The Creative Hope of Resurrection

Pastor Goede Third Sunday of Easter 2020

Most of you have seen in the prayer requests that my mom continues in hospice. I think she will likely live several more weeks, but it’s always difficult to say for sure. She’s tiny and curled up now. She worried about her weight after she entered middle age, but now she weighs about half of what she weighed then. Like her mother and her mother’s mother, she developed a hump in her back as she grew older. Unlike her mother and grandmother, however, my mother developed a full-blown case of adult scoliosis, so that her back not only bent in one direction but in two. Now, with so little weight on her bones, you can clearly see how twisted she is

Throughout her life, she struggled with obsessive behavior, and now that she is so far into dementia, it’s overtaken her. Her obsessions change, but it’s impossible to talk with her when all she wants is for me to make sure she can see the picture behind the door without closing the door. She wants to sit in the dark with the door to her room closed. It’s hard to be with her even a short time.

I’ve been thinking about her obituary and I keep remembering a clip of video my cousin Deaven sent me. I think I might use it when it comes time to post about her life and death. Deaven’s grandfather Cliff loved working with machines and new technology, and so he had a motion picture camera long before most people were making home movies. He filmed my mother in about 1930, when she would have been five years old. One of Cliff’s sons, my mother’s cousin, is helping her to pet his very playful dog. My mom is obviously a little afraid, but she is also excited by the dog, hopping up and down between pets. She’s very happy and very sweet. I think this film clip would be a good accompaniment for her obituary, because it’s so disconnected from what my mom is like now. She is so twisted beyond recognition that it feels hopeful to look back and say, she was once this.

I have been thinking a lot recently about resurrection and resurrected life and resurrected beings. Thinking about my mom in this way is very different from looking back at pictures from when she was a little girl. She was once that adorable little child, but it’s even more interesting to consider, what will she be like in the future? What will she be like in resurrection?

When Jesus’ disciples meet him on the road to Emmaus, they don’t recognize his resurrected form. I think this is fascinating, and hopeful. They do eventually recognize him in the breaking of the bread. They recognize him in something that calls him to mind. In resurrection, Jesus is remade, recreated. In resurrection, God finishes a piece of the project he’s been working on for a long time, and that’s true not only for Jesus but for my mom and for all of the saints who have gone before us. It will be true for us, and that’s very hopeful.

All of us suffer from the ill effects of sin, which includes the self-destructive things we do to ourselves, but which also includes the destructive things other people do to us, and the destructive things that pop up all on their own, like coronavirus. Lutherans don’t believe that God inflicts all of this on us, but we do believe that God is always working to redeem the creation. But the artist is often working under really tough conditions, trying to rework and remake the creation, and it’s hard to make everything work together to make the plan reality. Finally though, after death, God is able to redeem us. God takes that pattern of our lives, the bright spots, the ugly, torn and ripped parts, and makes us into beings that match the original blueprint. It’s better than being returned to childhood. It’s another step forward into the future, which at the same time is a journey back, back to God.

So I am still waiting, but now I’m waiting with an eye to the future. That’s the difference between Good Friday and Easter Vigil. Now I feel like I’m vigiling, waiting expectantly. I expect death, and when it comes it will be welcome. But what I believe will happen beyond, at Easter, that is what I am really waiting for with expectation and thanksgiving.