Flesh and Spirit Because it is essential

Flesh and Spirit

Because it is essentially self-centered, the “flesh” resists God, preferring its own aims and not opening to divine aims and ideals. For Paul, it is the “spirit” that can entertain divine aims, and so become the transformative center of a new persona, a truer Self. Thus the real tension in Paul between “flesh” and “spirit” is not about corporeality but about openness to God. In Paul’s terminology, then, to see someone “according to the flesh” is to see that one strictly in terms of the effect on one’s own self-gratification. Does this one threaten me? Does this one please me? Can I manipulate this one into meeting some need of mine?

These are the relational categories recognized by the “flesh.” This is how Paul admits to having once regarded Christ — as a threat to his pure Pharisaical devotion, as he says in Galatians 1:13-14 and elsewhere — and this, he says, is how his detractors are regarding the Corinthians. Over against this, Paul says that believers, those who are “in Christ,” no longer regard anyone as mere pawns in their own games of gratification. They are freed from the viewpoint “according to the flesh” and instead see as if “everything has become new!” The Greek of v. 16 has a wonderful ambiguity in it: what the old RSV rendered as “if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature,” and the NRSV translates “if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation,” is in the original simply “if anyone is in Christ — new creation!”

Both the person and the entire felt world are transformed by being “in Christ:” the Christly viewpoint regards things — primarily persons, but extending in some measure to all entities as well — as co-creative actualities in the realizing of divine ideals. Not merely factors in self-gratification, the contents of faithful experience, including the roles other persons play in one’s experience, are perceived as active elements in the outworking of the mystery of God’s will for the restoration of the world. This “spiritual” way of seeing, in distinction from seeing “according to the flesh,” liberates a person from being the center of their world, centers them on God and God’s reconciling love, and empowers them to represent that quality of love in their own words and actions; this is what makes Paul an “ambassador for Christ.”

Prayer for the Day Creator God, you prep

Prayer for the Day

Creator God, you prepare a new way in the wilderness and your grace waters the desert. Help us to recognize your hand working miracles beyond our imagining. Open our hearts to be transformed by the new thing you are doing, so that our lives may proclaim the extravagance of your love for all, and its presence in Jesus Christ. Amen.

Thoughts on the Text In 2 Corinthians, t

Thoughts on the Text

In 2 Corinthians, the word for God’s prodigal mercy is reconciliation. Reconciliation starts from God, reaches through Christ to all who are in Christ “without counting their trespasses against them,” and so through us to all the world and back to God again. While Paul uses his “ambassadorship” (verse 20) to plead with the community in Corinth to be reconciled with God, his larger argument identifies reconciliation as a core ministry of mercy for all followers of Jesus.

“Without counting their trespasses against them” is at the heart of reconciliation. Two points should be made here. First, this does not mean that trespasses were overlooked, nor that God (nor we!) have acted nor should act as if they never happened. They have, and they have caused the brokenness of the relationships in which we now find ourselves with God, neighbor, enemy and earth. Reconciliation always involves coming clean about the harm that has been done and what led to that harm with the expectation that such harms and their causes will not be repeated. Those seeking reconciliation thus do not forgive and forget, but rather forgive and remember lest any of them continue in practices that led to conflict and harm to begin with.

The second point, then, is what we do when we remember rather than “cover up” or “cover over” our trespasses against one another. Following the lead of God in Christ, we no longer hold those trespasses against one another. That is, we no longer point an accusing finger because of what has happened in the past. Any debts (or potential bases for revenge!) from past trespasses are forfeit. Having cleaned up or made restitution for harms done as part of the process of coming to just peace, all parties move forward now with a clean slate, or better, a slate filled with just and merciful intentions and practices toward one another.

Today’s Text 2 Corinthians 5:16-21 5:16

Today’s Text

2 Corinthians 5:16-21

5:16 From now on, therefore, we regard no one from a human point of view; even though we once knew Christ from a human point of view, we know him no longer in that way.

5:17 So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!

5:18 All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation;

5:19 that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us.

5:20 So we are ambassadors for Christ, since God is making his appeal through us; we entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.

5:21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

Philippians 3:4-144 3:4 If anyone else h

Philippians 3:4-144
3:4 If anyone else has reason to be confident in the flesh, I have more:

3:5 circumcised on the eighth day, a member of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew born of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee;

3:6 as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless.

3:7 Yet whatever gains I had, these I have come to regard as loss because of Christ.

3:8 More than that, I regard everything as loss because of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and I regard them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ

3:9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but one that comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God based on faith.

3:10 I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the sharing of his sufferings by becoming like him in his death,

3:11 if somehow I may attain the resurrection from the dead.

3:12 Not that I have already obtained this or have already reached the goal; but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own.

3:13 Beloved, I do not consider that I have made it my own; but this one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead,

3:14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus.

Eternal lover of our wayward race, we pr

Eternal lover of our wayward race, we praise you for your ever-open door. You open your arms to accept us even before we turn to meet your welcome; you invite us to forgiveness even before our hearts are softened to repentance. Hold before us the image of our humanity made new, that we may live in Jesus Christ, the model and the pioneer of your creation. Amen.

Thought on Today’s Text I grew up on a

Thought on Today’s Text

I grew up on a small farm and remember the chores and farm animals. While we never had a mule, I dealt with stubborn cows, mean pigs and devious roosters. Most of all I wrestled with 2 brothers who like me didn’t want to do my chores.

So, even though I’m no expert, I get it when the psalmist says, “Do not be like a horse or a mule, without understanding….” (v.9) I’ve seen those animals pitch a fit and plant their hooves — “stubborn as a mule” is a saying for a reason!

How revealing that this image describes our attitude before the Lord at times. When are those moments that we plant our feet, raise our tempers, and “pout to the Lord” about this detail or that circumstance?

The gentle and patient father in the gospel lesson basically says to his elder son, “Now don’t get all mulish on me, son; wait and see what it is that I’m up to before you judge me.” How like our Heavenly Father, who forgives our sin and surrounds us with steadfast love.

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