Now, he is God not of the dead, but of the living; for to him all of them are alive.
Many of us, and the people we serve and worship with, affirm the resurrection each week in the Creed without batting an eye. Yet underneath our routine confession of faith, many of us have questions about the nature, form, and importance of the resurrection. Jesus conversation with the Saducees about the resurrection helped me in a visit with a member of my congregation who was grieving the loss of her husband and wondering about whether he was alive and with God. When I went to visit with her after the funeral she said she wanted to ask me about something I had said in the sermon. It had made her wonder about where her husband was after he had died. It was her understanding that her husband was not in the grave, but in heaven and she was concerned when I spoke about the resurrection that I was saying that he was not alive in heaven but dead and that he would be dead until Christ came and all were raised from the dead.
I listened to her share her fears and her longings about whether or not her husband would rise from the grave, or whether he was already in heaven from the moment of his last breath here on earth. As gently as I could, I said that I didn’t want to take away the comfort that he was with God, but rather to make it stronger, more complete. “What I want and hope for you,” I said, “is more than the dream of a faint substance of your husband existing in a heaven we cannot see. I want the whole person for you, the person who God created, loved, and is now redeemed by God in and through Christ.”
Then I said that her husband’s body had been a physical presence of his spirit while he lived and breathed here on earth. It was in that physical presence that she had come to know and love him. Understanding how God would provide a new body for his spirit was a matter of faith and trust in God.
Jesus says it quite succinctly, “Now he is God not of the dead, but of the living;”
I tried to reassure her that to hold onto the concept that her husband is still alive is comforting, because of her faith in Jesus Christ as his Savior and Lord. To also hold onto the hope and promise of the resurrection that is to come is to believe that the physical body he had while he was alive here on earth will be changed into something new and complete and perfect is to know in faith that God is the giver of all life.
This means that resurrection life is qualitatively different from life as we know it now. The ordinary events and relationships by which we track our journey though this mortal life — marriage, childbirth, graduations, retirements and so on — do not describe our eternal lives because resurrection life is not merely an extension of this life but something wholly different. The ordinary events and relationships by which we track our journey through this earthly life — marriage, childbirth, graduations, retirements and so on — do not characterize our eternal lives because resurrection life is not merely an extension of this life but something wholly different, created and perfected by God.
Whatever limits we may experience about understanding resurrection life, Jesus assures us with confidence that the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob raised Christ from death and promises to do the same also for us. For God is the God not of the dead, but of the living, both then and now.
- When have you been faced with questions about the resurrection and how did you deal with them?
- How do your understandings about the resurrection affect your life now? Does it make a difference in how you are living your life?
- With what questions about the resurrection and life after death are your struggling?
Sue is NLS Spiritual Director, since 2019 and is a retired Lutheran Pastor (ELCA). Active in VdC since 1995, she has served two terms on the Board of the Texas VdC Secretariat, and also on the Texas Gulf Coast VdC Board as Spiritual Director since its start-up in 2017.