We Are Immortal

by

by Laurie Gudim

Luke 24:36-53

Don’t you sometimes wish that certain loved ones who have died could put in an appearance like Jesus did with his disciples after his resurrection?  Luke describes it in such succinct but evocative detail: how he was suddenly standing in their midst, saying, “Peace be with you,” how he invited them to touch him, and how he ate a piece of broiled fish.  (I wonder how he enjoyed it, the broiled fish.  Did they all stand around him in gaping amazement while he licked his fingers and made “yum” noises?  I wouldn’t be surprised.)

I would love to have my friend Mary suddenly with me in the flesh once more.  She would look at my latest accomplishments, give me her lush, deeply appreciative smile.  “Isn’t that marvelous!” she would say.  I miss that.

There are millions of stories in which those who have crossed the threshold of death communicate with their loved ones.  I just heard one yesterday in which a new widow was driving home after saying goodbye to his wife’s body.  She was a woman who loved a corny joke.  Several of her favorites were mentioned in her eulogy.  Well, as he was approaching a busy intersection, three rabbits bounded into the path of his car and just sat there – unusual behavior for bunnies.  He stopped.  He didn’t want to go around them, afraid of inadvertently causing them to be injured by other autos, so he waited.  Eventually they bounced back to safety on someone’s lawn.  He drove on up to the intersection – and noticed that the restaurant on the left side of the street was IHOP.  He knew then that his wife was speaking to him.

There are all sorts of ways of explaining away these stories of communication from beyond death.  These days even Christ’s resurrection is dismissed.  The skeptics postulate that the grieving disciples imagined something that they then embellished into a bodily appearance, or, worse, that they made up the resurrection so that Jesus’ teaching would still be credible after he had been crucified.  The whole thing is myth, they would say – although they might add that this doesn’t necessarily make Christianity an invalid faith tradition, as such things go.

How we understand Jesus determines who we believe ourselves to be.  Sometimes it is better to listen to what our hearts have to say than to think things through with our brains.  Our rabbi eating that broiled fish with his disciples – it means that we, ourselves, are immortal beings.  Imagine that!  Death has no power over us.  And while we can’t get our limited monkey-minds around what might happen after we die, we can count on the fact that we do go on – and not as some nebulous energy or poof of stardust but as ourselves, our true selves, our essential selves.

And while the stories of post-death contact with loved ones cannot be scientifically proven, our hearts know that many of them are true.  Imagine that!  We recognize the reality of those – often creative – attempts to tell us something.  My friend Mary will most likely never show up in physical form to have a little fish with me, but I know she lives on.  And she does visit me in other ways, often.  I know she is immortal.  So are you.  So am I.

 


 

Laurie Gudim works is a religious iconographer and writer in Fort Collins, Colorado.  You can view some of her work at Everyday Mysteries.She has recently published her novel, Loving the Six-Toed Jesus, available from Amazon.

 

Image: Life of Jesus

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Laurie Gudim
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Leslie, your understanding of sin is different from mine. Also your sense of where God is in relationship to where we are. I see dependence on God as intrinsic to being human. God is in the fiber of our beings, and always longs to supplant our egos as the One who is in charge.

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Laurie Gudim
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Michael, thanks for the comments. Lots to ponder in them.

Knowing that I am immortal is important to me simply because then death has no power over me. That frees me to act with courage in situations where it is necessary to speak truth to power -- to right injustices -- to stand in solidarity with those being oppressed, attacked or threatened. I hope I can do this. I hope I could be one of the people standing up in support of the Islamic women being attacked on the bus in Portland, even though it could mean the end of my life. That kind of thing.

I am a beloved child of God. I am not ended when I die. I am valuable beyond measure. Therefore I must pour myself out for those who need me right now. And I must pour myself out as well in the particular, unique service I was created for.

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Laurie Gudim
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Mario, the answer to your question is in the interpretation of words. Marcus Borg in his book Speaking Christian says the word we translate as repentance means going beyond the mind you currently have into a new understanding. By the same token, salvation is seeing the light -- a change of understanding or awareness. Putting God first -- realizing that we are in God and God is in us -- is a transformative experience. It is literally mind-blowing. I don't think it's necessarily Christian. God speaks to humans in the language of their hearts. And yet, that does not, IMO, mean Jesus is any less than God incarnate.

On the other hand, to think that our immortality depends on our own work or effort is a form of gnosticism, IMO. It puts the emphasis entirely in the wrong place.

I am at heart an evangelist -- but what that means to me is that I am trying to support God in God's mission of making God's self known to individual human beings. Our relationship with God is the most important one we will ever have. Without it we pine away. We are attached to meaningless things, we chase after false idols, we are fearful, and we do not know ourselves for who we really are. But each of us has a different language through which we can hear God speaking to us. Condemning a language I don't like is the same as throwing stumbling blocks in front of little ones. Better we should tie a mill stone around our necks.

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Michael W. Murphy
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Michael W. Murphy

Sorry for the typos

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Michael W. Murphy
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Michael W. Murphy

In reply to Mario: As I have said in my comment above, I believe that the book of Job is the most honest book in the bible. As Abraham asks God in Gen. 18:23-25: "Wilt thou indeed destroy the righteous with the wicked? * * * Far be it from thee to do such a thing, to slay the righteous with the wicked, so that the righteous fare as the wicked! Far be that from thee! Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?" RSV

In Ecclesiastes 2:16- 17, the Qoheleth says: "For of the wise man as of the fool there is no enduring remembrance, seeing that in the days to come all will have been long forgotten. How the wise man dies just like the fool!"

In Job chapter 3 Job states that he would be better off if he had not been conceived, or had dies prior to birth or even had been allowed to starve to death shortly after birth. And beginning with verse 7 of chapter 42, God tells Job's friends that Job is correct!

As to your argument with Ann: I refer you to Mathew 25 31-46. Jesus does not make belief in him the test. The test is how you worked for justice in this world. Why would God make belief a test? There is no independent way (from the bible) to verify the revelation upon which belief in Jesus is based. However, there is a way observe and work for justice.

Our Jewish friends point out that the commandments given to all humanity are stated in Gen. 9:4-6 or are derived from those commandments (the Ten Commandments were given only to Jews). The fact that humans are in the image of God makes humans of infinite value. And that makes us all guilty of homicide! Our purchase of a product which someone died making makes us guilty of the death.

Our Jewish fiends have a saying: God made humanity to be his/her partner in creating a just world.

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