Sunday, July 10, 2005

On Bodies of Glory

Most of us know the story well - Adam and Eve are in the garden, the serpent tempts them to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, they eat. And they feel the need to get dressed.

I wonder why they do this. Why do they feel the need to get dressed? You would think, now that they know what is good and what is evil, they would go and crush the head of the tempting serpent. Instead they are confused by this knowledge, and they cover up something that is good.

I know I am ashamed often, of my growing gut, my receding hairline, my skinny legs. But these are signs of our fall, signs that my body is a dying body. But Adam and Eve have not been cursed yet. They have not been clothed with the garments of skin. Adam and Eve are covering incorrupt bodies. They are covering bodies of glory.

It seems that the knowledge of good and evil brings more confusion than it does clarity. This is true, isn't it; we write scores of books on ethics and moral theology, and so many of us disagree on fundamental issues. If we really did have clear knowledge of good and evil we would all just know what is good and what is evil, just like we know how to breathe. Instead, as a species, we are confused.

This brings me to another body of glory that we know from scripture. When Jesus is resurrected, he undoes this original covering, this original hiding, this original concealment of things glorious. Jesus' acts after the crucifixion and prior to the ascension are acts of uncovering, acts of revelation, and the undoing of the curse of death.

But the body that Jesus uncovers is not just a body of glory. It is the incorrupt body of a man who has suffered. The body that Jesus reveals is one marked by the nail and the spear. Adam and Eve cover what is glorious and what is good. Jesus uncovers what is glorious and what is good, and what he shows us is his wounds. Jesus' glory is in this double revelation; that his is a body of glory, and that this body of glory knows suffering. And by this Jesus gives some clarity to at least one thing that confuses us. Jesus tells us, by this uncovering, that our scars and wounds can be good and glorious.

This is something that I recognise in myself, and perhaps you recognise it as well. When I reveal myself I show people the person I want people to think I am. I want people to think that I am smart and strong. I certainly do not want to show a man who has suffered. I want to uncover my glory without revealing my scars and wounds. I want to undo the mistake of Adam and Eve without following Jesus.

But my wounds are wounds of glory. Your scars are scars of glory. This is what Jesus offers to us in the resurrection: not just the undoing of sin and death, but triumph over suffering and the transformation of our very suffering into what is good and glorious.

Praise God.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

transformation. Now that makes me think. growing up in a world that held the transformation of the conversion experience to be about completely changing the person, and that human frailty was unacceptable. At best a cop out. At worst sin for a season. To remain who we are and yet be accepted, acknowledged, validated and redeemed. In this media driven world, where perception is reality, these are powerful thoughts. Blessings.

Sunday, July 10, 2005 3:22:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

One last thing: I have never known you to apologize for who you are Preston. I honour you for this.

Sunday, July 10, 2005 3:24:00 PM  
Blogger Preston said...

Chris - thanks for your thoughtful post. I guess this is really not a theology of the plastic person, is it. It is more concerned with the person unseen, the reality that is hidden behind unreal projections. Relying on perception, and forming personal projections that create certain perceptions, is at best a pseudo-reality, isn't it.

Monday, July 11, 2005 12:28:00 PM  
Blogger Kim said...

I really liked this post. It speaks to me of Eternity and of not always being able to understand what God has in mind. Thanks for sharing it.

Monday, July 11, 2005 9:35:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow, this really resonated with me, very powerful as I sit here trying to deal with my "wound" literally. Here I am this week in Calgary trying to hide my inabilities and disabilities from my classmates, colleagues, and myself. It really speaks to me of acceptance and honesty.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005 1:22:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Interesting post, containing much food for thought. I made a post called sanctifying the body a while back in which I mused on some embodiment and holiness from a Jewish perspective. My tradition encourages me to bless my body daily, and to understand how the proper functioning of my physical body makes it possible for me to connect with my spiritual self, e.g. my relationship with God. It's easy to knock our bodies for their imperfections, but if we are made b'tzelem Elohim, in God's holy image, then somehow, in some way we may not understand, even our suffering and our physical "flaws" are reflections of God...

Tuesday, July 12, 2005 1:42:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Did you ever think that Adam might have just had a small penis? Everyone knows that's not good. To his credit, maybe the water was really cold in the garden.

Keep up the amazing posts Preston.


Tuesday, July 12, 2005 4:44:00 PM  
Blogger Rick said...

someone just made the connection to my question post from yesterday, too. "confusion over clarity" - i think that's an really valid take on it all. thanks!

Wednesday, July 13, 2005 6:45:00 AM  
Blogger Kim said...

Hi Rick S! You beat me over here!
Preston, I am including this link for your reference -- I enjoy reading both you and Rick S, and you happened upon the same topic. You saw the same scripture from 2 unique points of view, yet your conclusions are very similar. I hope you enjoy reading each other's stuff. Thanks.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005 7:23:00 AM  
Blogger Preston said...

To Andrea and Calvin - I think you both point, in very different ways, to the issue of shame. Shame is not all bad - there are things that we should be ashamed of, as persons and as societies. I should be ashamed of how I treat people, we should be ashamed of how we create public policy that benefits the wrong people for the wrong reasons. Perhaps a better sense of shame would bring me, and us, to some moral action.

But there are things that we should not be ashamed of. Our bodies, and what they need to stay healthy, should not be one of them, But it's funny, this is what we feel the most shame about. I certainly am ahamed to admit my flaws and differences, especially the ones I can easily hide. But this is not always the best thing for me to do.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005 9:23:00 PM  
Blogger Preston said...

A reply to Kim, and to some degree to Rick - I hope that admitting that we are confused does not become an 'out' for thinking hard about ethics. We need to think hard about these things, and come to some common conclusions as communities. These are necessary for a common life together.

I hope I am not being read to say "we're confused. So we should make no decisions." I mean to say, although now beyond the bounds of the original post, "let's admit this is hard, and get down to the hard work of it all."

We are made in the image of God, and this includes our intellects. We can come to some sense of what God has in mind, guided especially by our own minds, scripture, and the tradition of the church. But we are fallen, and our judgment will be clouded by this.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005 9:30:00 PM  
Blogger Preston said...

Thanks to Rachel - I urge anyone to check the post that she links. This is a vary interesting conversation about the the body. I commented over there at her blog, check it out if you have a minute, not just for my comment, but for the whole conversation. There are a number of different religious traditions commenting there. Just click on the link she provides above.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005 9:52:00 PM  
Blogger Kim said...

Hi Preston (or do people call you Fr. Preson?). I didn't think you meant we didn't have to make a decision or didn't have to make ethical choices. Sorry if I led you to think that. On the contrary, I think its odd that people who clearly love God and are in pursuit of righteousness and desire to make ethical choices can have such different opinions about what is right and wrong. I have been in the middle of a couple of frustrating arguements regarding the interpretation of scriptures. There is a school of thought out there that believes that there is only one acceptable view, and I just don't buy that. Even if there is absolute truth, we would all be seeing it from a different point of view. I think there are mysteries of faith -- the trinity for example, the parable of the sower that you have eloquently discussed on another page -- and I think it's okay not to have it all figured out. It's being able to accept certain mysteries and still have the Peace that passes all understanding -- that's the trick. Hope I clarified my point of view a little better. I love reading your stuff, by the way. Thanks.

Rachel, I love reading your stuff too.

Thursday, July 14, 2005 11:32:00 PM  
Blogger Preston said...

Thanks Kim - you have certainly clarified things.

And call me what is most comfortable for you. God calls me Preston. ;-)

Friday, July 15, 2005 11:42:00 PM  

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