Clare’s been asking me questions about what it means to be dead lately. I suppose we shouldn’t have been telling her that she shouldn’t run in the street or the parking lot because the cars can squash her dead like a bug. I mean yes, we should tell her not to run in the street, but it seems to me like she’s got the second bit about being squashed dead like a bug without having properly absorbed the “don’t run in the street” bit.
What is being dead, she asks me in the car while we’re driving to the grocery store. Um. Well, the best I could do was tell it’s when you’re body is “broken” and doesn’t work anymore for some reason. Then she wanted to know can you fix it. Yeah, sometimes, and that’s what doctors do. This gave her the impression that it’s part of doctors’ jobs to raise people from the dead by fixing dead bodies. Oops. So, okay, being dead is when your body is broken and can’t be fixed. But what happens when you’re dead, is Clare’s follow-up question. And yikes. So I wrack my brain for something comprehensible in Clare’s world, that I also wouldn’t feel completely hypocritical about saying. And the best I can come up with is, “it’s okay to be dead, because God takes care of the dead people.”
And in all the thinking I’ve done about that conversation and this topic since, that’s still the best I can come up with. Heaven, I don’t know. Hell, I don’t know. But my "I don’t know" is not cynical or despairing. It’s hopeful. Because I don’t know, but I can say, in the midst of my unknowing, that God takes care of the dead people. It’s not that we don’t die, or that death isn’t sad, or even scary. Just that, no matter how sad and scary, we trust that God takes care of us in death just as God takes care of us in life.
This is the story of the resurrection, that moment of Jesus’ life that he asked that we remember in these acts of eating and drinking. To remember his body: not just his teaching, his miracles, his sparkly personality, but his body. To remember his blood: that ancient and powerful symbol of life itself, that animates the body. We read and study and marvel at the ways in which God is with Jesus, or is Jesus, in his life, and at the moment of Jesus’ death, in the midst of Jesus’ own unknowing about what would happen. Even when, as some of the gospel accounts tell us, he feels utterly abandoned, crying out, "why have you forsaken me," other accounts tell us that he ends with the sigh, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” The resurrection itself, three days later, is the narrative’s conclusion that this trust that God takes care of dead people is not misplaced. And Paul tells us, if God took care of Jesus in this way, we may trust this is God’s intent for the rest of us too. This is a hope that is defined not by what we know, for we don’t know anything about how this is going to work. It’s a hope defined by who we know: a God who created for no reason other than love of creation, a God who redeems for no reason other than love of creation. This God will not sit by and watch creation perish, for no reason other than the same love with which God created and sustains and redeems creation. This is the message of Jesus’ life, and death, and resurrection: that we live because God loves us, and this is true now, and eternally. Amen.
Gorgeous, JTB. Thanks.
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