I really enjoy a good Chai Tea Latte. But a while ago I bought a Chai Tea Latte from a different coffee shop than where I usually buy them. Perhaps my drink was made by a trainee, or maybe people at that store were learning how to prepare a product that was new for them. I hope that that is not how that coffee shop usually makes a Chai Tea Latte because it was a poor imitation of the real thing. It was weak, watered-down and lacking in flavor. It was called a Chai Tea Latte, but it fell far short of what a Chai Tea Latte really is.
I think that some of our ideas of life after death are like that Chai Tea Latte, a poor imitation of the real thing. On the one hand, I hear grieving people comfort themselves and others with things that simply are not true, like “everyone is going to go to heaven,” “now he/she is an angel,” or “now he/she is watching over me.”
On the other hand, even when we Christians get it right, we often fall short (and I am including myself in this) in fully expressing the great and wonderful hope that we have in Jesus Christ. We tend to emphasize a body-less existence in heaven as the end goal of life with Jesus when it is really only an interim step. Yes, when we die our soul will be separated from our body and those who believe in Jesus will live with him in joy and peace. But the end goal of our life with Jesus is the resurrection.
When Jesus rose from the dead he had a real, physical body, but it was a physical body that was different from the ones we have. He somehow looked a bit different because people had trouble recognizing him at times. He could eat, like we do, and people could touch him, but he could also appear and disappear and travel through a locked door.
When Jesus raises us from the dead, our physical body will be made new and be like Jesus’ resurrection body. Our body and soul will be reunited and we will be fully human in a way that will be greater than we ever were before. All of creation will be restored and “God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. 4 ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away” (Rev. 21:3b-4).
Jesus is not going to toss his Father’s creation on some cosmic trash heap. He is coming back to make all things new and he is inviting us to play a part in the process in the meantime. In ways that we do not fully understand, when we, as God’s people, serve to bring a measure of God’s love, redemption, justice or peace to this dying and broken world we make a difference that will show up in the new heavens and earth.
The message of Easter is much more than, as our adversaries sometimes caricature it, “pie in the sky.” Let’s serve up for the world a venti-sized portion of the rich, creamy, full-bodied message of cosmic restoration bought and paid for by the suffering and death of Jesus on the cross. Sometimes people don’t know that they need it or don’t want it, but the resurrection message is the only one that will fully satisfy the thirst of the human heart.
In Christ’s love, Pastor James
(This devotion was originally written for the April 2013 newsletter of Walnut Grove Lutheran Church, Langley BC.)