Woody Allen once said, “I don’t want to achieve immortality thru my work. I want to achieve immortality by not dying!” Most of Woody’s movies turn on the themes of love and sex, but even more so, death. Ever the New York, Jewish modern, his films never seriously considered the possibility of not just death, but death and resurrection.
Outside of the horror genre and “Field Of Dreams,” resurrection is not a common Hollywood theme. You can hardly find a feel-good movie that does not use redemption as its story line, but limited redemption can be achieved under one’s own power. Resurrection is a tougher nut to crack. You need God to animate a desiccated corpse and for some reason God is not a popular character on LA film sets.
Some doctrines of the Christian faith are so obviously true that I've never doubted them. Original sin for example. Have you ever met anyone or been involved in any significant human endeavor that wasn’t affected by sin? Or, how about the imago Dei, the doctrine that man is created in the image of God. This is the principle that infers upon every human, value, worth and dignity. One of the major threads of our nation's history is the struggle for dignity of the powerless, yet there is absolutely no other foundation upon which that dignity can be sustained.
The concept of resurrection, on the other hand, always seemed a bit of a stretch. I’ve yet to see one, and as the village atheists never fail to point out, it clearly plays to wish fulfillment. When Paul was debating the scholars of the Aeropagus in Athens, he held their interest until he reached the resurrection of Jesus at which point many eyes rolled and the mocking began. The Resurrection however did not embarrass Paul, a formidable intellect himself. In fact he turned from being a murderer of Christians to becoming Christianity's greatest missionary, abandoning a life of privilege for one of deprivation, torture, jail and beheading after meeting the resurrected Jesus. Paul described the Resurrection as the crux of the Christian faith:
“Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied."
- 1 Corinthians 15:12-19
So why this meditation on resurrection? Yesterday I was driving past a small complex of lovely patio homes at the bottom of our hill. In June of 2012, the day the fire came over the mountain, those patio homes were utterly destroyed, reduced by 2000 degree heat to nothing but gas and dust. Isn't that a bit like an unfortunate, Italian sailor who was eaten by a fish 500 years ago, or maybe a young woman in Tokyo, incinerated by fire bombs in 1945? How are you going to resurrect that? But there they were, the new patio homes, looking just like before, only better. The patio homes were resurrected not because of some power within them, not because of something they had done, but rather an architect, an owner, a bank, an insurance company had an idea of these particular patio homes and spoke them back into being through the creative power of construction workers.
Looking down on empty streets all she can see,
Are the dreams all made solid,
Are the dreams made real.
All of the buildings, all of the cars,
Were once just a dream,
In somebody's head.
She pictures the broken glass, pictures the steam,
She pictures a soul
With no leak at the seam.
- Peter Gabriel, “Mercy Street”
If an idea in somebody's head can become three-dimensional, how much more possible from the One who created the Milky Way from nothing, a cornea from perfectly aligned cells, a redwood from sunlight and carbon dioxide, the curve of hips, gravity, the taste of vanilla, antibodies waiting for an invader or the Himalaya's Annapurna from just spinning particles? Is my future resurrection any less peculiar than the fact that I’m thinking these thoughts, typing on my iMac at this very moment?