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Funeral Procession in Crossgar

Funeral Procession in Crossgar (Photo credit: Burns Library, Boston College)

I’ve buried a quite a few Christadelphians. I placed them with care into their coffins, usually with a prayer and blessing, arranged the frill about them, and put the facecloth into place. They don’t look so different from anyone else. No rapturous expression of joy or of hidden knowledge of that which is to come. It’s just that the person that they were isn’t there anymore. Gone.

The last thing I do is to place the lid on the coffin, remove the wreatholders and apply the six screws one at a time that hold the lid in place, closing the door on a life that one hopes has been well lived.

It is a moving moment for me as I replace the wreathholders, reflecting on who will undo those screws in who knows how many years time.

Funeral For A Friend & Co-Worker

Funeral For A Friend & Co-Worker (Photo credit: Tobyotter)

And here’s the rub: How does resurrection work?

Think about the resurrection of Lazarus for a moment. In relative terms (and I use that phrase carefully) it was an easy thing to do to breathe life back into his body. Put simply, the organs are all there, the job of restoration would be limited to reversing the decay that had taken place (‘by this time he stinketh’) and the restoration of life.

But what about Jesus? he is the one we put all our hopes on. Because death could not hold him (I won’t go into theology at this point, but you know all the principles) he was raised from the dead to eternal life. Again, like Lazarus all the body is in place, in one piece if you like, and the effects of decay need to be reversed and life reintroduced and you have resurrection.

All fine until you consider that that is not how the majority of believers will be made alive again. For most of us our body will be just a skeleton at the time of the Return. The body will have to be made again to re-clothe those bones. Take this thought further: Because of the vast amount of time since his death it is likely that the bones of Abraham will have turned to dust. Believers who have died and were buried at sea or cremated are in a similar position. Both the bones and the body therefore will have to be created again.

Extend the discussion: For argument’s sake let’s imagine that a believer dies, is buried for a sufficient time for just the bones to remain and the Lord Jesus then returns. The believer is raised from the dead by having their bones re-clothed in flesh. Suppose that believer had osteoporosis at the time of death. Does this now mean that the resurrected believer has an eternity ahead of her with deformity? Taking this further, will we be cured of the affliction that led to our death? Will those who died in a car accident still carry the wounds of death? Jesus after all, still had the scars of crucifixion.

Thinking further about the resurrection state, when Jesus was resurrected he died at the prime of life. That was the age that he was resurrected as. What about us? If we die old and full of years will we be resurrected at that age? Therefore will the Kingdom be populated by the aged and infirm?

Another point: What makes you, you? Your memories, your experiences, the way you think – the way your mind works and your character, where do they go? What calls them back to the resurrected body and what keeps them safe inbetween times?

Some would argue that the idea of a full resurrection (a full re-creation in effect) introduces a discontinuity: One creation (the mortal believer) lives a good Christian life with all the trials it brings, and another (the resurrected immortal believer) enjoys the benefits of the first creation’s labour which if you remember from scripture is not ‘called to mind’. That doesn’t seem very fair!


Graveside service

Graveside service (Photo credit: Phil Scoville)

I walk away from the graveside leaving the sexton to do his work and I hear the thud of the earth as it lands on the lid of the coffin. The brass coffin plate bearing the name of the deceased is covered up and hidden from view. And yet not forgotten?

I’ll share my ongoing conclusions with you in the next blog – ‘Twinkle (Part two)….Beyond Imagination’.