January 16, 2010

what are we saved for?

What is your understanding of a) the Kingdom of God; b) the Resurrection; c) eternal life?

As I think about this question, the words from the funeral liturgy keep coming back to me: In the sure and certain hope of the resurrection to eternal life through our Lord Jesus Christ. In the past two years, I have buried many individuals that I never had the chance to know in this lifetime. Our denomination is a bit more inclusive that some of the others in our community and so I am often called in to lay to rest people who have had no faith affiliation. In many cases, I am not sure at all what was in their hearts about God.

This question for me is about redemption and about who receives it and about when we receive it. In the resurrection of Christ, we glimpse the radical and transformative power of God. It is not something that we can harness, grasp, or earn apart from the gracious act of God. That power is what re-creates not only individual lives but the entirety of God’s creation and when we talk about the completion of that transformation – we are talking about the Kingdom of God. We began to see glimpses of that reality through the life of Christ and we participate in that Kingdom now only through his power. How it will be finished, when it will come, what it will look like is completely beyond us, yet we are still responsible for embodying that kingdom sacramentally here and now in our own lives.

So when I stand before a family and I place my hand on a cold metal casket and say the words, “in sure and certain hope of the resurrection to eternal life through our Lord Jesus Christ,” I am placing that person in God’s hands. I stand there as a witness to the power of God to redeem. I stand there as a witness to the fact that Christ holds the keys to hell and death. I stand there as a witness to the hope I have for that person’s life – a hope that carries beyond their death. This past summer, I was profoundly impacted by the words of German theologian, Jürgen Moltmann. He said, “…if a life was cut short, God will bring what he had begun for the human being to its intended end and death cannot hinder God to do this, because God is God, and cannot be overcome by death.” So I cannot know the future of the man or woman I bury, but I do have sure and certain hope in the Lord of the Kingdom of God and the power of God’s transformative love and the promise that all things will be made new.

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