Thought for the week - 13 June
Oh dear! My brain aches! These seem such complicated readings don’t they!
2 Corinthians 5.6-10 Brothers and sisters, we are always confident; even though we know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord – for we walk by faith, not by sight. Yes, we do have confidence, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord. So, whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him. For all of us must appear before the judgement seat of Christ, so that each may receive recompense for what has been done in the body, whether good or evil.
Heck!! St Paul in particular seems to be making very heavy weather indeed of whatever he is talking about. In fact, he is talking about life after death and new life in Christ, in the Church. Comparing this passage with some of Paul’s other writings he does, on the surface of it, seems to be at best muddled, at worst contradictory. It come alright in the end, but getting there is tortuous!
Let’s take a break!
When I was at school, I loved science, particularly science around the natural world. I can particularly remember a simple experiment with a broad bean(!) I know, I’ve talked about beans before – but this is different! Stay with me! If you plant a broad bean, it will soon sprout. The shoot goes up, root goes down. If you take out the bean and turn it upside down the root will turn round and go down again, the shoot will turn round and go up again. Somehow, the bean, without a brain, can detect what is up and what is down. Scientists have fancy theories about how the plant detects this change in direction and reverse it, but, even today, there is no complete explanation as to how a plant as it were ‘decides’ about changing course. Even today with all our scientific knowledge we don’t really know how a bean ‘decides’ to make it roots go down and its shoots up. Can it be that Ezekiel and Mark are both using examples from the world of horticulture to go some way to describing the mysteries of eternal life in Christ?
Ezekiel 17.22-24 Thus says the Lord God: I myself will take a sprig from the lofty top of a cedar; I will set it out. I will break off a tender one from the topmost of its young twigs; I myself will plant it on a high and lofty mountain. Mark 4 26-27 ‘The kingdom of God is as if someone would scatter seed on the ground, and would sleep and rise night and day, and the seed would sprout and grow, he does not know how.’
Certainly, Ezekiel is describing the process of planting a cutting from an old plant to make a new. The new plant is therefore related to the old, but it is a new plant, placed in a better place where it will grow into an altogether better tree, supported, and nurtured by God. Mark is telling us something very similar to my school-boy experiment. The farmer plants a seed. He can watch it day and night if he so wishes, until it sprouts. But he will never understand how it does so. We who are incorporated into Christ by Baptism, we who live a life according to Christ’s precepts, we who are fed on the Body & Blood of Christ, are promised eternal life. We heard Jesus say this just a couple of weeks ago:
John 6:53–57 “So, Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever feeds on me, he also will live because of me.”
Jesus does not say how this is to be accomplished, only he promises that it is so. So, don’t be troubled by the complexities of St Paul. If you are troubled by how we shall be transformed into eternal life – look at a broad bean. It won’t tell how – but it will remind you of the mystery, and that mysterious things really do happen every day! We live with mystery around us all the time.