Monday, January 10, 2011

Some More Good News About Tents

We know that when these bodies of ours are taken down like "tents" and folded away, they will be replaced by resurrection bodies in heaven-- God-made, not handmade-- and we'll never have to relocate our tents again.  Sometimes we can hardly wait to move-- and so we cry out in frustration.  Compared to what's coming, living conditions around here seem like a stopover in an unfurnished shack, and we're tired of it!  The Spirit of God whets our appetite by giving us a taste of what's ahead. He puts a little of heaven in our hearts so that we'll never settle for less. 2 Cor 5:1-5, The Message
So we have more tent-imagery, this time as a reference to our mortal bodies.  You'll recall in my last post, I likened the "makeshift arrangement" to the Tabernacle, which was taken down eventually and replaced by the Temple.  Symbolically, of course this represents a shift from Old Covenant to New, or pre-Jesus history to Jesus-history.  In other words, the temporary "vessel" for God's meetings with people was a system, centered around a building known as the Temple.  Now, we've got one more application of the metaphor thrown into the mix.  Our current bodies are a "makeshift arrangement" as well (as if anyone who's feeling their age needed to be told that).  They will be "taken down like tents and folded away" no longer used.  We will, like the generation that entered the Promised Land, fold up the Tabernacle and never revisit it again, except maybe in memories. It's purpose fulfilled, the time for its usage passed.

I wonder what happened to that thing, anyway?

Were there fond recollections of the old Tent? Did the priests ever go into the warehouse and trace a finger along its disassembled parts or brush the dust off the furniture? Or was it simply all destroyed, in a ceremonially respectful way?  I ask because this is what our tendency seems to be with our covenant- to step away from the New (oh, just for a minute!) because the Old is more familiar, and is capable of sustaining an illusion of self-confidence.  We lived in that tent for so long.  Likewise, what will our days before the throne be spent doing- wistfully remembering what a glorious old tent we once lived in?

In the last case, I doubt it.  While the culture of youth-worship that offers some temporary satisfaction for the young(and an unfortunately, self-hatred for the old), would like to convince us that our current physical state is endless, it remains an "unfurnished shack" no matter how healthy and strong we appear(ask a Haitian in light of this year's earthquake).  Yet the "Spirit of God whets our appetite by giving us a taste of what's ahead."  What's that taste, I wonder?  Physical healing? In Jesus' ministry, it appears that was one of the "tastes."  While some of us might enjoy the blessing of being physically healed, what about those of us whose physical existence doesn't seem to include much physical regeneration?

Of course the primary taste we have is the Resurrection- Jesus' permanent "putting away" of death and sickness in his own body.  To be "firstborn from the dead" is quite an office.  And to his disciples, I would suggest that this is the thing that tore down and replaced the "temple" in their minds of how God was working, what a "Messiah" was, and what kind of future God had planned for a human community that, by all the evidence, looked like such a dreadful mess.  A little further down the page in 2 Corinthians it says "He included everyone in his death so that everyone could also be included in his life, a resurrection life, a far better life than people ever lived on their own." This is the amazing generosity of God- to maintain and promote his own glory and perfection while simultaneously welcoming the worship and relationship of rather inglorious and imperfect people.

One more "taste."  It's clear that the Resurrection of Christ has redrawn the plans in the disciples' minds.  God's image is becoming clearer and clearer.  But of course, their image of God isn't the only thing that changes.  The way they work, play, create, eat, converse, and cultivate are all now "made in the image" of the Resurrected Savior also.  The new community is differentiated from the old community in this- there is a pervasive sense of relief, a lifted burden, that decay and death are not here to condition them to despair, but, like Solomon in Ecclesiastes couldn't do, to draw their attention off of themselves and onto a future that looks not unlike the Jesus who they saw in the days after the crucifixion.

There follows, to put it lightly, an enormous re-thinking of priorities.  A new way of "investing."  They look at one another and know that, one day, they too will look like he did.  Daily life lived as if a resurrection were coming tends to look very different from the surrounding culture.  They are now part of an eternal community surrounded by non-eternal tools.  Everything they have to work with now- their hands, they're plows, their harps, their pens -- all are merely tools for expressing how important-- how vastly important!-- they are to one another.  This must be what the Master meant by the Kingdom of God- life lived under the sway of the Resurrection.  The Temple is rendered unnecessary because all is worship; anything done in the glorious Light of the Risen One is now the sacrifice that was once known only in the slaughter of bulls and goats.  To the chagrin of the religious and those infatuated with their current state of wealth and power, microcosms of the future resurrection begin springing forth in the new community like weeds- people forgiving and reconciling with one another, people de-prioritizing wealth and progress, and even dying for this Name they refuse to stop speaking.  It's a taste of what's to come, and a threat to what's already established.  Religion dies, crucified, and a Kingdom commences where even the least and lowliest are enabled to do God's will- to love one another.


Bob said...

This is downright inspiring!

Erin Hope said...

this reminds me of one of my favorite parts, actually, the whole part kinda , but right before that passage there's a verse - it says "not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal my be swallowed up by life" that part always got me. 'so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life'

it's as though nothing phases you when you actually believe this, and know, that someday, you're going to be face to face with Jesus, and all mortality will be completely swallowed by life because of him.