#AndWhenIDie is the reflection for April 19, 2015. What happens to the body when we die? Jesus appearing to the apostles in Luke tells us a lot about our bodies, death, funerals, burial, and politics. Find out these things and more in “And When I Die”, the podcast for this week, the 32d Sunday of Easter. Available on itunes and android. #MSAWordfortheDay #MySpiritualAdvisor #Sermon #Homily #Resurrection, #BodilyResurrection #Cremation #Burial #Heaven #NewEarth
For My Spiritual Advisor, this is Mark Kurowski with a reflection for Sunday, 4/19/2015 The 3rd Sunday of Easter.
Please pause this audio and read Luke 24:36-48.
I sent the following text message to my siblings, “I am at the funeral home. How would you like to have your name appear in Mom’s obituary?” The problem with that text to the seven remaining siblings I have is that I was with my very much alive mother making arrangements for her funeral and I had forgotten to tell my family that I was going to do so on that day. All of a sudden, my phone was alive with texts like, “What are you telling me?” “Why are you at the funeral home?” “Did mom die?” I can tell you that I no longer make appointments with my mother to make her arrangements without letting my siblings know in advance.
The funeral director was excellent. He was kind and was knowledgeable about what Christianity says about the Resurrection of the Dead. You do know about the Resurrection of the Dead, right? We say every week in our churches, or at least we should, in the Nicene or Apostles Creed: “I believe in the Resurrection and the life everlasting.” The reason I mention the Resurrection of the Body and the funeral director is because this passage from Luke’s Gospel speaks directly to what Christianity says about the physical body and the physical world.
After rising on Easter, Jesus Christ appeared to the apostles and the other disciples over forty days. This passage from Luke is one of those appearances. It follows the appearance Jesus to two of the apostles on the road to Emmaus, where he was “made known to them in the breaking of the bread.” In each of the appearances of Jesus of which we have an account, there are similarities. First, he gives everyone his peace. So, when we pass the peace to one another on Sunday during Mass or at Service, the peace we are passing is not a catching up on what has been happening in our lives. It is a passing of Christ’s peace that Jesus gave to the apostles after his Resurrection. It is the peace of heaven.
Then, he presents his physical body to the people there. It is a physical body that is like the one we will have when the New Heaven and the New Earth are given to us after Jesus comes again at the Second Coming. It is a physical body that is “spiritualized”. It is a transformed physicality that does not have the same limits as ours does. Again, Jesus appears when the doors are locked. He is spiritual, but eats food. It is a body that is not subject to death and deterioration.
In the book, but not the movie, Heaven Is for Real, the author, the Rev. Todd Burpo, recounts how his son, Coulton, had a three minute time in heaven during surgery. It was NOT an end of life experience because the child was not dead. It WAS a glimpse of heaven. The movie is terrible once you read the book and the book is a quick read and excellent. That is why I have the video clip from the Today Show rather than the movie clip or trailer above this podcast at MySpiritualAdvisor.com.
One of the things that Coulton tells us about heaven is that when we get there, we are all young. We have physical bodies that are youthful, no older than in our 30s. I am not happy about this because I looked like I was 12 years old way into my 30s. Nonetheless, there is a physical body we will have at the Resurrection of the Dead.
This has implications for us. It means that thinking we are going to rise into a spiritual existence, but not physical existence, forever and ever is not true. We will rise to a physical existence in a body that has been immortalized. It used to be that cemeteries were laid out so that all the bodies could rise toward the direction we believe Jesus will come from at the Resurrection. That is why all old, old cemeteries have every body laid in them with the feet of the interned toward the east. It also explains why many Christian traditions have been slow in coming to the idea of cremation. It is now considered acceptable to be cremated as long as your ashes are buried like a body in anticipation of the Second Coming. The scriptures tell us clearly in Isaiah 65 and in Revelation 20 that there will be a New Heaven and New Earth, with a judgment of the dead that are raised.
This has some pretty serious implications:
First, it is not advisable to tempt the Lord by distributing your ashes over someplace so that the Lord, can, but then has to, find your particles and put them back together. Maybe just a straight burial facing East would be in order.
Then there is the idea of being physical. Does it seem good now to commit adultery in the body with which you are going to face Jesus at the Judgment? Does it seem right to be indiscriminate with whom we have sex with the body we are going to have to carry into heaven? Does it seem right to speak with a foul mouth with the mouth with which we are going to have to face Christ in the Second Coming?
Lastly, it says something about the physical body. Bodies are good, in the context of the Resurrection from the Dead. Sexy is good, in context. Being athletic is good in context. Taking care of our bodies, enjoying our bodies, and being careful with how we act out our soulful and spiritual existence through our bodies is very important. When Christians die, there ought not be the phrase “disposal of the body” because we are not disposing anything. We are allowing the body to dissolve into a skeletal remain that will await the Second Coming. We are using a physicality that will return in the New Heaven and New Earth.
This means that economic and political realities must be taken into account as well in the ordering of things. Is everyone able to fulfill their vocation based upon the gifts God has given them? Is everyone able to access food, clothing, health, work, education and culture, suitable information, the right to establish a family, and so on? Is the state defending the common good of the civil society and its citizens? Is the system founded on truth, built up in justice and animated by love? The appearance of Jesus Christ in a transformed resurrected physical body establishes that Christians are about the transformation of existence for all humanity. We must do all the good we can, wherever we can, with whatever we can, however we can, whenever we can. That starts with our worship at the altar and moves out into the slums, corporate offices and kitchen tables.
When the physical is used to live out the spiritual, there is harmony in our universe: it is as it was meant to be. The physical is not bad, it is good. When Jesus appears to his disciples, he shows us that the proper state of life for human beings is at and beyond the state of the body in the Garden of Eden. Jesus’ body is a testament to how life lived fully is a life lived where the spiritual truths are fully integrated into the flesh.
What are your beliefs about your body? How have you been or have not been allowing the truth of the Resurrection of the Body impact your decisions on how you live and what to do with your body when you die? The body is not a disposable cup. The physical world is not something to be used and exploited. They are treasures to be lived in and cared for. How are you integrating these truths into your life? Amen.
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