SCRIPTURE: Romans 8:6-11
TEXT: 6 To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.
THEME: We are good, flesh and Spirit together.
It is easy to read this passage and come away thinking that our flesh is bad. But when God created us out of the ‘good dust’, God pronounced us as ‘Good’. We are made flesh, in the image of God; with passion, desires, thirst, hunger, cravings which are all apart of who we are as ‘good’. But when greed influences our over indulgence and we covet what our neighbor has, we are unsatisfied and unappreciative with what we have, we become obese instead of fit, we criticize instead of praise, and we complain instead of enjoy. The world of our creation is filled with unrest.
Our flesh is not bad in itself, but when it becomes our only focus, it can cause us to be unbalanced and surrounded in contentious relationships. So to help us, God sends the Holy Spirit to give us a vision of how God sees the world, living in relationship with God’s self and with each other. The Holy Spirit gives us strength to have self-control and enables us to participate in God’s ministries in the world.
At the time of Paul’s writing, the culture was influenced by Greek thinking. They though that anything that had to do with the body was bad. Paul recognized that, ‘to much of a good thing’ could kill us, but he doesn’t go so far as to say that the flesh is bad. The flesh, after all, is part of the way that God has made us. We need to have these instincts to survive and thrive, but if our primal nature become our only focus, then we will become toxic to ourselves and others. This is why God sends the Spirit, to help us live in peace with God, to help us to live in peace with ourselves and to help us live in peaceful ways with our neighbors.
The over indulgent of selfishness and self centeredness leads to death. But the insights of the Spirit broadens our perspective and guides us to vision of peace. It is not hand sanitizer, surface wipes and toilet paper that will bring us peace during this pandemic. But It is our relationships, with those who care for us, who call us, who are staying apart but staying connected, that will carry us through these contagious times. Stay at home, but stay connected with phone calls, texting, Zoom conferencing and taking care of each other in safe ways. Knowing that there are those who love us, whom the can depend upon and trust, stops our fear and hoarding and creates avenues for peace.
We hate it when the Law tells us that we can’t do something. Stay home, don’t go to work, keep your distance, don’t touch your face, no 10+ gatherings. When God is presented as the Law, our flesh rebells against God. But the Law is to protect the ones we love, it is to stop a threat from harming us, and if we had the virus we would be out for 14 days anyway, so why not be out for 14 days while we are still healthy to prevent ourselves from ever getting it? To stop the virus’ spread, for the safety of other and ourselves. When the Spirit speaks to our heart, it moves our behavior away from obedience to a bunch of rules, and towards a love for God and a love for neighbors. Our selfish desires are hostile to God, but our loving desires submit to God, not in a legalistic way but in away that understands God’s care and compassion for us and others. Knowing God, trusting in God, having the Spirit in us, makes us willing to be apart of what God is doing in our world.
The Spirit of God resonates in us as truth. We can see it as goodness. We see it in the righteousness of all people when love ignites their hearts to light.
We are a paradox, both, flesh and Spirit, instinctive and logical, carnal and spiritual, passionate and reserved, apathetic and loving, vengeful and forgiving, weak and empowered, and untalented and gifted for God.
A bit of Ying and Yang, good and bad, Flesh and Spirit, But that’s it, isn’t it? As God, takes God’s Spirit, the Holy Spirit, to dwell in our flesh, 9byou are in the Spirit…the Spirit of God dwells in you. 10Christ is in you…11The Spirit of him who raised Jesus …dwells in you. 11cGod’s Spirit dwells in our flesh.
Paul’s letter to the Ephesians puts our flesh and God’s Spirit in us, in conversation to replicate the life of Christ in us and to begin to live our future resurrection now. What does our church’s conversations on flesh and Spirit sound like?
On the last Sunday that we could meet all together, we sat and talked about keeping the Food Pantry open and how to keep ourselves safe. Then we talked about the Rummage Sale and postponed the date until mid May, (we may have to push it back even further depending on how things go.). Finally we got to the topic I wanted to talk about which was, the Worship Service. They talked about how to serve Communion in a virus free way, served on individual portion trays. Then we can get prayer request without passing a microphone around and conducting the worship in an under ten people setting. Not being able to come together for worship, we talked about keeping in touch with the Prayrer Tree, emails, calls and mail.
Our Conference Minister, David Popham has been hosting Zoom Meetings with the Pastors in the Hawaii Conference. The two take aways I got from our last call was that people are experiencing grief because of our sheltering in. There is a loss in freedom, in celebrations, in weddings, proms, athletic events, graduations and education. The second take away was that, an extrovert person may have a difficult time dealing with staying at home. So call each other to see how we are doing, pray, listen and stay connected. These are conversations where the Spirit is informing our flesh of things that we can be do to be more like Jesus and the people who are living the resurrection.
Apocalypse means to pull back the curtain to reveal. This virus has pulled back the curtain on American culture and revealed our bad behavior; hoarding, price gouging. violence, and pursuit of greed over the preservation of human lives. It is the Spirit of God that is talking to our flesh to take action to address the needs of humans. In the way we behave, by what we model, in how we listen and put into action the Spirit’s leading to pull back the curtain to reveal God who loves the world and will help us during this pandemic.
The Creation of God is still being created through the Spirit’s work by dwelling in our flesh. It is our flesh that will make sure we have supplies and what we need to be safe, but it is the Spirit that will temper our urge to hoard, or worry excessively, to perseverate on the virus and call us to take a Sabbath, taking advantage of the time we have to spend with the family and to reach out in non-communicable ways through the phone, mail and internet to others.
In the 80’s I was pastoring two churches on Molokai when we heard about aides. I told these congregations, isolated in the Pacific, that someday, there will be someone who will be worshiping with us who will has aides, “What are we going to do when this happens?” We read up on it. We were informed on how it is spread, we were filled with fear, but when a stranger came into our worship, who told us they had aides, this church loved him.
Our world needs these kinds of stories today, where the Spirit moves us beyond our flesh, to be human, and loving as God is to us.