Saturday, November 19, 2016

Life in Christ (III)



I’ve been looking at our life in Christ under the three heads below.

-communication: hearing/obedience/Word/ear
-communion: feeling/affections/Worship/heart
-community: tasting/experiencing/World/body
   
The ear and heart , communication and communion, occupied us in first two posts in this series. Today it is the body, both our physical body and the body of Christ that call for comment.

Life in Christ and the Body

    We can almost say that life in Christ, the communication and communion we experience with God is kinesthetic. Our bodies are active in both listening to and being with God. This is why bodily postures in prayer are recommended in scripture and in the early church. And why in some traditions the congregation stands as the Bible is processed in for the reading of that day’s gospel passage. And why the practice of “Walking Prayer” is growing in popularity today.

If our bodies are the face of our souls, then our interactions with others in community constitute another kinesthetic aspect of our life in Christ. Bodily motion seem intrinsic to the life God created for us to share with him and all other creatures. It is here that the image of the solitary, sedentary individual at prayer, Bible reading, and study plays us false. It not that there’s something wrong with these things. They become wrong when they become normative models of biblical Spirit-uality. The biblical model is usually both communal and kinesthetic. There is, of course, a place for solitude in prayer and study but, as Dietrich Bonhoeffer reminds us, only those who are in community can be truly alone. If solitary is our primary and normative mode we will grow but little shut from the means of growth, the body of Christ, God has provided for us.

Life in Christ and the Body of Christ

That leads us to the second part of this reflection. The body of Christ is a reality we simply must embrace and experience. Paul is clear that this is no metaphor. It is a “literal” reality, so to speak. We are members of one another (Rom.12:5), we the many are one (1 Cor.12:13), and we rejoice or suffer when others rejoice or suffer (I Cor.12:26). Counter-intuitive to the individualistic logic that drives our culture, God has made us into a community, indeed, a body of interrelated and differentiated parts, so inextricably bound to one another that we cannot know who are apart from them. So we cannot know and experience God apart from them either. The body forms the womb in which we grow and mature as Christians. The church father, Tertullian, said the church is the mother of all believers. And he was right. The fruit of the Spirit, the gifts, the prayers, the worship, the partnership (koinonia) we share, the outreach to others, the sufferings of Christ we share, all these things and more constitute our opportunity for growth that God has provided and expects us to avail ourselves of.

The church as Christ’s body is his face to the world, so to speak. Again, it is Bonhoeffer who points us in the right direction. Jesus is the Man for Others, he tells us, and the church is the Church for Others. Living fully in the world, immersed in daily life with those around us, loving those around us as beloved children of God -,

        -lingering with them
        -listening to them
        -learning from them

- this is the way Christ wills to be present in his world. As the community of his people, again, Bonhoeffer, life in Christ is irreducibly communal and worldly.

    Thus, ear, heart, and body together constitute in both metaphorical and literal terms the life we have in Christ. All are necessary for a full experience of Christ and sharing in Christ’s ministry in and to the world.

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