to Friday evening, the cusp of the Sabbath during Passover. While the Romans had all the time in the world to decide the fact of Jesus, the Jews who were pushing for his death and the disciples who were eager to discern what the outcome would be felt the rush to have this business completed. In other words, from the time Jesus was confronted in the garden onward anxieties were high. We know Peter was anxious because he drew his sword.

“Then Simon Peter, who had a sword, drew it, struck the high priest’s slave, and cut off his right ear. The slave’s name was Malchus. Jesus said to Peter, “Put your sword back into its sheath. Am I not to drink the cup that the Father has given me?” (Verses 10 – 11)

Jesus was taken from one location to another, which only added to the turmoil.

“So the soldiers, their officer, and the Jewish police arrested Jesus and bound him. First they took him to Annas, who was the father-in-law of Caiaphas, the high priest that year. Caiaphas was the one who had advised the Jews that it was better to have one person die for the people.” (Verses 12 – 14)

For example, Peter got nervous and did the very thing he swore he would not do.

“Again Peter denied it [knowing Jesus for the third time], and at that moment the cock crowed.” (Verse 27)

Jesus was questioned, and his disciples witness the full brunt of the animosity that the Jewish leaders had against Jesus.

Then the high priest questioned Jesus about his disciples and about his teaching. Jesus answered, “I have spoken openly to the world; I have always taught in synagogues and in the temple, where all the Jews come together. I have said nothing in secret. Why do you ask me? Ask those who heard what I said to them; they know what I said.” When he had said this, one of the police standing nearby struck Jesus on the face, saying, “Is that how you answer the high priest?” Jesus answered, “If I have spoken wrongly, testify to the wrong. But if I have spoken rightly, why do you strike me?” (Verses 19 – 23)

Then Jesus was taken to another place, and yet another confrontation.

Then Annas sent him bound to Caiaphas the high priest.” (Verse 24)

And from there yet somewhere else. And the whole situation escalated.

“Then they took Jesus from Caiaphas to Pilate’s headquarters. It was early in the morning. They themselves did not enter the headquarters, so as to avoid ritual defilement and to be able to eat the Passover. So Pilate went out to them and said, “What accusation do you bring against this man?” They answered, “If this man were not a criminal, we would not have handed him over to you.” Pilate said to them, “Take him yourselves and judge him according to your law.” The Jews replied, “We are not permitted to put anyone to death.” (This was to fulfill what Jesus had said when he indicated the kind of death he was to die.) Then Pilate entered the headquarters again, summoned Jesus, and asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” Jesus answered, “Do you ask this on your own, or did others tell you about me?” Pilate replied, “I am not a Jew, am I? Your own nation and the chief priests have handed you over to me. What have you done?” Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not from this world. If my kingdom were from this world, my followers would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews. But as it is, my kingdom is not from here.” Pilate asked him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.” Pilate asked him, “What is truth?” After he had said this, he went out to the Jews again and told them, “I find no case against him.” (Verses 28 – 38)

By this time the situation was getting quite chaotic. The Jewish leaders wanted action. The disciples, I would imagine, could not keep up with going from one place to another – not mention not being allowed in.

“Then Pilate took Jesus and had him flogged. And the soldiers wove a crown of thorns and put it on his head, and they dressed him in a purple robe. They kept coming up to him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” and striking him on the face. Pilate went out again and said to them, “Look, I am bringing him out to you to let you know that I find no case against him.” So Jesus came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. Pilate said to them, “Here is the man!” When the chief priests and the police saw him, they shouted, “Crucify him! Crucify him!” Pilate said to them, “Take him yourselves and crucify him; I find no case against him.” The Jews answered him, “We have a law, and according to that law he ought to die because he has claimed to be the Son of God.” (Chapter 19, verses 1 – 7)

At this point the tide events carried things away. Pilate tried to reason with both Jesus and the Jewish leaders. Jesus knew what would eventually happen – had known for a long time – and did not try to make an intervention for himself. The Jewish leaders knew what they wanted, and would not be dissuaded.

Then he [Pilate] handed him over to them to be crucified. So they took Jesus; and carrying the cross by himself, he went out to what is called The Place of the Skull, which in Hebrew is called Golgotha. There they crucified him, and with him two others, one on either side, with Jesus between them. Pilate also had an inscription written and put on the cross. It read, “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.” Many of the Jews read this inscription, because the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city; and it was written in Hebrew, in Latin, and in Greek. Then the chief priests of the Jews said to Pilate, “Do not write, ‘The King of the Jews,’ but, ‘This man said, I am King of the Jews.'” Pilate answered, “What I have written I have written.” (Verses 16 – 22)

By this point the disciples had caught up with Jesus and were there for his death. They saw his clothes being divided. And faced the reality that Jesus was taken from them.

When the soldiers had crucified Jesus, they took his clothes and divided them into four parts, one for each soldier. They also took his tunic; now the tunic was seamless, woven in one piece from the top. So they said to one another, “Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it to see who will get it.” This was to fulfill what the scripture says, “They divided my clothes among themselves, and for my clothing they cast lots.” And that is what the soldiers did. Meanwhile, standing near the cross of Jesus were his mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing beside her, he said to his mother, “Woman, here is your son.”
Then he said to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” And from that hour the disciple took her into his own home.” (Verses 23 – 27)

And they witnessed his death.

After this, when Jesus knew that all was now finished, he said (in order to fulfill the scripture), “I am thirsty.” A jar full of sour wine was standing there. So they put a sponge full of the wine on a branch of hyssop and held it to his mouth. When Jesus had received the wine, he said, “It is finished.” Then he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.” (Verses 28 – 30)

According to what the disciples believed, this was the end of their travels with their Master. Final arrangements needed to be taken care of.

“After these things, Joseph of Arimathea, who was a disciple of Jesus, though a secret one because of his fear of the Jews, asked Pilate to let him take away the body of Jesus. Pilate gave him permission; so he came and removed his body. Nicodemus, who had at first come to Jesus by night, also came, bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, weighing about a hundred pounds. They took the body of Jesus and wrapped it with the spices in linen cloths, according to the burial custom of the Jews. Now there was a garden in the place where he was crucified, and in the garden there was a new tomb in which no one had ever been laid. And so, because it was the Jewish day of Preparation, and the tomb was nearby, they laid Jesus there.” (Verses 38 – 42)

For the disciples this was the end. And from their perspective there would have been no reason to call this day “Good Friday.” The reason why it now is called that . . . . will be revealed in a few days. Shalom!

Third Sunday of Lent 2019: The Epistle Passage – More teachings during Lent

I do not want you to be unaware, brothers and sisters, that our ancestors were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, and all ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual rock that followed them, and the rock was Christ. Nevertheless, God was not pleased with most of them, and they were struck down in the wilderness.” (I Corinthians 10: 1 – 5)

I may have to change my schedule when I write to which passage – many times when I sit down to write for the second day I do not have much patience with the writer of I Corinthians, or most all of the other epistles.

I raced off to consult the biblical commentators as to what Paul was talking about! Here is the easy-to-understand version. The Corinthian believers were being asked and invited to parties where worship of idols was the party theme. They thought that since they were devote Christians and believers it was not harmful to party around idols that they knew had not power. But Paul said, “not so fast! The Israelites had Moses to lead them and tell them right from wrong, and they still messed up when it came to idols. Don’t take chances!!!”

“Now these things occurred as examples for us, so that we might not desire evil as they did. Do not become idolaters as some of them did; as it is written, “The people sat down to eat and drink, and they rose up to play.” We must not indulge in sexual immorality as some of them did, and twenty-three thousand fell in a single day. We must not put Christ to the test, as some of them did, and were destroyed by serpents. And do not complain as some of them did, and were destroyed by the destroyer.” (Verses 6 – 10)

Paul is equating the Lord God, who the Israelites and Moses looked to, with Christ – since according to Paul the Lord God and Christ are the same Divine. It also makes it easier to explain things to the Corinthians if you are not parsing out the “old” Old Testament Lord God with the “new” New Testament Lord God Jesus Christ, but placing them under (if I may) one Triune Lord. But let us read on.

“These things happened to them to serve as an example, and they were written down to instruct us, on whom the ends of the ages have come. So if you think you are standing, watch out that you do not fall.
No testing has overtaken you that is not common to everyone. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tested beyond your strength, but with the testing he will also provide the way out so that you may be able to endure it.” (Verses 11 – 13)

The perennial question comes to my mind – what does that have to do with us? We are not the Hebrew/Israelites that wandered around for at least one generation until they got their faith down pat and were lead to the promised land. Nor are we the Corinthians who could see danger if it plopped down beside them. Are we? Maybe we need to look at verses 6 – 10 again.

The season of Lent. Traditionally a time that we work extra hard at living an accountable life, and “navel gaze” to see where we have gone wrong. Do we worship the wrong things in life? Do we consider faithfulness and integrity to friends and family as optional attributes? Do we get ourselves into untenable situations and then call for miraculous rescue rather than face up to what we did, confess our wrong doing, accept the consequences, and ask for forgiveness? Do we complain that living a Christian life is hard, too hard and exacting?

The season of Lent. It comes every year. It comes to every Christian life. And thanks be to the Lord God the Divine – we do not have to go through it alone and without hope! Selah!

Second Sunday of Lent 2019: The Epistle Passage – Pleas during Lent

Brothers and sisters, join in imitating me, and observe those who live according to the example you have in us. For many live as enemies of the cross of Christ; I have often told you of them, and now I tell you even with tears.” (Philippians 3:17 – 18)

Paul is very sincere in this – shedding tears because some “live as enemies of the cross of Christ.” Part of the reason is that he becomes profoundly disturbed in thinking that some may be lost to death and destruction because they are outside of the will of our Lord God Jesus Christ. Part of the reason is that Paul remembers when he was “Saul” and lived apart of the Lord God. And part of the reason, I think, is that Paul becomes perturbed that any one would live contrary to the rules of the Lord God Jesus Christ. And finally, I think part of the reason is that they are such a bad example to new and vulnerable Christians.

“Their end is destruction; their god is the belly; and their glory is in their shame; their minds are set on earthly things.” (Verse 19)

As fervent as Paul was in persecuting new Christian believers, he is as fervent or more so in protecting them, and nurturing them. And encouraging them to be ready for the return of Jesus Christ and the new life that is to come for them.

“But our citizenship is in heaven, and it is from there that we are expecting a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. He will transform the body of our humiliation that it may be conformed to the body of his glory, by the power that also enables him to make all things subject to himself.” (Verses 20 – 21)

Paul’s plea is also the plea of Lent. To resist temptation and stand firm in one’s beliefs no matter what you may see others do and hear of them doing.

“Therefore, my brothers and sisters, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm in the Lord in this way, my beloved.” (Chapter 4, verse 1)

Selah!

Transfiguration Sunday 2019: The Epistle Passage – Questioning the Old Testament text

Since, then, we have such a hope, we act with great boldness, not like Moses, who put a veil over his face to keep the people of Israel from gazing at the end of the glory that was being set aside. But their minds were hardened. Indeed, to this very day, when they hear the reading of the old covenant, that same veil is still there, since only in Christ is it set aside. Indeed, to this very day whenever Moses is read, a veil lies over their minds; but when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed.” ( II Corinthians 3:12 – 16)

I had promised myself if the Epistle passage did not appeal to me today, I would put off writing on it and comment on one of the other two. However (glad to say) Paul did not disappoint! Paul is pretty scathing in his remarks about the “people of Israel” by which I assume he means Jews who have not opened themselves to the Good News of Jesus. Considering that he used to be numbered among such Jews, you would think he would be more gentle. I guess since he is writing to the Corinthians, Gentiles, he felt he could “froth” at the mouth a little.

“Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And all of us, with unveiled faces, seeing the glory of the Lord as though reflected in a mirror, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord, the Spirit.” (Verses 17 – 18)

This brings to my mind (sooner than I had expected) the questions I had about the Old Testament passage. Why Moses did what he did, and why the Israelites reacted the way they did. And my unasked question as to whether we, not having the type of direct contact that Moses had with the Divine, can have “glowing” faces ourselves. Pondering this – Moses, except for when he wanted to impart the unvarnished word from the Divine, kept his face covered. Was it because the Israelites were accepting enough of the Divine? Were they too new in faith and untested that it was not for them to be exposed to such reflected glory of God? And if that is so, how does Paul know that these new Christians, these Corinthians, are ready? Or did the acceptance of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection prepare them more than the Israelites were prepared fresh out of Egypt?

“Therefore, since it is by God’s mercy that we are engaged in this ministry, we do not lose heart. We have renounced the shameful things that one hides; we refuse to practice cunning or to falsify God’s word; but by the open statement of the truth we commend ourselves to the conscience of everyone in the sight of God.” (Chapter 4, verses 1 – 2)

Hint beloved reader – Paul is not using the royal “we” meaning himself and his audience. He is referring to himself and those who minister with him. Now, if the Corinthians hold as tightly to the gospel and the word that is preached as Paul does, they too will not lose heart. And will receive all the other blessings that Paul refers to. Paul may be generous in accounting faith and devotion to his audience BUT he expects to see the fruits of that faith.

One last thought, beloved reader, and then I will close. Paul says by “open statement of the truth” and it reminds me again of Moses covering the glory that was on his face from communing with the Lord. I have to wonder if Moses had made more of an effort to draw the Israelites into commune with the Divine if the outcome of the kingdoms of Israel and Judah would have been different. Something to ponder. And to keep in mind when our visage glows from the knowledge of the Lord. As Paul did, beloved reader, spread the word! Selah!

Seventh Sunday After Epiphany 2019: The Epistle Passage – The fathomable ways of the physical and spiritual bodies

But someone will ask, “How are the dead raised? With what kind of body do they come?” Fool! What you sow does not come to life unless it dies. And as for what you sow, you do not sow the body that is to be, but a bare seed, perhaps of wheat or of some other grain. But God gives it a body as he has chosen, and to each kind of seed its own body. So it is with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable, what is raised is imperishable.” (I Corinthians 15:35 – 38, 42)

Before I start in with my commentary, beloved reader, I HAVE TO share with you the way the New Living Translation phrases verse 42: “It is the same way with the resurrection of the dead. Our earthly bodies are planted in the ground when we die, but they will be raised to live forever.” I knew that the writer of I Corinthians was drawing on plain-faced metaphors, but that is sort of jarring!

To trace back in Paul’s metaphor/analogy. When one plants a crop, the seed is not considered to be “alive” until it sprouts and grows. What is planted (that is, our human lives) bears little responsible to the plant that grows from the ground (that is, the spirit that is raised to heaven). So the question is not what sort of the body the raised dead will have, but will those who have died be raised up to heaven. However, that is not the direction that Paul discourse travels. Continuing on with the his description of the human body . . . .

“It is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness, it is raised in power. It is sown a physical body, it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a physical body, there is also a spiritual body.” (Verses 43 – 44)

You get the sense, beloved reader, that Paul does not think much of the physical body. And he seems to be directing his readers to dismiss the physical body and embrace the destine of the spiritual body.

“Thus it is written, “The first man, Adam, became a living being”; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit. But it is not the spiritual that is first, but the physical, and then the spiritual.” (Verses 45 – 46)

Is it just me, or does Paul seem to be saying we need to endure having a physical body before we are awarded a spiritual one?

“The first man was from the earth, a man of dust; the second man is from heaven. As was the man of dust, so are those who are of the dust; and as is the man of heaven, so are those who are of heaven. Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we will also bear the image of the man of heaven. What I am saying, brothers and sisters, is this: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable.” (Verses 47 – 50)

Or maybe I am just sensitive right now about the shortcomings of the physical body. I am still in the processing of healing. Do not fear though, beloved reader (& my mother,) by the time you read this I will have had another week at least of healing and will probably feel better. Right now however, I have pains and aches that I thought I would be over and done with. Paul does not talk about pains of the body, but he is pretty clear about what he feels are the shortcomings of the physical, perishable, dishonorable, weak, dusty, flesh and blood body.

The other issue I have with Paul’s dismissal of the body is that the soul and spirit that are said to be imperishable is firmly entwined in the body. We are not distinct body/psyche spirits, but a melding together of the two. Maybe, perhaps, I am being too judgmental of what the imperishable body will be; maybe Paul does believe and understand that the imperishable will retain a physical form that is an “improved” version of our mind/body self. I guess that is yet another question I will have of Paul in the world to come.

May you, beloved reader, honor that which is honorable and distance yourself from that which will bar you from eternal life. Selah!