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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Mario Gonzalez del Solar
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Mario Gonzalez del Solar

Laurie--I'd appreciate it if you could show me in the Bible where the general human race are included in Christ's resurrection. My understanding of the Bible is that this is reserved for believing Christians.

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Michael W. Murphy
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Michael W. Murphy

The final two sentences should read: John 3:16 only makes sense when it is restated: God so loved the world that he gave his own life for humans. To sacrifice a son is cruel.

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Michael W. Murphy
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Michael W. Murphy

To me, immortality or morality is immaterial (does not change the outcome of any decision). I believe that the book of Job is the most honest book of the bible. The best way to read Job is to read the first two chapters, skip to chapter 42 beginning at verse 7 to the end. Then re-read the entire book (Remembering that God says that Job is speaking the truth). Finally note that verse 6 is highly ambiguous. I believe that Edward L. Greenstein's translation in his commentary to the Jewish Study Bible, Second Edition (Oxford University Press, 2014) on page 1555, best matches the context: 'Therefore I am disgusted and I take pity on wretched humanity."

I am reminded that the first word in verse 2 (the first verse after the introduction) of the book of Ecclesiastes (also known as Qoheleth and also known as The Preacher) and is translated "Vanity" in the Revised Standard Version is the word used as the name of Abel in the story of Cain and Abel.

I am told that Elie Wiesel wrote a short story about an experience he had in Auschwitz in which the Jewish inmates put God on trial and sentenced God to death. Afterwards they went to sabbath worship.

The only reward for "being good" is that you are "being good."

I am reminded of the family story about one of my Native American Great-Great Grandmothers, at the age of 110 (the newspaper story said she was 100). She decided it was "a good day to die" and went for a walk on the railroad tracks.

I do not have answers. Other people's answers are just assumptions. Several times in the wisdom books of the bible the particular wisdom writer says that death is final. When I was a child, that thought would have been comforting. Instead I heard hell fire. To paraphrase the 4 laws of thermodynamics: First-You cannot win. Second- You cannot break even, Third-You cannot get out of the game. Then they realized they had a logic problem so they created the Zeroth law: You are in the game whether you like it or not! To think about getting out of the game was the ultimate sin. Punished by eternal hell fire!

Job pictures God as cruel. Even today, when you rarely hear hell fire preached in the Episcopal Church, when you think about what is preached, the conclusion is: God is cruel. John 3:16 only when it is restated as: God so loved the world that he gave his own life for humans. To sacrifice a son is cruel.

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Laurie Gudim
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This is a very different theology from mine. I think salvation is about a deep recognition of who we are and how our unique being depends utterly on God. Jesus does indeed include us in his resurrection, because it is our path as well.

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Mario Gonzalez del Solar
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Mario Gonzalez del Solar

Our immortality is not innate. It is bequeathed on us by Jesus having undergone our eternal death in our place and including us in his resurrection through faith. This, among other realities, is what makes Peter say, regarding Jesus, that "There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among mortals by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12)

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