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And then, after Holy Week…

Originally posted April 5, 2012

Last week, we looked at the big picture of the history of God’s relationship to people up to the Day of Atonement.  Then, we looked at the entrance of Jesus into the story. On Good Friday, we considered the passion, resurrection, and ascension of Christ. Now that we’ve celebrated Easter Sunday, let’s look at the coming of the Holy Spirit and the implications of this story for body theology.

32. The disciples wait and pray until they experience the promised presence of the Holy Spirit during Pentecost.

33. The disciples become apostles, who preach the good news (gospel) that Jesus came back to life to all who are gathered in the street.  Miraculously, each listener hears the words in his or her own language.

34. The apostles perform many other miracles by the power of the Holy Spirit in the name of Jesus, and many who hear believe.  Thus the Church is born, and all who believe in the good news that Jesus came back to life are filled with the Holy Spirit…even the Gentiles!

When I was little, we used the phrase Holy Ghost.  Some people might have found that phrase a little scary.  To me, it was just a name, as incorporeal and intangible as today’s more common Holy Spirit.  Growing up Presbyterian, there was never much emphasis on the Holy Spirit at all.  We talked a lot about God as The Father and Jesus as The Son, but God as The Holy Ghost was just something we said as part of the Nicene Creed each week in the church service.

I’ve come a long way in my journey with the Holy Spirit.  That’s a post for another day.  What I want to share today is the continued trajectory of the story of God.

Last week, we looked at the beginning of the story of God when God was present with Adam and Eve, walking in the garden.  Through the entrance of sin and shame, a barrier went up that kept the people of God from God’s presence with them.  As we walk through the story of God, we see God living nearby, but there is always something keeping the people from direct contact with God–whether that’s shame, fear, or the belief that they are too unclean or unholy.

But God was determined to be with the people again.  On Wednesday and Friday, we looked at the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus–God in human form.  God broke the barrier by making the ultimate blood sacrifice so the people would never again be too unclean or unholy to be present with God.  But Jesus’ physical existence on earth–like ours–was only temporary, even after death.

So God sent the Holy Spirit–the presence of God–to remain in the world with the people of God and to actually live within the people, making their physical bodies into temples.  Now, people don’t have to go anywhere to be present with God.  No one can keep us away from God or force us to stay at a distance from God’s presence because God is now present inside the human body!

If that’s not the most exciting thing ever, I don’t know what is! Our bodies house the presence of God.  God’s presence inside us is what changes us, makes us new, and makes us holy.  There is nowhere we can go where God is not present.  There is nowhere we can go that is not made holy by God’s presence there.  The curtain has been ripped open.  The Spirit of God has been released into the world and into the body of every person who believes.

That is what body theology is all about.  That is why our bodies matter to our faith.  That is why the physical reality of God in the world matters to our theology.

And that is what Holistic Body Theology Blog is all about.

 

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And then, after Holy Week…

Monday, we looked at the big picture of the history of God’s relationship to people up to the Day of AtonementTuesday, we looked at the entrance of Jesus into the story. Yesterday, we considered the passion, resurrection, and ascension of Christ.  Today, let’s look at the coming of the Holy Spirit and the implications of this story for body theology.

32. The disciples wait and pray until they experience the promised presence of the Holy Spirit during Pentecost.

33. The disciples become apostles, who preach the good news (gospel) that Jesus came back to life to all who are gathered in the street.  Miraculously, each listener hears the words in his or her own language.

34. The apostles perform many other miracles by the power of the Holy Spirit in the name of Jesus, and many who hear believe.  Thus the Church is born, and all who believe in the good news that Jesus came back to life are filled with the Holy Spirit…even the Gentiles!

When I was little, we used the phrase Holy Ghost.  Some people might have found that phrase a little scary.  To me, it was just a name, as incorporeal and intangible as today’s more common Holy Spirit.  Growing up Presbyterian, there was never much emphasis on the Holy Spirit at all.  We talked a lot about God as The Father and Jesus as The Son, but God as The Holy Ghost was just something we said as part of the Nicene Creed each week in the church service.

I’ve come a long way in my journey with the Holy Spirit.  That’s a post for another day.  What I want to share today is the continued trajectory of the story of God.

On Monday, we looked at the beginning of the story of God when God was present with Adam and Eve, walking in the garden.  Through the entrance of sin and shame, a barrier went up that kept the people of God from God’s presence with them.  As we walk through the story of God, we see God living nearby, but there is always something keeping the people from direct contact with God–whether that’s shame, fear, or the belief that they are too unclean or unholy.

But God was determined to be with the people again.  On Tuesday and Wednesday, we looked at the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus–God in human form.  God broke the barrier by making the ultimate blood sacrifice so the people would never again be too unclean or unholy to be present with God.  But Jesus’ physical existence on earth–like ours–was only temporary, even after death.

So God sent the Holy Spirit–the presence of God–to remain in the world with the people of God and to actually live within the people, making their physical bodies into temples.  Now, people don’t have to go anywhere to be present with God.  No one can keep us away from God or force us to stay at a distance from God’s presence because God is now present inside the human body!

If that’s not the most exciting thing ever, I don’t know what is! Our bodies house the presence of God.  God’s presence inside us is what changes us, makes us new, and makes us holy.  There is nowhere we can go where God is not present.  There is nowhere we can go that is not made holy by God’s presence there.  The curtain has been ripped open.  The Spirit of God has been released into the world and into the body of every person who believes.

That is what body theology is all about.  That is why our bodies matter to our faith.  That is why the physical reality of God in the world matters to our theology.

So get ready for Easter, people.  The curtain gets ripped tomorrow.  The body of Jesus gets buried and the spirit of Jesus enters the place of eternal damnation on Saturday.  And then Sunday–oh glory!–we get to celebrate the living-breathing-walking-talking-eating-drinking-teaching-healing-actual-physical-human/divine-Jesus for defeating death, ending forever the need for blood sacrifice, forgiving sin, and making possible the presence of God in the world and in the body of every believer everywhere until the kingdom of God returns to us again one day soon.

People, get ‘a ready.  Jesus is ‘a comin’!

7 Thoughts on the Incarnation

One of my favorite things about the Christmas season is the tendency for people to return to a focus on the Incarnation, the act of God becoming flesh.  Throughout the rest of the year, it is easy to forget the very tangible physicality of Jesus and put too much emphasis on the spiritual side.  Now, I think the intangible side of our lives is incredibly important (see my spirituality blog here), but we are left floating in space without the solidity of body theology to help ground us.  So, here are some great thoughts on the Incarnation I’ve run across during the last few weeks.  Let’s try to keep these insights close by as we journey into 2012 together.  Enjoy!

#1 Jan Johnson – December 2011 Wisbits
The incarnation of God in humanity (advent) reveals the beauty and humility of our God who likes to just plain be with us.

#2 Steve Knight – Incarnational or Missional?
The idea of incarnation is central to the missional shift in the Church and in Christianity. “The risk of incarnation,” as Palmer puts it, is one very beautiful (and biblical) way of describing the invitation we have been given — to join God in the renewal of all things, to participate in the dream of God, to be a part of what God is doing in the world.

#3 Bruce Epperly – Parenting the Divine: A Christmas Mediation
As an early Christian leader proclaimed, the glory of God is a person fully alive. In the incarnation, God was fully alive in the call and response which enlivened Mary, Joseph, and their wee child. They responded to God’s unexpected movements in their lives – bringing forth wonders that pushed them beyond their comfort zones to become partners in God’s holy adventure. They became fully alive, contributing to the unique divine presence in Jesus, by their responses to their angelic visitors.

#4 Ron Cole – Christmas…a revolution birthed in pain
But in the midst, if you really listen humanity groans…for something to be birthed beyond anything we can imagine. Revolutions are birthed in the midst of pain. Jesus’ birth is about the birth of a revolution. It is about a revolution to re-write the narative that would finally recaputure the imagination of humanity.

#5 Chaplain Mike – David Lose on “The Absurdity of Christmas”
He then chronicles several reasons why people find it hard to believe the Christmas story. First, the four Gospels themselves don’t set forth a unified, consistent account of Jesus’ birth. But beyond that sort of Enlightenment style criticism of the text, earlier skeptics found the concept of Incarnation fantastic, even unseemly. As far back as the second century, gnostics like Marcion found Jesus’ full humanity a difficult concept to square with their idea of God. Apologists like Tertullian responded by saying things like, “You repudiate such veneration of nature, do you, but how were you born?” In other words, if God is put off by such things as the messy birth of a baby, what makes us think he cares about real people at all?

#6 Bruce Epperly – Mary, Joseph and Mysticism
God is not aloof, but present in cells, souls, and communities. A one-dimensional faith – defining everything according the tenets of the modern world view – robs life of beauty, wonder, and amazement. The incarnation raises all life to revelation; each moment – even tragic moments – as a potential theophany. Sleepers awake! God is with us!

#7 Chaplain Mike – Frederick Beuchner: “Christmas Itself Is by Grace”
The Word become flesh. Ultimate Mystery born with a skull you could crush one-handed. Incarnation. It is not tame. It is not touching. It is not beautiful. It is uninhabitable terror. It is unthinkable darkness riven with unbearable light. Agonized laboring led to it, vast upheavals of intergalactic space, time split apart, a wrenching and tearing of the very sinews of reality itself. You can only cover your eyes and shudder before it, before this: “God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God…who for us and for our salvation,” as the Nicene Creed puts it, “came down from heaven.”

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