In the Gospel selection for this weekend [Luke 20:27-38], we know that the Sadducees are not really interested in learning more about the resurrection — they are intent on trying to cause Jesus to stumble into saying something that would offend one or the other side in the Jewish understanding of resurrection. But, with the selection from 2 Maccabees [ 7:1-2, 9-14] and having just celebrated All Saints Day and All Souls Day, it could be just the right time for us to ask, “what do I really know and what do I really believe about resurrection.”
I am confident that all who are reading this blog believe in the resurrection of Jesus and believe that we too will experience resurrection. But, what does that really mean? what does resurrection “look like” in my mind/your mind?
I doubt that any of us believe that resurrection means “floating on clouds in white garments, playing our harps.” But, again, what do we believe.
Do we believe that Uncle Bob who loved playing golf, gets to play golf all the time because it never rains in heaven? Do we believe that in heaven Grandma Willa spends time baking those apple pies for which she was so famous? Are our deceased parents back with one another, living together in heaven forever?
We talk/preach about heaven as the kingdom to come — where all is made right and whole. There is no suffering, no pain, no more tears — no more dying. We think of heaven as a time when justice is done ….. those who seemed to get away with so much finally get what is coming to them — they are made to PAY for their meanness. Those last in line are now at the front — and those use to places of honor and comfort are now at the back of the line looking up to those who suffered so much indignity here on earth.
What do we DO ALL DAY LONG? Looking at Jesus face to face sounds pretty awesome and incredible —– but forever? Won’t we want to DO SOMETHING MORE? Will we see our family and friends and get to do “stuff” with them? After all, when Jesus rose from the dead, he saw his friends and they saw him — and they got to enjoy a fish fry on the beach with one another.
I am reading [Anglican] Bishop N.T. Wright’s book, Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church. His thoughts have challenged my thinking and made me feel very good about what heaven might be like.
Bishop Wright offers no streets of gold or the assurance that I can eat all I want and not gain a pound. There’s no thought about eternal season tickets to my favorite sports team or that “heavenly mansion” overlooking a river with all the amenities imaginable.
In getting readers to enter into deeper thought, he shares this analogy: Imagine that you are on the Board of Directors of a University. Someone leaves a massive, extremely valuable art collection to the school. The pieces of art are not just great in number — many pieces are physically massive. There are no galleries or walls in which these pieces would fit. So, instead of adding on to the school’s museum, you tear it down and re-build from scratch. Well — THIS IS WHAT REALLY BELIEVING IN THE RESURRECTION REQUIRES — we don’t just tweak our faith, we don’t just focus on the resurrection when a loved one dies or when we ourselves ponder death. Understanding the resurrection doesn’t merely bring us comfort in hard times or encourage us in the middle of a struggle. Resurrection calls us to re-think life today, tomorrow, at death, and beyond death. Resurrection calls us to create a new way of believing and thinking and living.
First of all — we spend less time thinking about and working to GET TO HEAVEN. Heaven has already come to us in the person of Jesus and is real here because of the resurrection. Again, Wright uses an analogy: if I tell you that I have beer in the fridge for you, you do not have to climb into the fridge to enjoy it …..so, while “good things” are stored up for us in heaven, we do not have to “get into heaven” to begin to enjoy the fruits of resurrection. These are here for us NOW. This way of living anew, of being resurrected is here for us in the moment.
1. So, who will be resurrected? Everyone. God’s love is for everyone — the rain falls on the “good and the bad.” Judgment is another issue — but resurrection is for everyone.
2. How will we all fit on the earth? Resurrection gifts us with a new body — we will not be disembodied spirits. Part of being human is to be body and spirit. Jesus was recognized by his disciples in his “new, risen body.” For most of us who have traveled our country and the world — we know there are lots of empty spaces —- lots of uninhabited space. Room for all of us.
But then, all of creation is to be made anew on a new earth —- just maybe the world will be bigger.
3. Lot’s of us want to know what this new body will look like?! Will my blemishes still be there? We do know that Jesus resurrected body still showed his wounds —- but apparently without the pain or bleeding. We will have a body not subjected to sickness, pain, death, or decay. As Jesus was recognized by those who knew him, we will be able to recognize those we love.
4. What will we be doing? Work may not be W-O-R-K, but there just might be stuff to do. Even in a perfect garden, animals need to be cared for, the veggies need to be picked and washed. The “work” will lead to even greater reward —- like working on a friendship or a relationship — as we work, we enjoy new depth and greater reward. The golfer who spends time practicing, feels greater reward when s/he sees the tee-shot head right down the middle of the fairway.
5. When will the resurrection take place? Scriptures talk about it happening when “He has come.” Well that has not happened. Just maybe the teaching about the “many mansions” in his kingdom speak about a journey from the moment of our earthly death until that time when Jesus does come again in glory for all. We just might rise to a new life at the moment we pass from this life and continue to enjoy the fruits of resurrection [new life] to a greater degree until that DAY when we believe HE WILL COME AGAIN IN GLORY.
I have more reading/study to do — more reflecting and prayer — to gain a sense of “just where my loved ones might “be” —- and to comprehend to a greater degree what resurrection means for my present-mission and the mission of the Church.
But for now — my belief in resurrection is strong and empowers me for living.
What do you think? Even better, what do you believe?