In the Flesh

Posted by: Pastor Clint Reiff 7 years, 2 months ago

Great suffering makes theologians out of us all. The questions people ask about God in Sunday school rarely measure up to the questions we ask while we are in the hospital. It is true for those stuck in a hospital bed and those stuck in the waiting room. To love someone who is suffering is to learn what real pain is and to discover a depth of life that is unfathomable when everything is going well. Why me? Why now? Why this?

These are expected questions to ask when you are in pain, but they are just as relevant when you are in pleasure. Who deserves the way a hot shower feels at the end of a hard day’s work? Who deserves the fragrance of a loved one, hugging you when you arrive home from a long trip? Who deserves that incredi ble smile when your daughter passes her drivers test? To hold your sleeping child in your arms can teach you more about life than any book on the subject or preacher ever could. To drive through west Texas and see the vast dark sky with thousands of twinkling stars draws you into the overwhelming presence of God that you cannot find indoors.

The daily walk of Christ on the earth teaches us to walk the same way. Just as Christ put on flesh and lived among us, we are to put on Christ and live among men also. Why else did Jesus spend his last night on earth teaching his disciples to wash feet and share supper? With all the abstract truths in the universe at his disposal, he did not give them something to think about together when He was gone. Instead, he gave them concrete things to do—specific ways of being together in their bodies and as a body that would go on teaching them what they needed to know when He was no longer physically present to teach them.

After He was gone, they would still have God’s Word, but that Word was going to need some new flesh. The disciples were going to need something alive and close-by that they could hang around with on a regular basis, something so earthy that they would not be able to intellectualize it. So Jesus gave them things they could get their hands on, things that would require them to get close enough to touch one another. In the case of the meal, he gave them things they could smell and taste and swallow. In the case of the feet, he gave them things to wash that were dangling from human beings, so that they would have to bend down and touch them and be drawn into one another’s lives.

Many Bible commentaries tell you that the foot washing in John’s Gospel is an eschatological sign of Jesus’ descent into flesh before his exaltation to God’s right hand, or a symbolic representation of first century baptismal theology. But after years of watching babies born, people grow old, bodies recovered after terrorist attack, bodies brought home from the battlefield, and bodies covered by sheets on the nightly news most of us could use a reminder that God comes to us not beyond the flesh but in the flesh.

He calls us to serve one another and to bear burdens for one another and to sup with one another “Do this,” he said—not believe this but do this—“in remembrance of me.”

Duke ethicist Stanley Hauerwas says this about Christianity “It is not a set of beliefs or doctrines one believes in order to be a Christian, but rather Christianity is to have one’s body shaped, one’s habits determined, in such a way that the worship of God is unavoidable.”

When I hear people talk about what is wrong with the church, and why churches are failing, I hear about bad music, inept clergy, mean congregations and obsession with maintaining the status quo. I almost never hear about the intellectualization of faith, which I believe is a greater danger than anything else on their list. In an age where we are drowning in information that flows from a wide range of sources, we have more information, writings, reflections, devotionals, and Biblical commentaries than ever before. It is unlikely that many of us need more information about God. We all need our lives to reflect the Word of God.

During this time leading up to Resurrection Sunday, rather than giving up something, add something to your life. At this season in the Christian calendar, many focus on a goal of giving something up in their lives. It seems that we should add to our lives and focus on the goal that God gave us. We are to wear the flesh that God gave us into the world that He placed us in and be the boldest, most loving, forgiving, humble truth that your neighbors, co-workers and classmates have ever encountered. We are to be the living representation of the gospel.

Take time to be Christ-like and not just think about Christ. He is not a subject to be studied; He is a sovereign to follow and a friend to love.

-- Pastor Clint

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