Thursday, January 15, 2009

embodiment and spirituality

Right now we're being hit by (hopefully) the coldest part of the year with our air temperature at 2 degrees F (-16.7 C). I heard yesterday that wind chill temperatures to hit us will be at -10 to -20 F (-23.3 to -28.9 C). A little cold for me. More than a little too cold for Deb. On top of that, we're turning our furnace down to save fuel, and huddle in our bedroom with the heater made by the Amish, given to us by my mother. We do look forward to Spring, and even to getting into the 20's on Sunday! Supposedly some kind of January thaw is to hit us, temperatures even into the 30's by next week.

We are embodied creatures, and in God's world, in a true sense all material is spiritual. In other words God never meant for the two to be divorced from each other, but to become one through creation and redemption. We tend to separate them, somehow thinking we have to rise above the body and material, to the spiritual, and that this is at the heart of Christianity.

What is at the heart of Christianity and of God's world is incarnation. God in Jesus became one of us, yes- flesh. Completely human as we are, while still God. This forever puts an end to the lie that matter is secondary to spirit. The two are distinct yet are made and indeed will be remade through Jesus' incarnation and the new creation, to be joined together as one.

What does that have to do with cold weather? And what does that have to do with all human suffering? Jesus suffered for us, and we in Jesus will suffer with him in this life. Of course this refers to suffering because of our witness to Jesus in this world. And we enjoy many things with our bodies: this warm tea I am drinking (my bp was a little high at our health screen the other day, so I'm cutting back on the caffeine and drinking less coffee), the warmth we enjoy by a heater or under the covers, a good meal, maybe a fine glass of wine (for me, I prefer beer, but rarely indulge in it), a walk with our spouse or friend or even by ourselves on our sidewalks (or better yet, on nature trails), etc., etc.

The body is not to be despised but is an important part of our spirituality. God through Jesus by the Spirit inhabits our bodies, God's Temple, both individually as well as corporately- in us together in Jesus. When our sisters and brothers in the world suffer for their faith, we're to suffer with them. We're to pray and help each other, as well as all people with regard to their bodies, not just their "souls". Though we must remember as we do all of that, the priority of importance in their (and our) relationship with God.

So I am cold, and I am tired of the cold, besides having a bad back I somehow twisted over the weekend. Deb is as well. But God is good, no matter what. God will see us through as we look forward to the day when all is made new in Jesus. The resurrection and renewal of all things. When heaven and earth become one, and God becomes truly all in all. Thankfully that begins here and now in Jesus, already present yet not completed. Nice to know we have some relief to look forward to here and now, and especially beyond. In love we are taken, and all will be in God through Christ by the Spirit. Truly all will be one in Jesus. (I do look forward to the weather then!!!)

What would you like to add to this, hopefully from a warmer place?


Halfmom, AKA, Susan said...

A great post and an excellent reminder that this is not the way it was intended to be - the spiritual separate from the body. I guess I think of the soul, since it's also present in unregenerated man, as being the intersection of the two - the spirit and the body.

I wish I was writing from a warmer place but am afraid that the extreme cold we have right now is just going to move your way.

Lanny said...

When I was in school taking courses on overview of world religions, I was amazed at the other religions need to ignore the physical, deny it, and even scourge it. That was completely foreign to me as I was always taught that the material wasn't our problem, self absorption was our problem. And that my friend is certainly enough for this weakling to deal with till the end of her days.

As for fencing and barriers to keep the marauders out. You would not believe what those deer had to go through to get to my garden that year. The tenacity of evil. We ought not to be surprised by it however we surely are not to be defeated by it.

Stay warm my friend.

Ted M. Gossard said...


I think a lot of people, and indeed Christian theology and spirituality has seen the soul like that, but as a Biblical term (and I know you will be interested in that, but probably already know this) soul means life. I mean physical life. There is more to be said on that, something I ought to read up on myself.

We're protected quite a bit by the lake so that from start to finish I think you folks are having significantly colder temperatures than us. But it is cold. Right now -1 F, but you folks are at -18 F I see. So take care! Be careful out there.

Ted M. Gossard said...

You surely did plant quite a garden and their eyes and the rest of them were fixed on it!

Yes, self-absorption which ends up leading to self-destruction. I used to be kind of steeped in a theology which made a big deal out of dying to self, and indeed that is an important part of the Christian life. But we must live out this new self, or new life in Christ, a resurrection life, life from the dead, even here and now. Yet that does not negate the necessity of continuing to die to self.

Thanks. I can hardly imagine -18 F south of here. No fun outside here right now, and we look forward to Spring.

Ted M. Gossard said...

Actually right now it's 1 F here, not - 1 F. ha.

Andrew said...

Susan, in regards to the soul being "the intersection of the two - the spirit and the body":

Eugene Peterson wrote that the Hebrew word for "soul" was literally "neck," as in what tied together a man's head with his body. I'm not sure all of what he went on to write, but could it be the union of his mind with his action and affections (bowels)?

Also, when God formed Adam from the dirt and breathed into him, Adam became a "living being" (NIV), or "living soul," (KJV, RSV, ESV, etc.). Only in the (literally) organic unity of matter and spirit are we a "living soul."

Halfmom, AKA, Susan said...

I would tend to agree Drew and think therefore that the soul does not exist without the body and is a unique expression of that particular body. Only the spirit exists without the body.

People I respect think of folks as tripartiate - body, soul and spirit and I think it is due to passages like Mt22:37 - mind, emotions and body perhaps. I'm not sure how their notion of the spirit, especially in a believer versus a nonbeliever fits into this scheme.

However, Heb 4:12 only speaks of the need for the piercing of the Word to be between soul and spirit. Confusing to me at best!

Ted M. Gossard said...

Great comments, Andrew and Susan. And without studying to refresh myself on this, I'm rusty- I agree. Sometimes books can be helpful here, I'm thinking right now of commentaries- I have a great one on Hebrews, 2 volumes by William Lane. But theologians I read are not in agreement on the precise meaning. But I think you two are getting at it well.

Daniel Capusan said...

I was browsing and came upon your blog and this particular post.

For a while I was worried you would not bring the cold to a place of theological understanding.

In the end you tied it up nicely and gave me some good insight.