Pentecost – Proper 10
Genesis 25: 19-34; Psalm 119: 105 - 112; Romans 8: 1 - 11; Matthew 13: 1-9, 18-23
THE REV. JAMES M.L. GRACE
In the Name of God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. AMEN.
This past Friday, I turned 39 nine years old. Someone recently told me that I look pretty good for my age. I think they said “You really do look good for being 48 years old.” Age is a funny thing. A person that I used to work with at another church would tell everybody who asked her how old she was, that she was ten years older than her true age. If she was 57, she would tell people that she was 67. And people would always say, “Terry, you look so young, how do you do it?”
As our bodies age, there seems to be ever increasing pressure for us to make ourselves look younger. Billions of dollars are spent every year in an attempt to convince us that hair color treatments, make up, plastic surgery will help us to successfully ward of our inevitable demise. How interesting humans are – as children, many of us wanted nothing more than to grow up, and once grown up, we want nothing more than to reclaim our youth once again.
But a face lift, or for middle aged guys a new red corvette, do not obscure the fact that our bodies simply do not last. The ancient Greeks understood this. In their understanding, the body was something temporary, something that would one day be discarded upon our death. Because the body would age and one day be no more, what really mattered to the Greeks was not the body, because it was impermanent, but rather the Soul. The soul, Greeks believed, was immortal, far greater than the aging body that contained it. In their understanding, when a person died, it was just the body that gave out, but the soul lived on eternally.
This belief strongly influenced the Apostle Paul, the author of our reading from Romans today, of which we heard a portion read this morning. In Romans, Paul writes that Christians no longer live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit of God.” Did you catch that? Paul
is using that body and spirit language. But it also seems that Paul is somewhat hostile to the idea of the body. Listen to some of his words from our reading from Romans: “To set the mind on the flesh is death,” and elsewhere “the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God.” What is Paul talking about?
When Paul speaks of the “flesh,” he is not talking about the body (our skin and bones). When Paul uses the word “flesh” in Romans, he is talking about a human life that has no contact with the life giving Spirit of God. In Paul’s writing “flesh” is not skin, rather Paul is describing a person who has chosen to live a life without God. A life without Spirit, a life without Soul. Such a life is primarily concerned with just physical stuff. This is a way of life many people choose, which helps to explain why the world is the way it is.
If we choose this life, a life as Paul calls “of the flesh” it means we are choosing a life where all that matters is ourselves, our resources, our money, our time. This kind of life, Paul writes, is not really life at all. It is a path of death, that no sportscar, facelift, or mansion can hide. Fortunately, Paul reminds us that there is another way. We can choose the Spirit. We can choose God, we can choose abundance rather than scarcity. A spirit-filled life is a generous life, bathed in forgiveness. It is a life in which death is broken. The life of the Spirit, Paul writes, is a joyful life, because with the Spirit of God within you, there is nothing that you lack.
This is the life that is worth living. But even if we choose the life of the Spirit, we will still age and one day we will still die. But we must forget that in our baptism, we already have died to the life of the flesh, and reborn into the life of the Spirit. Those baptized are experiencing right now the beginning of eternal life. And because we are in the midst of eternal life, age no longer matters. It’s a number, that’s all, because in the life of the Spirit, we will never age. You can be 21 as long as you want! AMEN.