bible blog 430

This blog provides a meditation on the Episcopal daily readings along with a headline from world news:

MORE CIVILIAN DEATHS IN MISRATA  

Romans 8:1-11

8There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. 2For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. 3For 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, 4so that the just requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. 5For 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. 6To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. 7For 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, 8and those who are in the flesh cannot please God.

9 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. 10But if Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. 11If 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.

The stark terms of Paul’s theology here are “flesh” and “spirit”. These should not be interpreted as being body and soul. “Flesh” for Paul means, as Luther put it, “life curved in upon itself” whereas Spirit means “life shared with God and other creatures”. Flesh is sinful and brings death; whereas Spirit is righteous and brings life. The life curved in upon itself brings death to itself and others, as it did to Jesus; but he was not bound by it because his life was perfectly shared with God, who gives life to the dead.

Through the power of life curved in upon itself even God’s Law, which is meant to lead to life, becomes an instrument of condemnation and death. For Paul, the cross and resurrection of Jesus tear open the closed life of humanity so that we can share God’s life. T.S. Eliot’s “Waste Land” has images for this “Day of the Dead” in the Christian calendar, when Jesus lies in the tomb, the day when the Lectionary gives no gospel:

Unreal City,

the living dead

Under the brown fog of a winter dawn,

A crowd flowed over London Bridge, so many,

I had not thought death had undone so many.

Sighs, short and infrequent, were exhaled,

And each man fixed his eyes before his feet.

Flowed up the hill and down King William Street,

To where Saint Mary Woolnoth kept the hours

With a dead sound on the final stroke of nine.

a flaw in the fabric of death

 There are the dead whose lives are finished and the dead whose pseudo-lives continue. The seamless fabric of death appears to enclose the world but Paul would have us believe that there is a tiny flaw made by the death and resurrection of Jesus which will ultimately destroy the whole structure. For the present there is life shared with God even while we live in our mortal bodies and no condemnation as we are inspired to act justly.

 

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