There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars; indeed, star differs from star in glory.
So it is with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable, what is raised is imperishable. It is sown in dishonour, it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness, it is raised in power. It is sown a physical body, it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a physical body, there is also a spiritual body. Thus it is written, ‘The first man, Adam, became a living being’; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit. But it is not the spiritual that is first, but the physical, and then the spiritual. The first man was from the earth, a man of dust; the second man is from heaven. As was the man of dust, so are those who are of the dust; and as is the man of heaven, so are those who are of heaven. Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we will also bear the image of the man of heaven.
What I am saying, brothers and sisters, is this: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. – 1 Corinthians 15:41-50
Those who watch the TV program NCIS are familiar with Leroy Jethro Gibbs’ numerous rules. They are words of wisdom that often help the agents (and Gibbs – and, incidentally, fans of the show) see a situation in a different way. One of the often-quoted ones is Rule #39, “There is no such thing as a coincidence.” Really? Reading the lesson from 1 Corinthians on this day, for me, would seem to refute that. I plan to attend the funeral of a friend, a lovely woman. I was pleased and honored to call her “friend” for some time, although not long enough.
One thing I can be sure of is that L will undoubtedly rise in glory, spiritually, if not physically. She lived a good life, practiced love for her fellow human beings and four-footed friends, worked hard, and comforted those who needed a shoulder to lean on. She used crafting to delight those who received items she made with love and beauty. Watching her decline rapidly due to cancer was heart-wrenching for those who knew and loved her. Still, most of us feel some relief that her excruciating suffering is over. As St. Paul noted, the first human was made of dust, a physical body covering a spirit like all of us. Jesus, the second man, was a spiritual man in a physical body. He rose from the dead, having shed that physical body and in full custody of his spiritual (and visible) person.
We have been taught that we may have been born of dust but bear the spiritual image of Christ once we shed that shell of dust and clay. We hope to rise from the dead on Resurrection Day, just as Jesus rose on Easter. We also hope to be reunited with those who have preceded us into the kingdom of heaven (which I devoutly hope includes four-footed loved ones).
I cannot entirely agree with (or understand) Paul’s words sometimes, but I have no problem in this case. It is a hope that I cling to. I have lost so many friends and family members that I hope to see again. More certainly is that I will probably lose more before I, too, join those who have, to quote Shakespeare’s Hamlet,“…[S]huffled off this mortal coil.” I believe in the resurrection of the dead, as the Prayer Book assures us, and I have faith that God will be generous.
I do not agree with Gibbs’s rules one hundred percent of the time, just as I do not agree with Paul. Today, I cannot totally call L’s death a coincidence, but it is closer to one than not. Maybe there needs to be Rule #39A – “Occasionally, two things happen together that make you wonder.” I think I can subscribe to that one. Meanwhile, I will just keep believing.
Linda Ryan is an Education for Ministry mentor, an avid reader, a Baroque and Renaissance music lover, and a fumbling knitter. She keeps the blog Jericho’s Daughter and lives with her cat, Phoebe, near Phoenix, Arizona.