O God, who made this most holy night to shine with the glory of the Lord's resurrection: Stir up in your Church that Spirit of adoption which is given to us in Baptism, that we, being renewed both in body and mind, may worship you in sincerity and truth; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen
When my aunt and uncle adopted their child Sally, I was eleven years old, and they took me with them to Montgomery to the state adoption agency when they fetched her for the first time. They had lost two children in childbirth, and they had waited several years for the state to identify a good match for them. Sally was six months old. She was gorgeous, and I have never ever seen eyes sparkling more than those of my aunt and uncle as the approached the car where I was waiting, her new mother carrying her in her arms.
I have never been able to read scripture about adoption without those images flooding back.
Years later, when my grandmother died, she left several things to Sally that my mother, in one of her weaker moments, thought should have been left to me. Sally and I were the only grandchildren. “But she is related to your grandmother by blood, only by adoption,” Mother complained.
“Mother, you and I are God’s children only by adoption,” I replied; “does that not count?”
Mother looked daggers at me.
Is it merely a doctrinal tidbit to you that God has given us in baptism the “Spirit of adoption” or it is a mark of your new birth in Christ, marked as God’s own forever?
Peter proclaims that “anyone who fears [Jesus] and does what is right is acceptable to him.”
Just what part of anyone is so difficult to understand?
Peter does not say, “Any heterosexual who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him.”
Peter does not say, “Any white person who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him”…..
Psalm 118:14-17, 22-24
The psalm sounds its resurrection themes forcefully:
- the LORD has triumphed!
- I shall not die, but live,
- The same stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone.
- On this day the LORD has acted; we will rejoice and be glad in it.
Our own identification with Christ, our own resurrection through his, calls us, or should call us, to have new priorities, new ways of seeing, setting our “minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth, for you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.”
Gandhi said that Christianity was a great religion but he had never met a Christian.
The women “get it” first. The angels tell them, “He is not here; he is risen.”
Mother died in January 1982, and Dad died six months later. During Dad’s funeral, I stayed with one of their peers, my high school Latin teacher. “Louie,” she told me, “I don’t mean to upset you, but I don’t believe in an afterlife. Maybe I am a Buddhist. I don’t know. I don’t say these things at the Baptist Church, because I think of myself as a good Baptist except on this point. I believe that when we die the only ‘immortality’ that we have is the way that we continue to influence others whom we have known, loved and served, and through what of us, if anything, is passed on for generations. I’m not troubled by my mortality. It’s great to be living and in good health. I don’t see any need for anything afterwards.”
Occasionally I have asked Christian friends whether they believe in an after-life, and responses have been just as candid. Many say, “I don’t know.” Many also say, “I’m not terribly concerned about it, though I may become more so the older I am blessed to become.”
I am glad that our church does not wire us with lie detectors when we say the creed.
And even if one means what she says, “I believe in the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting”, what does that mean?
My friend Kim Byham and I visited the Mormon Temple opposite the Lincoln Center in New York City during the period before it was consecrated, while it was still open to the general public. Kim has read much about the Mormons. He asked our guide, a young Mormon college student, to explain who lives where when a Mormon dies. Mormon theology insists that each good Mormon male after death becomes the god his own planet and lives there with his full extended family. “What if some of the good Mormon’s offspring also become good Mormons, died, and then become the god of their own planets?” Kim asked; “will their father really live with his full extended family?”
The young man was familiar with the doctrine, but had not thought of the question Kim asked. He excused himself to get help from a senior program leader, but returned soon to say that he had not yet gotten an answer for us.
Some Christians tell me that they know they will go to heaven and be with their spouses and other family members. Someone tried to trick Jesus asking whose wife a woman would be in heaven who had remarried after her first husband died. Jesus explained that in heaven there will be no giving or taking in marriage. That must be a downer for those who think that a good marriage is one of the best things a Christian may achieve.
Cynics often belittle those who believe in “pie in the sky by and by.”
George Bernhard Shaw warned, “Beware the man whose god is in the skies.”
Jesus himself taught us not to focus merely on heaven but to ask that God’s will be done here on earth as it is in heaven.
Would not streets of gold become tiresome after a while? How many millennia would one enjoy rocking in a chair?
Would it be heavenly no longer to have any conflict, such as the conflicts that have continually shaped us?
If we are to encounter family and friends in heaven, at what ages would they or we be?
I do not cross my fingers when I say, "I believe in the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting." I could pass a lie detector test when saying it. I am not sure what I mean.