***I am reading a book by Eugene Peterson entitled “The Contemplative Pastor” and on page 68 (In the Chapter entitled “Praying With Eyes Open”) he writes this:
“Matter is real. Flesh is good. Without a firm rooting in creation, religion is always drifting off into some kind of pious sentimentalism or sophisticated intellectualism. The task of salvation is not to refine us into pure spirits so that we will not be cumbered with this too solid flesh… The Word did not become a good idea, or a numinous feeling, or a moral aspiration; the Word became flesh… The physical is holy. It is extremely significant that in the opening sentences of the bible, God speaks a world of energy and matter into being: light, moon, stars, earth, vegetation, animals, man, woman (not love and virtue, faith and salvation, hope and judgment…)”
***The history of the church is filled with believers trying desperately to escape their flesh. But Pr. Peterson reminds us of a central understanding of our faith – God became flesh in Jesus. Jesus is born fully human. Through Jesus God enters into the human experience and we are saved in our flesh – not outside of it. The church fathers were always quick to condemn the heresies which denied the humanity of Jesus – Arianism, Gnosticism and so forth – but one wonders if they completely accepted the implications of a God who is fully human.
***I am not sure we completely understand or accept these implications for ourselves today. Popular Christianity is awash in legalisms and condemnations which seem to me to be an attempt to push their followers toward a pharisaic purity that would lift them out of the flesh. We don’t want to be saved in our humanity – we want to be lifted out of it. And so we condemn those who are not as pure, or as spiritual as we think we are and we reject those who lives seem to be deeply mired in the flesh.
***God comes to us in the flesh. In the Gospel for last Sunday (Epiphany 5 – St. Mark 1:29-39) Jesus begins his ministry with healings. He reaches out to and enters into the experience of those whose flesh is destroying them and he frees them. This is how the God who becomes flesh operates – he comes to us in our flesh.; in our misery, in our infirmity, in our struggles and stresses. God is present with us there in the midst and heals us and frees us. Am I saying (as the theology of glory might suggest) that God will make the poor materially rich, (to use one example)? No, God reaches to us and heals us where we are, is present with us and leads us forward. Sometimes this means accepting who and where we are – accepting the limits of the flesh, but also accepting that our humanness is a wonderful gift of God’s. God became flesh – we are flesh and God comes to us in our humanity.
October 20 - Henry Martyn, Missionary, Witness to Calling - This was nothing like what he had hoped for. Henry Martyn was kneeling among the bodies of friends and enemies who were slowly and painfully dying followi...
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