Flesh and Spirit

The column below is what I wrote for the church’s April newsletter.

Easter is late this year, so at the end of March we’re a little more than halfway through Lent. As we look ahead to Easter and the celebration of the resurrection, I’m looking back to Christmas. The two are like bookends. The two are like poles around which life orbits. We don’t have one without the other. These two great feast days are at the heart of our identity, our consciousness of what it means to be flesh and spirit.

The Word became flesh. Incarnation. Energy finds expression in matter. E=mc2. However we express it in words or equations, the Christian understanding is that spirit and matter are not enemies or opposites, but two sides of the same coin. That is the message of Jesus. The life, death and resurrection of Jesus shows us God. “If you have seen me, you have seen the Father,” is a mystery to contemplate, a guide to our understanding of the whole of our tradition and scripture, and a clue to the purpose of God’s project in creation. Jesus is the cornerstone of the foundation, the keystone of the arch, the central piece of the picture that shows us where life is headed, what God’s work is all about.

Jesus is the fullest expression of the eternal mystery of God. And – I hope you are always overwhelmed and amazed by this – Jesus is the model and goal for our lives! Jesus shows us “the way, the truth, and the life.” Jesus makes real life possible for us. Jesus teaches us and shows us that when we are most fully alive, we embody the spirit of God. We continue the incarnation. The church is the Body of Christ on earth. And I don’t mean, of course, a building. We are living stones. We are built together into a home for the very spirit of God.

I’m refraining from using exclamation marks on every sentence, but that’s the feeling! Christian faith is not a deal we make so that we get a reward when our life is over. It’s about making God real. It’s about the new creation taking shape within and around us. It’s about a new community following the way of Jesus in its life together.

If the church has not understood that, and if we have failed to give that message, we have been far too modest, far too insecure, far too dull in our living and sharing of the astounding news of what life is and can be. It’s safer, though, to pretend that faith is about “getting to heaven,” because it keeps us from having to make heaven real and to confront the “principalities and powers” that would rather stay in charge and keep heaven a distant promise.

Easter is a new beginning. This Easter, let’s begin again to show the power and love of God’s eternal spirit in our flesh and daily life. The very presence of heaven is at hand.

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