If for this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.
You may already know the lovely story of the Waterbugs and the dragonflies…. if not … today is my day to tell it.
you can read it here http://www.just-celebrations.co.uk/waterbugs-and-dragonflies-explaning-death-to-children/
Over these past two years many people in our congregation and amongst our friends have lost loved ones. We have grieved and wept that they are no longer with us, no longer here to talk with us, to share with us, to laugh with us. The chair or bed is empty. The house has been sold. They have become a cherished memory – a feeling of love in our hearts still aching.
As people of faith, however, we say that we believe in the resurrection of the dead and the life everlasting … but what does that mean? What does it mean when we see the bodies of our loved ones buried or cremated to think that they have risen? How are they alive? And can we ever know for certain? The longing and desire for them to be abl to tell us that they are safe is strong, at times overwhelming. But they do not .. they have gone.
But as I said above … as people of faith we we believe in the resurrection of the dead and the life everlasting … As St Paul writes: If for this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied..
But … as S Paul writes at the end of todays passage – and goes on into the next two verses to say :
Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since death came through one man, so the resurrection of the dead comes also through one man. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. – we can add ‘alleluia!’ to that. But still – how can that be?
Let me tell you something that I think we sometimes forget. The people of Jesus’s time – the apostles, the other disciples, the Roman soldiers, St Paul, they all knew what a dead body looked like. They saw death, probably, every day on their streets. They were not shielded from it as we are .. it was not hidden away in a funeral parlour or undertaker’s chapel and then locked in a wooden coffin .. it was often, far too often, right there in front of them. Their children died in infancy at an alarming rate. Their women died in childbirth also at an alarming rate. They caught diseases and were murdered – and their bodies were seen by all. And they knew, perhaps better than we know now, that dead bodies do not come back to life. … not really … not in real life. Please remember that our ancestors were not more simple than we are. They were not more gullible than we are, and they were not more easily deceived than we are … but I do believe that they knew more strongly than we do what death looks like.
And they knew that Jesus was dead. He was not asleep on the cross, he did not just faint or pass out, he was not in a coma. He was cruelly and brutally executed by soldiers who had done it many times before. The soldiers were not allowed to leave the crucifixion site until their victim was dead – and so they usually broke their legs so that they would die quickly of asphyxiation … and they knew how to do it. They knew what death looked like. With Jesus, we are told, they didn’t even have to do that … he had died quickly.
The disciples – we are told – simply gave up. Some of them went back to their fishing boats – it was over. Their hero had died. But then something happened … one by one, starting with Mary Magdalen, people started believing that they were seeing Jesus again .. and not just one or two people – that could be simply displaced grief and hallucination .. but it was many people, groups of people – more people even that the various stories we have in the Bible – they believed that they saw Jesus and that he was alive ….. this very special ‘water bug’ as it were, had been able to come back and tell… but his body was different – ‘do not touch me’ he said … he was almost a dragonfly…. but not quite yet … And whatever it was that they saw totally transformed their lives … more even than the sermon on the mount, more than the miraculous feeding of the 5000, more than the walking on the water and the healing of lepers.
Whatever they saw when they saw Jesus who had been dead and was now mysteriously, strangely still alive, gave them faith.
If for this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.. but Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.
And for this faith St Paul, St Peter, St Andrew, St. James .. and many many more were cruelly and painfully martyred. They would not deny what they had seen with their own eyes, and they no longer feared even their own death, because they had seen that Christ is risen – and they had believed.
They knew that waterbugs become dragonflies.
The Very Rev’d Paul Kennington