We Believe: Life Everlasting

We Believe: Life Everlasting

This Easter season, we take time to explore the core foundations of the Christian faith. This series on The Apostles’ Creed explores the basic theological understandings of one of Christianity’s earliest statements of belief. The full set of sermons will be added each week to this page.

In our recent Easter celebration, the power of resurrection was rightly a central theme. Jesus – who we affirmed last week as the perfect incarnation of God’s infinite love – could not be crucified. God’s love cannot be defeated. This is good news!

Resurrection is a powerful theme, not only in our sacred text but in our culture today. Recent movies have included the resurrection of characters thought lost. But is this the kind of resurrection we hope for? When our liturgies include phrases like, “[Jesus] died our death…” or “no longer slaves to sin and death…” what does it mean? This Sunday’s sermon on Resurrection and Life Everlasting will touch on these important aspects of our faith.

Ezekiel 37:1-14 (CEB)
1The Lord’s power overcame me, and while I was in the Lord’s spirit, he led me out and set me down in the middle of a certain valley. It was full of bones. 2He led me through them all around, and I saw that there were a great many of them on the valley floor, and they were very dry.

3He asked me, “Human one, can these bones live again?”

I said, “Lord God, only you know.”

4He said to me, “Prophesy over these bones, and say to them, Dry bones, hear the Lord’s word! 5The Lord God proclaims to these bones: I am about to put breath in you, and you will live again. 6I will put sinews on you, place flesh on you, and cover you with skin. When I put breath in you, and you come to life, you will know that I am the Lord.”

7I prophesied just as I was commanded. There was a great noise as I was prophesying, then a great quaking, and the bones came together, bone by bone. 8When I looked, suddenly there were sinews on them. The flesh appeared, and then they were covered over with skin. But there was still no breath in them.

9He said to me, “Prophesy to the breath; prophesy, human one! Say to the breath, The Lord God proclaims: Come from the four winds, breath! Breathe into these dead bodies and let them live.”

10I prophesied just as he commanded me. When the breath entered them, they came to life and stood on their feet, an extraordinarily large company.

11He said to me, “Human one, these bones are the entire house of Israel. They say, ‘Our bones are dried up, and our hope has perished. We are completely finished.’ 12So now, prophesy and say to them, The Lord God proclaims: I’m opening your graves! I will raise you up from your graves, my people, and I will bring you to Israel’s fertile land. 13You will know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves and raise you up from your graves, my people. 14I will put my breath in you, and you will live. I will plant you on your fertile land, and you will know that I am the Lord. I’ve spoken, and I will do it. This is what the Lord says.”

Luke 24:36b-48 (CEB)
36bJesus himself stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” 37They were terrified and afraid. They thought they were seeing a ghost.

38He said to them, “Why are you startled? Why are doubts arising in your hearts? 39Look at my hands and my feet. It’s really me! Touch me and see, for a ghost doesn’t have flesh and bones like you see I have.” 40As he said this, he showed them his hands and feet. 41Because they were wondering and questioning in the midst of their happiness, he said to them, “Do you have anything to eat?” 42They gave him a piece of baked fish. 43Taking it, he ate it in front of them.

44Jesus said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you—that everything written about me in the Law from Moses, the Prophets, and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” 45Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures. 46He said to them, “This is what is written: the Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, 47and a change of heart and life for the forgiveness of sins must be preached in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 48You are witnesses of these things.

Consider these questions:

  1. Think about your understanding of resurrection. What does it mean? Is it like the resurrection of Lazarus? Like Jesus? Something else? Is it a physical resurrection?
  2. When do you think resurrection takes place? Is it immediate? Is it at a specific time? If not immediate, what happens in the “in between” time?
  3. If you believe in resurrection, what does that say to you about death?

Post-Worship Update on 5/21

Audio from the sermon can be heard below, and video can be found at this link (will open in a new tab).

Sunday’s message on resurrection balanced practical consideration with theological consideration. Does it really seem as though resurrection is tied to these imperfect bodies that age and grow more fragile over time? Is it like the Ezekiel text where our bodies will one day be re-formed? I suggest not, and would go further to say that root of life is more about the spirit that is breathed into us. I find this not only in this same Ezekiel text, but also in the creation stories of Genesis.

As noted in the sermon, we find connection with this idea in Paul’s first letter to the church in Corinth. “We will not all die, but we will all be changed. For this perishable body must put on imperishability, and this mortal body must put on immortality.” (1 Corinthians 15:51b, 53 –NRSV)

The truth is that none of us know what death and resurrection will look like, what it will feel like, what it will be like. But I find comfort in the words of Marcus Borg, who frames it in this way: “when we die, we do not die into nothingness, but we die into God. In the words of the apostle Paul, we live unto the Lord and we die unto the Lord. So whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s.”

Consider these questions:

  1. During the sermon, we discussed how ancient “flat-earth” ideas affect our language for death and afterlife. What were/are your thoughts about the interconnectedness of these ideas? Did it seem challenging to explore this? Why or why not?
  2. The scriptures above were supplemented with the story of the bride and seven brothers from Matthew 22 and the 1 Corinthians 15 text (also above). What other scriptures inform your understanding of resurrection and eternal life? What theological ideas inform your understanding?
  3. Read the Marcus Borg quote again. What do you think about his understanding? How do you feel thinking about this understanding of death and eternal life? If Borg’s assertion does not bring you comfort, what does?