COVID-19 and the Flesh

Romans 8:6-11

Second Reading: Romans 8:6-11

For Paul, Christian spirituality entails living in the reality of the Holy Spirit. The driving force behind our actions and values is not our sinful desire for self-satisfaction but the very Spirit by which God raised Jesus from the dead and will also raise us from the dead.

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.

9But 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.

Pastor Stover’s Notes and Commentary

    with an eye on our current predicament

Let’s start with a plain reading of the text. “To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.”  Not that we shouldn’t be, but right now across the globe, the collective mind is set on “the flesh,” is it not?  I’m going to expand the idea of “the flesh” as the body to a broader idea of “the flesh,” that which is material.  So, let’s include all our stuff, that which Luther includes in his explanation to the First Article of the Apostles’ Creed (“I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth.”)

  • God has given me and still preserves my body and soul: eyes, ears, and all limbs and senses; reason and all mental faculties.
  • In addition, God daily and abundantly provides shoes and clothing, food and drink, house and farm, spouse and children, fields, livestock, and all property along with all the necessities and nourishment for this body and life. God protects me against all danger and shields and preserves me from all evil. And all this is done out of pure, fatherly, and divine goodness and mercy, without any merit or worthiness of mine at all! For all of this I owe it to God to thank and praise, serve and obey him. This is most certainly true.

I want to make sure retirement accounts are enumerated here as well, and I suppose that would fit under “property.” For those blessed to have retirement accounts, “the flesh” is sure suffering.

All of this “stuff” is on our minds as this darn small virus highjacks our “flesh,” even the shoes and clothing we could throw into the washing machine after going out into the public for food and drink away from our house (and farm), with or without our spouse and children. It would be better to pitch a tent in the fields or move into the barn with the livestock to ensure proper social distancing! Living among the livestock is honorable. It is how Jesus began his life.

“God protects me agains all danger…” May it be so.  To set one’s mind on “the Spirit” is to trust  what Luther writes 500 years ago and Paul writes differently here in Romans. “God protects me…out of pure, fatherly, and divine goodness and mercy, without any merit or worthiness of mine at all.”  That’s the Spirit!  “…you are not in the flesh; you are in the Spirit, since the Spirit of God dwells in you.” Romans 8:9

Again, the text is pointing us to death, in particular Christ’s death, but in the early days, pre-church days we might say, Paul is pointing his hearers and readers to their own deaths. “The flesh” can’t do much about that latter death, our own deaths.  It could not do much in Paul’s day and it cannot do much now.

But! But, Paul invokes “the Spirit” that is the Spirit of God asserting that that Spirit which raised Christ Jesus, also raises our “flesh.”  

I have often wondered why the prophets pushed the extremes when “proving” God. You may recall the story of Elijah in 1 Kings 18:33-35. In the story, Elijah built a wood pile for a sacrifice that would prove his God was better than Baal, the competing god.  Baal’s prophets went first and even with great prayer and excitement, Baal did not ignite the fire in their wood pile to consummate their sacrifice.  Elijah then had four barrels of water poured on his pile of wood, pushing to the extreme the unlikelihood that the wood would catch on fire.  Why?  Even a little spark or small bolt of lighting, just a six foot length of lighting, would have won the day.  Yet, in doing this, Elijah helped remove all doubt that Yah was the one and only God of the Land of Israel.  You can read the rest of the story to see how it ends.

To raise the spirit of mortals would not have been much of a claim for Paul to make. Greeks believed in the immortality of the spirit/soul.  But to raise the corruptible and corrupted flesh, now that would be a righteous claim indeed; something worthy in which to believe and place hope.

A Useless PS:   Yesterday from my office window, I watch the rain come into the neighborhood along with an AT&T utility van.  The worker got out of the van and set up three ladders: a short one, a medium length one, and a long ladder.  Since the utility box on the pole was so high, he chose the latter ladder.

About half that story was true, and mostly written for the “latter ladder” play. Perhaps only Bob Johnson will think it worth writing.  The first sentence is true. The second sentence is half true—only one long ladder was strapped to the utility pole. So, the third sentence is true. But then, before he could climb the ladder, a loud thunderclap exploded, and he retreated to his van to avoid catching on fire and to wait out the rain.  All the time he worked, I had my phone set to call 911.  After all, his “flesh” is important as it is.

Peace this Day, March 25, 2020

Pastor Kim A. Stover

Tags: Romans 8, COVIC-19

Comments

There are no comments for this post.

Add a comment

Will not be shared.
Add Comment
 

Thinking Aloud

Notes and thoughts from Pastor Kim Stover based on daily experiences that seem to stay in his mind. Read More


Recent

First Reading, Easter 3

Wednesday, April 22, 2020
First Reading: Acts 2:14a, 36-41 Today’s reading is the conclusion of Peter’s sermon preached following the giving of the Holy Spirit... Read More

Maundy Thursday Worship-Sermon

Saturday, April 11, 2020
 Sermon: Reverend Kim A. Stover, Pastor, All Saints Lutheran Church, Lilburn, GA Sermon PDF Grace to you and Peace from Jesus of the... Read More

Before Palm Sunday 2

Wednesday, April 1, 2020
The week prior to  Holy Week and Easter 2020 Though we walk through the valley of the shadow of death The attached readings and notes... Read More

Before Palm Sunday (1)

Tuesday, March 31, 2020
The week prior to  Holy Week and Easter 2020 Though we walk through the valley of the shadow of death The attached readings and notes... Read More

Sermon: It is Lent

Friday, March 27, 2020
Sermon for the Lent 5, March 29, 2020 John 11:1-45  Pastor Kim Stover All Saints Lutheran Church, ELCA UNEDITED Grace to you and peace.... Read More

COVID-19 and the Flesh

Wednesday, March 25, 2020
Second Reading: Romans 8:6-11 For Paul, Christian spirituality entails living in the reality of the Holy Spirit. The driving force behind our... Read More