Second Reading for Lent5A, Sunday, April 2, 2017. Romans 8:6-11
To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For this reason the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God's law-- indeed it cannot, and those who are in the flesh cannot please God.
But you are not in the flesh; you are in the Spirit, since the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. But if Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also through his Spirit that dwells in you.
Our liturgy for “The Burial of the Dead” includes a verse from Romans 8* for the Committal, our words at graveside where we take final leave:
All that the Father giveth me shall come to me;
and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.
He that raised up Jesus from the dead
will also give life to our mortal bodies,
by his Spirit that dwelleth in us.
Wherefore my heart is glad, and my spirit rejoiceth;
my flesh also shall rest in hope.
Thou shalt show me the path of life;
in thy presence is the fullness of joy,
and at thy right hand there is pleasure for evermore.
When I was at theological seminary nearly forty years ago, being assigned to preach in homiletics class from Romans 8 was regarded as a privilege because it’s rich with Paul’s theology. And I found the Lutherans, taking after Martin Luther, fond of Paul, more so than I’d been as a cradle Episcopalian. But afterward, during my years as a parish priest, I seldom preached from Paul’s writings; and while our Episcopal custom and preference seems to be preaching on the assigned gospel readings, I now could somewhat regret not having paid Paul more attention and his due. But even now, retired and preaching about one Sunday in three, I still don’t pair with Paul, especially when the Revised Common Lectionary so often gives us beloved Sunday school Bible stories from the Old Testament; as, for example this coming Sunday we have Ezekiel and the Dry Bones. Dem bones, dem bones, dem dry bones …
Nevertheless, Paul, from whom comes so much of our Christian theology. Including theology of dying and death: what comes next, after this life? We don’t know, do we, except by faith. And our personal theology and the theology of the church, and of different denominations, varies and has varied over the Christian centuries. Paul believed, at least early on, that the end of the world was imminently at hand with the Second Coming, when the dead would be raised, and Jesus would return to judge the quick and the raised dead, and the saved would abide on earth in the kingdom of God ruled by Jesus Christ. I dunno, I wasn’t raised in the day and age of Paul, who had no telescope or astronomy textbooks, and no concept of universe, much less multiverse with countless billions upon billions of specks of light. As for eschaton: when earth is vaporized or shredded five billion years from now, will transcendent consciousness remember DThos+ to raise for judgment - - .
O God, whose mercies cannot be numbered: Accept our
prayers on behalf of thy servant N., and grant him an
entrance into the land of light and joy, in the fellowship of
thy saints; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth
and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, now
and for ever. Amen.
What does the above collect herald? It seems to herald an immediate at death passing from life to life, from earth to the land of light and joy.
And this petition in the prayers of the same Burial Office:
Give courage and faith to those who are bereaved, that they
may have strength to meet the days ahead in the comfort of a
reasonable and holy hope, in the joyful expectation of eternal
life with those they love. Amen.
seeming to proclaim our theology, lex orandi lex credendi, not of something at the end of time, but of immediate reunion. This indeed seems to be where Christianity and our church have, at least for the time being, settled for the mystery of hereafter. What do I believe? Honestly, I’m just reading, celebrating, officiating, watching, listening. Thinking myself so sophisticated and postmodern, I don’t live under the same blue dome as Paul did, holding back the waters; but then I still have no better answer than his.
DThos+ still somewhere in +Time+
Friday, 31 March 2017. Dawning 0607 from 7H.
High tide 0709 on EBeachDrive.
Pinched online concept of earth shattered and circling dwarf sun.
Breakfast on the outside back porch at Big Mama’s on the Bayou 0804.