By Michael Fitzpatrick
A Reading from Romans 8:1-11
1 There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. 2For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. 3For 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, 4so that the just requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. 5For 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. 6To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. 7For 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, 8and those who are in the flesh cannot please God.
9 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. 10But if Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. 11If 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.
If most of us are being honest, we don’t really understand resurrection. Our incurable modern minds make it difficult to imagine powers outside the physical having real causality in the world. We understand a resuscitation, where a body does not quite lose the electro-chemical stimulation and cellular integrity necessary for life before medical intervention revives them. More spiritually, we understand a rehabilitation, where a person gripped by harmful patterns of interaction with themselves and others learn how to become free of those temptations and vices for a healthier life.
Resurrection is something more astonishing than either. A body, totally lost to rigor mortis and decay, subject to the laws of entropy, is not simply restored to life, but is restored to new life. The resurrected body is not the same body returned to life, but a healed, fully alive, imperishable organism invigorated, St. Paul says, by the Spirit. Nor is resurrection merely a healing of our bodies. The Spirit also lifts our person from the realm of “the flesh,” from minds governed by hostility to God. The resurrected self is, in language St. Paul uses elsewhere, a new creation, a different person. Without losing the personal distinctives that make us who we are, resurrection nonetheless frees us from the sinful corruption that makes us less than who God calls us to be.
Resurrection comes not by our good effort, but by the power of the Spirit of the one who raised Jesus from the dead. This is why there can be no separation of Christ’s bodily resurrection from a more spiritual notion of resurrection taking place in our personal lives: the assurance of the latter lies in the former. “If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of his spirit who lives in you.”
Michael Fitzpatrick is a doctoral student in philosophy at Stanford University. He attends St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Palo Alto, Calif., where he serves as a lay preacher and teacher.
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Daily Devotional Cycle of Prayer
Today we pray for:
The Diocese of Awka (Church of Nigeria)
Church of St. Edward the Martyr, New York, N.Y.