Monday, April 17, 2006

A Not So Spiritual, Spiritual Thing

I was talking to my grandmother on the phone today. She mentioned to me a conversation she had with a friend of hers about me. She told her friend that since the hurricane I had been doing alot of cooking for the relief work that our church has been involved in. Her friend told her that they need to find somebody else to do the cooking so I could focus on more spiritual things. I told my grandmother that in south Louisiana cooking is a spiritual thing. She laughed and said she would pass the message on to her friend.

Though what I said to my grandmother was lighthearted I was in fact serious about cooking being a spiritual thing. It's not that the barbeque pits get me closer to God or that the smoke from the mesquite and hickory is some kind of incense. It's just that the experience of God is still available and perhaps more so to me because there are less distractions than when I am in an office.

Over the last few years I have really changed my line of thinking on spirituality. So much of modern western Christianity has been subtly and not so subtly colored and influenced by a kind of gnosticism which advances the idea that anything physical is evil while the spiritual is good and pure. Following this line of thought if you're a serious Christian then you will fill your life with more and more spiritual things and make less room for the physical realm. But the truth is that God created us with physical bodies capable of enjoying the very creation around us - everything from music and poetry to sunsets and sex. Sure our world is marred by the scars and curse of sin, but God is not looking to destroy humanity's humaness. On the contrary he is looking to restore it.

Jesus came as God in human flesh. He wasn't just some ghost or positive force. He was flesh and blood, comepletly God and completly man. And as our risen lord on Easter morning he was the firstborn of reconciled creation. When the disciples encountered him after the ressurection they didn't encounter a ghost but a human. Thomas touched the holes in his hands. He cooked fish and bread and ate with his disciples. I've often heard the saying "You're so heavenly minded that your no earthly good." Well I think this saying is true of much of the church in recent history. I include myself in that number but say that I am recovering as any other addicted person recovers. Recovering because the spiritual escape seems so right so often. I feel at times like Peter must have felt on the mountain of Jesus' transfiguration. Peter wanted nothing more than to stay in that wonderful place of God's presence. He was ready to live up there and Jesus said "no it's time to go back down." Jesus wasn't trying to be cruel to Peter because Peter was made to engage the world not to hide away in some spiritual ecstacy. And so we see Jesus down from the mountain top doing a whole lot of supernatural and natural things - eating, healing, drinking, resting, bringing the kingdom of heaven to earth. Jesus showed us a way to live that wasn't afraid of the world of men and all of their messes. He engaged the drunk, the margenalized, the prostitutes, the tax collectors, the religious elite and the down and out lepers. Why should it be any different for us his followers.

As we are overcome by the love and redemption of God we in turn love and bring the redemtion of God to the fallen world around us. We can see with eyes that enjoy the wonderful beauty of God's creation about us. We become engaged because we realize that humanity's original purpose is now restored and that we are to steward the creation around us. We are not waiting to escape to the sweet by and by. On the contrary we are here to be as Jesus - redeemers of the broken and reconcilers of the estranged.

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