(…continued) Where is Eddie now? Let’s look at the question from a different perspective, from the other end of life. Imagine a little newborn baby, let’s call her Aisha. Let’s say Aisha was born just this morning, so she is here now; but where was she a year ago? How did she get here? Of course, we all know the biology of the birds and the bees and all that, but that does not even begin to explain the miracle of life and spirit and personality and will and love and emotion and everything else that goes into being a person? If that grieving widow ever sees Eddie again, it will be by a miracle of God. But it is no less a miracle that Aisha is here today, or that Eddie was born in the first place, or that any of us was born. Life itself is the miracle; this life or the next life, either way, it is a miracle. Scientists are great at describing life, but no one is even close to explaining life: why we are here and how it all began and where that first spark of life came from and how it came to enliven dead matter. That we have to learn from God, and He has put those answers in a book for us to read and believe. In that book the story moves freely, back and forth, between life and death and life again.
We hear about new babies being born all the time, so we have grown used to that miracle. We haven’t yet seen someone back from the dead, so we might wonder if that can happen. But why should that be any more difficult to imagine? What more proof do I need that I can live again? I am here now, God gave me this life, and after I am dead here, why shouldn’t God be able to give me life again? I believe in the resurrection of the body because I believe all of life is God’s gift. That might seem hard to believe, but for me, it takes a lot more faith to believe that everything got here all by itself. I don’t believe anything got here all by itself. I believe, as the catechism says, that ‘God created me and all that exists’– and since he gave me this life in the first place, that is all the proof I need that God can do that again for me.
The Bible moves back and forth freely between the themes of life and death and life again. God, the Creator and Giver of life, is not restricted by a little thing like the death of a body, but gives life and resurrection whenever and wherever he so chooses. Sometimes this back and forth in the Bible between life and death, becomes a blending into the same image. In some verses, birth is even used as an image for what happens at death. When Jesus describes the death of this present age and the arrival of the age to come, he refers to the accompanying tribulations as ‘birth pangs.’ When Paul talks about the life to come he refers to the body as a seed that goes into the ground; it is the death of that seed, but it becomes the beginning, the birth, of a new life. And one of the most interesting of these passages is in Isaiah 26:19 which says: “Your dead will live; their bodies will rise; You who dwell in the dust, wake up and shout for joy… (for) the earth will give birth to her dead.” In each of those passages , the images of birth and death are mixed. It is, after all, in death that we are reborn into that other kingdom. This is a wonderful image. We have the image of death as the end, but these verses say that death is like birth. How can that be?
Think of it this way. Think of that little baby Aisha, born this morning. Yesterday at this time, she was still in her first home, in the womb. She was warm, she was comfortable, all of her needs were met, there was nobody else in there to bother her, and she was probably more content than she will ever be on this earth. Until today, this was the only place she ever knew. If she could have been told that in a few hours she would be forced on out of there, pushed and then dragged out of her warm and secure home, she would have said ‘No, I don’t want to go; I like it here, and I don’t know what’s out there, and I want to stay.’ It would be the end of everything she knew– like death. Her parents were anticipating her arrival, and they knew what a great world was ready to receive here. But there was no way Aisha could have known any of that.
We have all been through that. We’ve all been rudely forced out of our first home, and we all cried about that at first. But since then we’ve gotten used to this new place, and have grown comfortable here, and now, this world is all we’ve ever known. We have long ago forgotten that other warm and comfortable place. Now, it’s hard to think about leaving here, because we know what’s here, but we don’t know what’s next. We know we going to have to leave, and we dread it, and may even fight it. But one day we are going to leave. The old hymns sing of “unseen things above,” and Paul says, “what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” And to get to that eternal home, we will have to go through that other birth canal called death.
We will fall asleep here, and wake up there; with our Lord, and with people we know and love, but perhaps have not seen for a very long time. They will be waiting for us, eagerly anticipating our arrival, and ready to welcome us to our new home; all just like it was for Aisha this morning, as she was received and welcomed into this world, her new place.
Stevie Wonder wrote “Isn’t She Lovely” in 1976 after the birth of his daughter, Aisha. The song certainly gives God the glory for this gift of new life: “We have been heaven blessed, I can’t believe what God has done, through us, He has given life to one… isn’t she lovely?” Wonderful!
ISN’T SHE LOVELY by Stevie Wonder
Isn’t she lovely
Isn’t she wonderful
Isn’t she precious
Less than one minute old
I never thought through love we’d be
Making one as lovely as she
But isn’t she lovely made from love
Isn’t she pretty
Truly the angel’s best
Boy, I’m so happy
We have been heaven blessed
I can’t believe what God has done
Through us he’s given life to one
But isn’t she lovely made from love
Isn’t she lovely
Life and love are the same
Life is Aisha
The meaning of her name
Londie, it could have not been done
Without you who conceived the one
That’s so very lovely made from love
Listen to the song at:
Psalm 139:13-16 — For you, Oh Lord, created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in that secret place. When I was woven together…., your eyes saw my unformed body.
Romans 14:8-9 — If we live, we live for the Lord; and if we die, we die for the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord. For this very reason, Christ died and returned to life so that he might be the Lord of both the dead and the living.
O Lord, teach us to die that we may live; to live that we may never die. Amen. –C. F. Alexander