bible blog 433

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

PICTURE DOCUMENTARY OF GREAT APES AT FRANKFURT ZOO

part of the human tree, part of the Vine?

1 Corinthians 15:35-41

35 But someone will ask, ‘How are the dead raised? With what kind of body do they come?’ 36Fool! What you sow does not come to life unless it dies. 37And 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. 38But God gives it a body as he has chosen, and to each kind of seed its own body. 39Not all flesh is alike, but there is one flesh for human beings, another for animals, another for birds, and another for fish. 40There are both heavenly bodies and earthly bodies, but the glory of the heavenly is one thing, and that of the earthly is another. 41There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars; indeed, star differs from star in glory.

stars differ in glory..

Paul’s teaching, based on the resurrection of Jesus, is paradoxically down-to-earth:

  1. We shall be raised from death with a body. There is nothing about bodily existence which is unworthy of eternity. Body for Paul means identity and relationship, both of which are aspects of resurrection life.
  2. The resurrection body cannot be described. If we had to guess from a seed what the plant would be like without ever having seen a plant, we would never get near it.

Paul’s teaching is clear and helpful but not much used in churches. I’ve never heard a sermon on this passage.

John 15:1-11

5‘I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine-grower. 2He removes every branch in me that bears no fruit. Every branch that bears fruit he prunes to make it bear more fruit. 3You have already been cleansed by the word that I have spoken to you. 4Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me. 5I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing. 6Whoever does not abide in me is thrown away like a branch and withers; such branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. 7If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask for whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples. 9As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love. 10If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. 11I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete.

Traditionally Israel was called God’s vine. Here Jesus applies the metaphor to the community of disciples. Jesus is the vine and the disciples are the branches whose function is to bear fruit. Only those who abide in the vine can bear fruit. This emphasises that important as fruitfulness is, it is a result of abiding in the vine; branches that drop away from the vine wither and are burnt. Fruitfulness as disciples is the expectation of the vine-grower, and it includes obedience to Jesus’ commands, but it is the “shared life” of Jesus-and-disciples that is the primary reality.

fruitful branches

There are times when committed membership of the church is exasperating. My own church seems to me to be making a poor fist of dealing with the issue of clergy in faithful homosexual partnerships. But I must remember how since I was a child the church has been a nourishing place for me: the life I’ve shared with other people and, as I believe, with Jesus, has been my salvation. Therefore I should certainly not be ungenerous when the church finds itself in difficulties, although I should  speak and act according to my conscience.

 

 

4 comments

  1. I’ve never heard the phrase “poor fist” before.
    I am afraid you might me a poor fist also (if that is how you would say it) because when it comes to homosexuality I don’t think faithfulness has one bit to do with it. It seems quite irrelevant to me when I read the texts which discuss it.

  2. Good to read you, Jeff. The expression comes from card games where you may have a good hand but play it badly: that’s “making a poor fist”. I think I’ve sketched my position on homosexuality before but here goes:
    1. You’re right: the bible passages don’t mention faithfulness. That’s because they are not about homosexual partnerships but about sacred prositution and sexual abuse (OT) and Greek paedophilia and casual sex(NT)
    2. I think faithful homsexual partnerships are a new phenomenon, an invention of the 20th century; and therefore should be examined from the perspective of fundamental theology rather than the usual proof texts.
    3. It is true that Jesus held indissoluble marriage between one man and one woman as ideal. He said, “In the beginning.” But we are not in the beginning. We live in a “fallen” world and have to reckon with our wrongness, by for example, permitting divorce and remarriage (at least my church does).
    4. All our sexual relationships need saving by God’s love in Jesus. We don’t need to, nor can we, save ourselves in this matter anymore than we can in any other.
    5. God’s saving love shows up some forms of sexual behaviour as utterly wrong: everything that rests on inequality, violence, deception or mere gratification is simply wrong and requires repentance and change.
    6. But anything which rests on love, equality, kindness, honesty and faithfulness while still imperfect and needing salvation is potentially open to that salvation and is humanly valuable.
    7. Marriage as Jesus defined it, remains the model for sexual relationships. In my view faithful homosexual relationships are no further from this than our marriages. None of us are “right”. God rejects the self-righteousness of “fag-haters” as well as that of the proponents of a “homosexual life-style.”
    8. In the knowledge of our own sinfulness, we should not prejudge any relationship which demonstrates the virtues set out in 6. above and allow God’s Spirit to guide us about how it can honour the ideal of marriage.
    9. In a society devoted at all levels to promiscuous humping we should perceive more clearly where the evil is: in domination, selfishness, triviality and disposability.
    10. Most of what is said by all sides on this topic is mere ideology. James Allison’s great book, “The Joy of Being Wrong” helps us do better.

    1. One thing I love about you Mike, is that when you are given a question you manage to articulate well-thought out answers which usually make sense. I guess that comes from being something like semi-retired (c;
      This is not really the place to argue the point(s), so I will just say 1) lots of stuff here is susceptible to rebuttal, 2) while at the same time giving a person a lot to think about.
      Thanks for your response. I will work on #2.

      1. Thanks, Jeff. Yes, I hope whatever I write is suscpetible to rebuttal and I’m happy for anything relevant to appear on the blog. If you haven’t read James Allison (Roman Catholic) I recommend him.

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