Flesh and Spirit

Indeed embrace the Earth. Embrace the glorious beauty of the incarnate, the very essence of Life! The very nature of the branches, whose lives are certainly meaningless without the vine, is not confined to the consumption of the Divine sap — rather, it is the total incarnate experience — the upward impulsion towards the sun, the bearing of fruit, the commitment to progeny and growth, the rootedness in the dirt. The vine imparts transcendent meaning (see John 15); yet the plant is fundamentally physical, a fundamental expression of organic life. Its challenges are fundamentally physical.

To focus solely on the metaphor of the relationship between vine and branches is a fantastic abstraction if we lose sight of the importance of gravity, sunlight, wind, rain and the soil. Without arriving at the metaphor, we know that there are many joys and sorrows, victories and defeats inherent in the mundane physicality of life. Our most basic desires are physical — in fact the transcendence of all desire would be a rejection of life, a choice for death. That distinction characterizes the difference between Christianity and Buddhism.

We are necessarily fully engaged in the earthly drama of suffering and death. This realization amounts to a rejection of a simplistic view of salvation as a fairy tale movie of Christ’s suffering and dying for us while we all gratefully eat popcorn. No, the Christian hero story necessarily engages us as participants alongside Jesus the hero.

The Passion of Christ is a condensed version of the path we all must walk if we would bear the fruit we were created for. We cannot bear fruit without the sap of the Vine, but we must also brace ourselves for hail, drought and burning sun.

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