Re the Daily Office Readings 4/16/2020

The Readings: Exodus 13:3-10; 1 Corinthians 15:41-50; Matthew 28:16-20

Exodus: unleavened bread to support Israel’s memory. Deuteronomy repeatedly stresses memory’s importance: the motor for trust in God (e.g., 8:17-18) and solidarity with the poor (e.g., 24:17-18). An honest memory: where does it need support today?

Paul’s argument for the continuity and discontinuity between our present and future bodies is dense, and complicated by challenges in translation. I find Hays helpful (First Corinthians):

“Yet the last item in this sequence is the one that he is driving toward: ‘It is sown a natural body [psychikon sōma], it is raised a spiritual body [pneumatikon sōma].’ (v.44, NIV). This is the nub of his argument. This last contrast, however, presents a vexing problem for translators… The phrase psychikon sōma is notoriously difficult to translate into English. The NRSV’s translation (‘physical body’) is especially unfortunate, for it reinstates precisely the dualistic dichotomy between physical and spiritual that Paul is struggling to overcome.…

“By far the most graceful translation of verse 44, and the one that best conveys the meaning of Paul’s sentence is found in the Jerusalem Bible: ‘When it is sown it embodies the soul, when it is raised it embodies the spirit. If the soul has its own embodiment, so des the spirit have its own embodiment.’ That is Paul’s point: our mortal bodies embody the psyche (‘soul’), the animating force of our present existence, but the resurrection body will embody the divinely given pneuma (‘spirit’). It is to be a ‘spiritual body’ not in the sense that it is somehow made out of spirit and vapors, but in the sense that it is determined by the spirit and gives the spirit form and local habitation.”

C. S. Lewis’ The Great Divorce, a fantasy in which the heavenly is more solid than anything preceding it, may help imagine what Paul’s pointing towards:

“Nothing, not even the best and noblest, can go on as it now is. Nothing, not even what is lowest and most bestial, will not be raised again if it submits to death. It is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. Flesh and blood cannot come to the Mountains. Not because they are too rank, but because they are too weak. What is a Lizard compared with a stallion? Lust is a poor, weak, whimpering whispering thing compared with that richness and energy of desire which will arise when lust has been killed.” Submit to death: now what does that mean in the middle of COVID-19?

Matthew. Previous generations obeyed that commission, so here we are in the New World. And, perhaps in an exercise of the reach exceeding the grasp, the corporate and legal entity of the Episcopal Church is the “Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society.”

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