If asked to sum up Christianity in a single word, what would you say? Answers that come to my mind are “Jesus” and “love.” If we look at the question in terms of the goal of Christian life, another possible answer is “resurrection.”
It’s notable that resurrection is the end point of the creed we recite every Sunday. That “I believe” statement concludes with an affirmation of “the resurrection from the dead and the life of the world to come.”
This is the topic of today’s readings. In the Old Testament reading, seven brothers are being martyred by a king who wants to wipe out Judaism. They submit to a horrible death (thankfully the gruesome details are omitted from the sections we read), confident that God will raise them from the dead, replacing the hands that their torturers are about to remove.
In the Gospel, Jesus makes the most authoritative statement about resurrection in the Bible. He declares that God will raise the dead because he is the God of the living. God is, for example, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, who died long ago, because once God draws a person into relationship with him, he never lets that person go. Death cannot put an end to God’s faithfulness.
Even if today we are not -- as far as we know -- close to dying, what does resurrection mean for us? It may seem far away. And since it lies on the other side of death, which none of us wants to undergo, given the suffering and leave-taking that are involved, resurrection may be something we would rather not think about.
Yet resurrection is not just an item on a list of doctrines to be accepted. In the creed, we don’t merely declare that we believe in it. We say, “I look forward to the resurrection.” But do we? Can we?
One way to be oriented toward resurrection is to think about what it means for our relationship with God here and now. It is the God who will never abandon me in any situation, not even death, who wants to guide me through this present day.
The God that I speak to in prayer this morning will restore my entire existence after I die. If he is that great, that faithful, nothing can be more important today than his total and all-embracing love!