Signs of resurrection

One of the things that defines us a Cristians is our passion about the resurrection. It isn’t just that we have an ideological belief about which we care and that we want to share with others with evangelical zeal. It is that we believe so deeply in resurrection that we are always n the lookout for signs of resurrection and new life. We see resurrection all around us. It is an inherent part of nature, so we tell stories of butterflies and winter wheat and forest recovery after a fire. We recognize new life in the green shoots of grass as the snowbanks melt and the blossoms on the trees that emerge even when the weather continues to be wintry. We sense resurrection in every sunrise and the dawning of each new day.

But we also see resurrection in some of life’s difficult places. In the moments of grief and loss and pain and sorrow we sense that these are not forever conditions, but rather steps on a journey. We like to quote John 16:22: “So you have sorrow now, but I will see you again and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you.”

Last night we gathered for an informal time of sharing in memory of a man whose funeral we will celebrate today. He was one of those people who had hundreds of friends and was very adept at cultivating friendships. He also was a man who was passionate about his family. His granddaughter said, “I think my grandpa was a little bit sentimental.” I thought, “When he talked about her, he was definitely sentimental.” He would light up when he told me about his grandchildren and what thy were doing in life. From the oldest to the youngest, he was interested in their lives, proud of their accomplishments, and eager to tell their stories.

The evening’s gathering was a string of stories. There were stories about playing golf, buying cars, singing in chorus and quartets, raising families and living in community. There were stories of church and the coffee shop and the stage of the performing arts center before it had the fancy name.

What I saw in all of this was resurrection.

Today with respect and all due honor we will lay the body of this man into the ground, knowing full well that the body, so beloved and treasured, is not the whole story. As God’s creation goes through its patient process of reclaiming the elements of a human body to make new growth, there is life that emerges in all kinds of new and exciting places. Resurrection is already occurring in the stories we tell. We know we are not going to forget this man. We know we’ll be telling stories of him for the rest of our lives. We know that he doesn’t just live in the stories we tell, but we will remember his presence with every story.

His was a full and rich life. More than nine decades of living, more than six of marriage. We didn’t get short-changed in our exchange with him. But you can’t measure the worth of a person in length. I have as many stories of a man who died in his twenties that I tell whenever the occasion offers itself. There is something about coming face to face with death that reminds us that our way of measuring time is incomplete at best. Had the man whose life we are celebrating today lived another twenty years, it would have seemed to us that it ended too quickly.

It is easy for me to see resurrection in the gathered community. I walk into the room and I know the faces and the names of so many people who have gathered. We have been together before. We have faced funerals together before. We know that this is not the end. Still, we have gathered in a unique way for a unique set of circumstances. It is what we do. We come together in our grief and loss and support one another. We understand the uniqueness of this circumstance for the widow and the daughters and the grandchildren. We know that for them this is a once-in-a-lifetime event. They will remember these days in ways that we will not. Even as the details fade in our minds and blend with other funerals and other families, for them the same details will remain fresh and clear and forever etched into their memories.

In all of this I am aware of resurrection. I don’t have to search for signs. I watch as a gentle hand offers a tissue to dry the tears on a cheek. I notice the genuine hugs exchanged. I catch the shape of a smile in the corner of a mouth. I witness kind words being shared in whispers.

Last night I looked at what is to me a familiar picture of the couple at their wedding that took place the year that I was born. The black-and-white photo shows a young couple with a great deal of promise and joy in their smiles and faces. His diamond-shaped bow tie is slightly crooked - enough to show that it was hand-tied. Her veil frames her face in a way that you hardly see win contemporary weddings. I think if you didn’t know the picture and hadn’t been at any of their wedding anniversary celebrations you might not recognize them. The years have brought about a lot of changes. His har was no longer dark, his face showed a few more wrinkles. But I know that when she looks at the picture it seems like it was only a little while ago. I know she can remember exactly why she married him in the first place. Back then they could not have imagined today or how it would feel for her. But even if you could have, they would have proceeded to get married. Even knowing the grief that lay before, they’d have taken the step.

One of the things about my work is that I don’t have to search for signs of resurrection. They are right there as big as that wedding picture staring me right in the face.

Copyright (c) 2018 by Ted E. Huffman. I wrote this. If you would like to share it, please direct your friends to my web site. If you'd like permission to copy, please send me an email. Thanks!