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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Holy Saturday, March 31, 2018

Today’s Scripture Reading | Romans 8:1–11

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do: by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and to deal with sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, so that the just requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For this reason the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law—indeed it cannot, and those who are in the flesh cannot please God. But you are not in the flesh; you are in the Spirit, since the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him.

But if Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also through his Spirit that dwells in you. (NRSV)

Today, on Holy Saturday, we live in an in-between time. We are between yesterday and tomorrow—between the horror of Good Friday’s crucifixion and the joy of Easter’s resurrection. The apostle Paul, like us, lived in an in-between time: after the resurrection, and yet before God makes all things new and complete. Paul teaches that the world, the creation, and human experience have been radically changed by the resurrection of Christ. And yet, Paul struggles with the reality that he continues to sin, to do things that are wrong. Paul is not yet perfect, the world is not yet perfect. We are not yet perfect.

We might tend to read these verses in Romans with a simple dualism that says the Spirit is good and the body (or the flesh) is bad. But it’s much more complicated than that. The Spirit gives life to our human mortal bodies, and that’s a good thing. The problem is not our bodies, nor even our human longings and pleasures. God created our human bodies and said that they are good, very good.

In the Greek, there are two different words for flesh and body. There is nothing wrong with the body, but with the “flesh.” The Common English Bible translates “flesh” as “selfishness,” saying that, “The attitude that comes from selfishness leads to death, but the attitude that comes from the Spirit leads to life and peace” (8:6). Perhaps the problem of “the flesh” comes from our human tendency to become so self-focused and self-oriented, that we forget the larger reality of our relationship with God and God’s creation.

The Spirit of life, God’s Spirit, the law of the Spirit of life, is something that takes us beyond our limited experience, beyond our limited concerns, beyond our limited capacity, and beyond our limited sense of possibilities. This is a different kind of law. It’s not a law of limitation, but a law of creativity, a law of vitality, a law of life.

The Spirit of life dwells in Christ Jesus and we certainly see that Spirit rise up to new life on Easter day. May we be filled with that same Spirit.

Holy God, you have given life to my mortal body, giving me your own breath, the Spirit of Life. Help me to remember to inhale deeply, to receive your grace. Help me to trust that you love me and that your wish for me is abundant life, now and forever. Amen.

Written by Nanette Sawyer, Associate Pastor for Discipleship and Small Group Ministry

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