Friday, 21 November 2008

Resurrection of the Body

One of the first sermons I delivered at Holy Innocents touched on the resurrection of the body. A theme I have continued in preaching and teaching since because of the dominance of a spiritualized (and essentially pagan) understanding of eternal life. Whatever the bodily resurrection of Jesus means for us (and I don't mean this in an agnostic way - there is much we can say about the resurrection of Jesus and its implications) it doesn't mean that souls zoom off to heaven permanently. The immediate response to this traditional claim is often one of two:

  • But I don't want to live for ever in this old broken body! or
  • So where is my deceased loved one now?
My initial response to each is:
  • The resurrection of the body is not the continuation of this life but its transformation. It is not just a continuation of this life after the interruption of death is overturned by God in eternal life.
  • The death of a loved one is a time of grief and hope. This is a good place to do some theological work, but this work must be done in the light of revelation if it is to be a Christian grappling with the intensity of life (and death). The bodily resurrection of Jesus is part of this original revelation.
If we dispense with the resurrection of the body, the doctrine of the Incarnation and sacramental theology become superfluous, bordering on nonsensical. There is a thread of continuity and coherence strung from creation, Incarnation, resurrection of the body and sacraments.

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