Sermons from St Faith's   

Children of the Resurrection

Revd Denise McDougall,  Sunday, 6th November, 2016

Last Wednesday we commemorated the Souls of the faithful departed. Death is inevitable and as we grow older we come to accept that dying isn’t just something that happens to others but it is a gate which one day we all have to pass through. As we become more aware of our own frailty and vulnerability I believe we become more connected to the spiritual but whatever the circumstances, when someone we love dies, their death can evoke some heart searching questions. For many of us the commemoration of All Souls last Wednesday provided us with a time to focus and reflect on the lives of our loved ones, to remember and give thanks for the influence they had on us and probably still do have, even though sadly they have now have left us behind here on earth. We talk of death being the gateway to eternal life but I’m sure everybody young or old who has had to come to terms with the death of a loved one has at some point questioned what happened next, are our nearest and dearest in heaven, have they come face to face with our Lord and Maker, will anything of us survive after death, will we ‘see them again’ what does resurrection actually mean?

Only a couple of weeks ago I had a conversation with a friend of mine who has been very happily married twice. Her first husband died leaving her with two young children, she devoted her life to them but many years later she married again. She always said that she couldn’t believe she had found such happiness twice. Then sadly her second husband died last Christmas. She had so many unanswered questions, her most worrying one being whose wife she would be in heaven? She thought I might have all the answers which of course I don’t, and let’s be honest, despite our faith and our beliefs, not one of us has any experience of life after death.  My friend and I did however have a very long discussion about changed state and life beyond earth being new and different.

Unlike some of the Sadducees my friend wasn’t trying to trick me as they were Jesus. Theologically they were staunch conservatives, who would not accept any change or development from what they read in the Torah, the law of God as revealed to Moses and recorded in the first five books of the Hebrew Scriptures. As was their way, they offered Jesus a nonsense scenario asking which husband the wife who had been widowed to seven brothers would see in heaven when she died; Jesus quickly recognised the trap they set before him. He knew that their thinking was limited only to this world and God was someone contained in their own images in a way that suited them, their minds were small. Jesus already understood that God was greater than anything, beyond the limits of our minds, our imaginations and our world yet despite the complexities and our inability to fully understand what eternity means, we as Christians are journeying towards it. While we are still on earth we exist in the progression of time but eternity is timeless, there is no past and no future, it just is.

To say that we believe in eternal life means so much more than believing in the immortality of the soul. To have eternal life means to share in the divine life of God, to be fully alive in his presence, to be one with him now in this life and after death. We need to remember that whatever we do here on earth, every breath, every action and thought is already immersed in eternity and already known to God. Eternity, in the way Christians understand it is not a physical but a spiritual reality, it is our participation in the eternal now of God, ‘in whom we live and move and have our being.’ (Acts 17:28) The celebration of the great mysteries of our faith affect our lives here and now and we need to draw strength from our faith and union with Jesus Christ. In our name and for our sake he won the final victory over darkness and death and his resurrection from the dead is at the heart of our faith and we affirm those beliefs every time we say the Nicene Creed, ‘We look for the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come.’

Jesus told the Sadducees that those who had died couldn’t die anymore and had become children of the resurrection. God did not create us to disappear into extinction. To know Jesus Christ is to realise that all things are made new through his resurrection. In death life is changed, but not ended; changed by the power of Christ’s resurrection.

Yes, of course with death there is so often grief but although the way we die might be frightening death itself need not be the terrifying experience we may imagine, especially if we view it as re-birth. Death is the natural process by which God leads us through one gateway to another where the Kingdom is more glorious than we could ever have imagined and I firmly believe that we will all be reunited with our loved ones to enjoy the eternal banquet but we will be changed; we will all become ‘children of the resurrection.’

Michel Quoist, a French priest and theologian who died around 20 years ago wrote.

As if there were dead people!
There are no dead people, Lord
There are only the living, on earth and beyond.
Death is real, Lord,
But it’s nothing but a moment,
A second, a step,
The step from provisional to permanent,
From temporal to eternal.
So, in the death of a child, the adolescent is born, from the caterpillar emerges the butterfly, from the grain the full blown ear.

Yes, death does mean separation from this world, it is the end of one journey and the beginning of another, it is the gateway to a higher form of life

 ‘Dying you destroyed our death.
Rising you restored our life.
Lord Jesus, come in glory.

The sermons index page