2 Corinthians 5:1 – For we know that if the earthly house of our tabernacle be dissolved, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal, in the heavens. (ASV)
The images flickering on the television of devastation and death following earthquakes in Haiti and Chile have brought so many personal memories flooding to the fore: my husband's first awareness of terminal illness, the struggle at home to provide quality care, the decision to admit him to the palliative care unit in our local hospital. These memories returned me to a time when his illness rocked my world. Together, we faced the question of what to do with his earthly remains. My husband vehemently declared, "I want to be cremated to get the cancer that got me. I want no cells or virus or whatever to be left to infect anyone else." His uncomfortable choice caused loud objections from some family members. They worried that he would not be able to take part in the resurrection on the last Day.
Reminded that the early Christian martyrs went to Nero's pyres with spectators taunting, "Now let's see your God resurrect your body," resolved our dilemma. The early church flung their faith in the face of their taunters, saying that, because Jesus lives, they, too, would live; and that the God who created Adam from the dust of the earth could resurrect the martyrs from the ashes of Nero's pyres. To this day, I believe St. Paul's words concerning the end of time grant us that assurance:
1 Thessalonians 4:13-17 – But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him. For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent [precede] them which are asleep. For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. (KJV)
On that Day, the dead in Christ shall rise first. We came to believe that it mattered not where those remains rested — even with a burial at sea. If organs were able to prolong life through organ donation, God be praised. If organs went to furthering our understanding of a vicious disease, God be praised. Regardless, those who rest in Christ will rise again, because Jesus lives. When that day comes, what a family reunion that will be!
Prayer: Creator God, heavenly Father, You created Adam from earth's dust, so we trust You to re-create those faithful who were cremated on martyr's pyres and funeral pyres to live in Your presence eternally. We trust You to call them from their rest to live again, whether that rest be watery, beneath rubble, or in a marked or unmarked place. We trust that, in Christ, we shall be reunited again with them on the Day of the Lord. Comfort those who grieve with this assurance, for we pray in Jesus' name. Amen.