The Resurrection of the Body
There is something a little relentless about this period – so I am writing this on Good Friday in order to meet our publication deadline – and have just come away from our Morning All Age worship, and in advance of Easter . . .
A couple of things happened there which suggested to me something about the nature of our faith to which we would do well to pay more attention. The first was when our curate, Brett threw ‘pieces of silver’ over the floor and asked the children to count them. Almost before the coins hit the floor, I could hear several of the children calling out – ‘there are thirty . . .’ – which gave me pause. Certainly we might well congratulate ourselves on their being so well informed about the facts of our faith – but that is a very narrow way of knowing anything. Watching them pick them up, join together and count them with the question, ‘How much is a human life worth?’ ringing in their ears – holding the coins, with their human attraction to ‘Money’ – the question and the answer became far denser in its meaning . . .
A little later I was required to play the part of one who put the cross together, hammering nails into wood with a heavy hammer. Feeling the labour of it, and hearing the sound echoing around the bare wood of the chancel, stripped of its furnishings the evening before at Maundy Thursday – again a Knowing far more significant than a mere mental assent to the facts . . . In both these Knowings there was a Participation. The whole body was involved – and indeed must be if our faith is True.
The Easter Story tells us that our ultimate destiny is Embodied. The Word became Flesh, not do to away with our flesh, but that our flesh might itself be saved from its bondage to corruption and decay. Jesus is raised, not as an atmosphere, not a beautiful idea, but as a body, a body which is the dwelling place of God. For the Temple of his body having been destroyed, he raised it in three days.
Growth in faith is every bit as much the transformation of our bodily existence, a Learning of a way of being in the body, indwellt and taught by the Holy Spirit, as it is knowing the facts of our faith. These are Essential, but the greatest essential fact is the fact of the Risen Christ, who has conquered Sin and Death, in His Body.
For many many years now – we have been more and more reduced to abstract ‘thinking’ beings. Education becomes about what we know in very narrow terms. The current mania over artificial intelligence is largely focussed on the damnable notion that if we can replicate a human brain, we can replicate a human being, as if we were reduced to a brain in a jar and fed the appropriate nutrients we would truthfully exist as humans.
René Descartes who was highly suspicious of our bodily nature, set us down this path wondering what it was that he could be certain of. He finally came to the conclusion that the only thing he could be SURE about was that he had thoughts – so said, ‘I think therefore I am . . .’ (Actually he was even more pessimistic than this and said, ‘my thoughts might themselves be a deception – but at least I can say that there is an I who is deceived!!’)
The Church would respond to Descartes and our culture of ‘thinking beings’ might say our Certainty is indeed enfleshed – the flesh of the Word made flesh, and now Risen from Death. We are, because He Is.