Tuesday, February 16, 2016

What Kind of Bodies?

What kind of bodies will we have in Heaved? Will we hum and hover six inches off the ground? Will we wear haloes? Will we sprout wings and fly? 

It occurs to me that when we get to Heaven we won’t care what we look like for our eyes will be on others as they should be here on earth. Nevertheless we do wonder, "How are the dead raised and with what body do they come?"
Paul supplies an answer, citing the miracle of the harvest: a seed is planted and is raised with a new and glorious body: “What is sown is perishable; what is raised is imperishable.It is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness; it is raised in power. It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body”—1 Corinthians 15:42-44
Our wrinkled, wizened frames will be given prodigious strength, breathtaking beauty and immortality. Tired (and sometimes tiresome) minds will be filled with wisdom and wit. We will have “spirit” bodies, bodies that are equal to the desires and demands of our spirits. Here “the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.” In Heaven our bodies will be able to do what our spirits ask them to do. (I’ve always wanted to fly!) 
Paul’s image of a seed “sown” and "raised" (same seed, same body) also suggests continuity, an organic connection between what we are now and what we shall be. Could our new bodies simply be a new unfolding of the DNA that now resides in us and determines who we are and what we look like? In other words will we look somewhat like we look right now? 
Paul argues in another place that our transformed bodies will be like Jesus' in His “glorious body” (Philippians 3:21). For that reason it’s worth pondering those texts that describe His post-resurrection appearances (Matthew 28, Mark 16, Luke 24; John 20,21; Acts 1).
When I read those reports, I'm impressed by how ordinary Jesus was. He looked and acted as...Himself.  He was immediately recognizable as the "old" Jesus; no one seemed shocked or awed by his appearance. He walked, talked and ate with His disciples and informed them that He was not a ghost, but a man of "flesh and bone" (Luke 24:43). 
He looked like an ordinary man, but He was...well, different. He didn't always walk from place to place; sometimes he simply “became visible." He seemed to move through time and space with speed of thought. Could this be true of us in Heaven? (Won’t that be a hoot!)
What age will we be in Heaven? If I go home this year will I be eighty–three? If a child dies at 10 years of age will he or she be a child? 
Medieval theologians thought that we will all be about age thirty, Jesus’ age when He rose from the dead—fully mature, in the prime of life. If so, babies that die in infancy and children destroyed in the womb will be grown-up sons and daughters. Frail, old men and women will have put on immortality and will be filled with the verve and vitality of youth. 
Actually, I like to think we’ll be both young and old: young in strength and beauty; old in wisdom and virtue. ”Ever ancient; ever new.“

What of injuries and deformities? They’ll be healed, of course: damaged limbs will be corrected; deranged minds will be restored. When Bunyan’s Mr. Ready–Halt came to the brink of the river, he said, “Now I shall have no more need of these crutches…” and left them behind for others to use. We too will park our canes, walkers, braces and wheelchairs on the this side of the river and walk (or sprint) into the new world on our own, for we'll have no use for these contraptions on the other side. 

But, will all the marks of this world be removed? I think not. Jesus still bore His wounds. Ancient Christians thought that the martyr’s wounds will glow like gold in Heaven. Perhaps the afflictions we’ve borne with patience here on earth will be badges of honor in Heaven. It’s comforting to think so. 

What of those who are burned, frozen, decomposed, covered with dirt, buried in the sea, or in mass graves. What about those that choose cremation and have their ashes scattered by the wind? How will God find all the atoms of their bodies?

In one of his sermons, John Donne addresses this concern by ruminating on the various places our atoms might be found: “In what wrinkle, in what furrow, in what bowel of the earth lie all the grains of the ashes of a body burnt a thousand years since?”  

Donne then reassures his parishioners that God will duly remember each particle and gather up our “separated bodies” in the end:  “As he puts all thy tears into his bottles, so he puts all the grains of thy dust into his cabinet, and the winds that scatter, the waters that wash them away carry them not out of his sight.”

I have no idea how God will find all my particles, and gather them up, but if he remembers all my tears, can he not collect my dust? "Is anything too hard for the Lord?"

The twelfth century Book of the Dunn Cow—so called because the cover of the book was made from the hide of a cow—argues that the various parts of of our bodies, though scattered to the ends of the earth will be “recast into a more beautiful form.” I like the simplicity of that idea. Whether God gathers all our parts and reassembles them, or creates them ex nihilo, He will “recast” them into an exquisitely beautiful form. Paul says that our bodies will be “glorious,” a word that suggests stupendous beauty. That says it all: We’ll be beautiful inside and out—beyond anything we can imagine.

This idea has feedback to the present, or so it seems to me. C. S. Lewis wrote, “It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship…” (The Weight of Glory).
That helps me to see my family and friends, and even my enemies in a new light. I should view them, not as they are now, but as they shall be, if they are found in Christ and have been perfected by His love. I should love them now as I shall love them in Heaven. 
Love is what we’ve been created for and what we’ll be doing for the rest of our lives. We might as well get started right now. 
David Roper

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Morning by Morning   
The Blessing Box 

It was 1996 and summer time. Brian and Jill drove their family from their home on the Olympic Peninsula to our home in Boise for some anticipated family togetherness and fun.  The trip was long, hot and arduous, especially in a mini-van with three kids six and under.  David and I were delighted when the van rolled up in the early evening and our three grandchildren tumbled out of the car, a bit rumpled and a lot weary and ready to stretch their legs. Greetings and hugs were passed around and the bags were lugged in. Then Brian and a very tired and not-too-sparkly Sarah, who was six at the time, headed with me for a look around our backyard.

I was feeling a bit sorry for Sarah since was she was hot, tired and travel-worn from having been trapped in the van all day, and trapped with two undoubtedly squirmy younger siblings.  Just then, and before I could do much coddling, Brian (our son who is a basketball coach) called out in an upbeat voice, “Sarah, how’s your attitude?” In what might be called a droopy reply, Sarah answered with the memorized script, “Boy, am I enthusiastic.”  Then the even more upbeat, insistent question came again, “Sarah, how’s your attitude?”  And now from Sarah a more emphatic answer, “BOY, AM I ENTHUSIASTIC!”

I can often identify with that travel-worn six-year old. I tumble out of bed in the morning and head for my coffee, my prayer chair and my time with the Lord.  Often my thoughts start going in a sagging direction.  Things like the cares of my world, the desire for other things and the lure of what I don’t have pull me down. Possibly my temperament tugs me in the wrong direction. But that is not an excuse to stay down. I remember our friend Howard Hendricks telling of a man who was asked how he was doing. The man answered, “I am doing alright, under the circumstances.” The questioner’s reply was “What in the world are you doing under there?” Of course a lifting-up is always a gift from God, another evidence of His grace as we seek His face. And the timing is His. 

These days I am using a box as an aid to starting my day with an enthusiastic outlook.  Some time ago, a friend gave me a gift in a beautiful, colorful box. I kept this  lovely box and in it I put three smaller boxes, each of which I marked. 

One is my Mystery Box, one is my Offering Box and one is my Blessing Box. I write on small pieces of paper what might come to mind, date it and put it in the box, after talking to my Father about each item.

In my Mystery Box I put theological paradoxes or personal things I just don’t understand in my life or the life of a friend. God’s thoughts are higher than my thoughts and some things are a mystery to me. I am comfortable with that. I am not supposed to be able to figure out everything.  However, I like what a friend calls Umbrella Theology. All of these mysteries are under the umbrella of His love. A God of covenant love is the God Scripture shows me from Genesis to Revelation and especially in the Cross—sacrificial love at it’s zenith.

In my Offering Box I put my attitudes or actions that are not consistent with a Jesus life. These are attitudes I want to offer Him in exchange for thinking His thoughts, in following in His footsteps. Again, by His grace. I might write down situations that are beyond my strength but ones I am called to enter into and give it my all. I might mention my brokenness as an offering. In essence, I offer Him my heart and life as He shows me in what ways He desires me to follow Him.

My two boxes mentioned above are “sometimes” boxes. I use them when the Lord nudges me in that direction. But for months now I have used my Blessing Box each morning before I do more praying or reading. It’s my “first-thing-to-think-box.” I take a small note pad, or a scrap of paper and write down things I am grateful for, gifts a good God has given me. As I write I pray and thank God for these things, simple and profound gifts I might overlook were I not intentional about noticing them. When done, I put the small papers in the box.

I might thank Him for my window that looks out on the gathering light, the eraser on my pencil (I make a lot of mistakes!), the ability to walk, the Costco Express (friends who often call and ask me if I need something as they head that way), the steam coming off my morning coffee, my many books (especially those that are "old friends"), my faithful and loving husband in the next room, the gift of a new day to “serve the Lord with gladness.” Wow! Even in my writing and certainly in my praying, I am humbled and grateful. Boy, am I enthusiastic!!!

This is not to say there are not times of profound sadness in my life and the lives of friends I care about deeply. However, I am learning it is not either/or (either sadness or joy) but it is both/and. Even in the extremes of loss and disappointment there will be gifts along the way to notice and acknowledge as blessings from God.

Our friends Rob and Teresa Zaklan are living reminders to me of this both/and truth. Rob is a pastor friend who is on hospice care at home and growing weaker rapidly.  The Zaklans have four sons, three still at home and the youngest is twelve.  Teresa has, by God’s grace she says, determined to be aware of the blessings along this way of sadness and letting go of her beloved husband. She and Rob have set small goals, and looked for God’s blessings as they move through this difficult journey together. Some are things any of us might take for granted or even grumble about along the way. One blessing she noted on their Caringbridge page describes the frigid night Teresa and the boys were able to bundle Rob up and somehow get him into their van to take a drive and see the Christmas lights together.  Teresa knows now is the time, even in the midst of their sadness, to notice the blessings God is giving them. What good memories these dear ones are making. 

You may not want a Blessing Box. There is no magic in the box. It just works for me. The box is a tool that gives me a way to remember first thing each morning to rejoice in God’s faithfulness as I both recount to Him and to myself my many blessings of the day and the blessings of many yesterdays.

When I hear God asking me, “Carolyn, how’s your attitude?” I know I have the opportunity to be enthusiastic about the day as each morning, first thing, “I count my many blessings, name them one by one.” Not random blessings mind you, but the blessings a loving God has graciously provided. Boy, am I enthusiastic!

Gratefully and enthusiastically,

Carolyn Roper

A word about Sarah—Sarah is in her 20s now, and is doing well as she finishes up an intensive one-year nursing program in Pittsburg. She is an enthusiastic hard worker with a great attitude. She and her husband Brad make a terrific pair.

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