Monday, January 19, 2015

We have been purchased at a great price

     In Paul's First letter to the Corinthians that we heard yesterday on the Second Sunday in Ordinary Time, he speaks of the body being made for the Lord.  I told our people of an experience in one of my assignments many years ago in the proclamation of this passage by a young man of high school age who was the lector.  He began:  "Brothers and sisters:  The body is not for immortality, but for the Lord..."  Paul really says "... the body is not for immorality ...".  This is the great fear of every preacher - the wrong reading or the wrong word or the wrong interpretation.  Of course the body IS meant for immortality ... and it IS NOT MEANT for immorality.

     The story aside, I mentioned that in our funeral liturgies we reverence the body of the deceased in a number of ways, most of which recall that transforming moment for that individual when they enter into the life-giving waters of baptism - the blessing with water, the covering with the white pall, the placing of the cross and/or the scriptures, the coming before the table of the Lord and being in the presence of the Paschal candle representing Christ, the Light of the World.  There is another reverence that we show to the earthly remains of this Child of God, and that is the honor accorded the body as it is incensed.  I usually remind those present that we do this strange action because incense has been used from ancient times to designate that which is holy, that set apart for the gods - and that our use at the time of a funeral is to acknowledge that this body has been the temple of the Holy Spirit since baptism.  Paul asks us "Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ?"  Again he asks "Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God ... and that you are not your own?  For you have been purchased at a price.  Therefore glorify God in your body."

     The ancient Greeks knew that there were two levels of existence.  There was the body, the earthy, the flesh, the corruptible, the mundane - sarx.  And there was the spiritual, the divine, the incorruptible, the higher plane, the breath - pneuma.  Our human conflict is caught up in these two dimensions.  But in Christ, in his invitation and call given to us to enter through the waters of baptism into new life - his life - the body has been purchased and has been transformed and raised by his power to a dignity that allows us to honor it with a life lived well in the love of Christ and for the glory of God.  Our task is to realize that fact, allow the grace of God to act within us, and then to live a life worthy of the calling we have received ... a life of holiness and grace.

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