This morning's reading was from John's gospel and told of Mary Magdalene's conversation with the risen Jesus outside the tomb. As i meditated this morning, my attention was drawn to a phrase from a hymn (Yes, again with the hymns). It is not a hymn of very high literary or musical quality, but one that is well know and frequently sung during the Easter season, though not in my own church. The hymn ends with these lines: "You ask me how i know He lives? He lives within my heart!" My own belief is that Jesus did in fact rise from the dead, but i understand those who do not believe in a literal resurrection There are other valid ways of viewing the resurrection narratives in the gospels, & there is a deeper teaching than the literal resurrection of Jesus. The essential teaching for me is that the words of the hymn are true in my own life: i have confidence that Jesus is alive because i sense his presence at the core of my life.
It is natural, i suppose, that as i age i think more of death. Death has never been something that i have feared, and even as a young man i could honestly say that i was "longing for a blessed death." Though life is wonderful, death is not something fearful for me. If i understand Buddhist teaching about death, it is something for which we should prepare through meditation on the transitory nature of life and contemplation of the end of one's current life and rebirth into the next life. This idea of rebirth fascinates me, and i cannot dismiss the concept altogether. The conversation of Jesus with Nicodemus comes to mind, though the "rebirth" of which Jesus speaks is very different from the Buddhist concept of rebirth. The Christian concept of life after death is certainly far from from the Buddhist concept, but who is to say what happens once this present life ends.
The question of what sort of life we shall have after death is not an important one for me, though i am confident that the present life is part of a continuum in which death is the door to a new existence and that the soul is eternal. The concern for me is how to live the present life, not in order to merit some better existence after death, but in order to make life better for myself now by making life better for others.
May our lives be made richer and more abundant through the knowledge that serving one another is our calling and is the path through which we achieve a "blessed death."