By Miriam Rossow
It has been almost eight years since we moved to Michigan. We moved in December, had a house to sell in Texas, and so moved into my parents’ house until we could sell and find one of our own.
Living with my parents turned out to be a blessing: my dad was diagnosed with cancer shortly after we moved in with them. We were able to be in the house and easily support both my mom and dad as he went through surgery and radiation.
Eventually, we got our own house. Eventually, the cancer took my dad. My dad died six years ago this week, and we are back living in the same house we lived in when we moved here.
It is strange not to have my dad be part of this journey with us. We moved back to his house after leaving full-time parish work to follow a calling to create content that helps people take a small next step following Jesus. One of the resources that experiment recently produced is When from Death I’m Free: A Hymn Journal for Holy Week. This Hymn Journal featured songs by Kip Fox alongside traditional favorites. The last song in the journal was one of Kip’s: We Will Rise. This song is full of the promise of the resurrection for all believers.
Right after Easter, our family offered to share a message for one of the online chapel services my kids’ school had been hosting since Covid-19 and the shelter in place orders. My kids used that Kip Fox song from the hymn journal and 1 Corinthians 15 as the basis for their message.
Ashes to ashes; dust to dust. We are placed in the ground after death. We are returned to the dust that we came from. We become ash, even if we are not cremated. Our bodies are buried in the ground.
As my kids sat over the ashes of their grandfather, I grieved that they may not always remember their Grandpa K clearly. I grieved that my dad had not been part so many special occasions and events, and would miss even more. I grieved that he would not be part of their everyday lives. I grieved that he was not part of our living in his house again, watching his beautiful grandchildren grow.
After we were done recording the devotion, we planted the bulbs from the object lesson as a family. Now we have beautiful flowers that remind us of the promise we hold on to.
So I grieve; but I also rejoice. I rejoice that he is not battling cancer any longer. I rejoice that he is at rest. I rejoice that he will one day no longer be ashes. My father, along with others I love and you love, and we ourselves (if we die before Jesus comes again) will be raised.
In death we are planted in the ground like a flower bulb. When we are raised, we will not be raised back into the ashes or our old bodies. The promise of the resurrection is that we will be raised NEW! We will be raised as full-grown flowers. We will be ourselves, and yet be fully grown; so wonderfully different we may not even be recognizable at first.
Remember Jesus after His resurrection? He was not recognized by His followers right away. It took Him saying their names, opening their eyes. The resurrected Jesus was the same, and yet so wonderfully different His own friends did not recognize Him. Jesus Himself went into the ground a bulb and came out a full-grown flower, full of new life. The risen Jesus is the First Fruits of the Resurrection. In our baptism we are connected to and receive His promise of resurrection and new life.
The promise, surprise, miracle of Jesus’ death and resurrection isn’t just that sin is defeated, and relationships restored. The result of Jesus’ death and resurrection also includes this promise, surprise, and miracle: we receive a place in the New Creation. We receive a promise that not only will we get to rest from our labors in the presence of Jesus in death, we will receive a New Creation body in the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come. Rest in death; and glory in the resurrection of the flesh. We will receive a body that is perfect, and that shines in the glory of the Lord.
Our resurrected bodies will be so much more than the perfect image that we have of our bodies now, even at their best. Our resurrected bodies will be so different from the bodies we currently are living in, it will be like comparing a flower in full bloom with the grubby bulb it came from! We will be so full of life, with bodies that perfectly glorify our Maker!
So as I celebrated this Easter in the house that my mom and dad shared with us, and now my mom shares with us, I rejoice in the promise that my dad will rise up from these ashes as Jesus rose up from the grave. Dad and I both will be given new resurrection bodies that reflect who we really are. And even better, those perfect bodies will perfectly reflect our Creator.
“We will rise up from these ashes, as He rose up from the grave.”