We have a brief and somewhat variable form of Evening Prayer in my house every evening after dinner. Sometimes, when I’m instructing the children about the Bible lesson for the day and I’m struck by a particularly startling revelation which I think they’ll delight in, I yell in a stage whisper: “Secret!”
This is their signal to rush pell mell into my arms and gather their ears close to their mouth so I can tell one of the wonderful secrets that God has told us. The irony is that both they and I know that what I’m telling them is so wonderful that it is, in fact, not to be kept secret but is to be shared with the whole world.
St. Paul is gathering us close to him today so that he can tell us one of God’s open secrets, a wondrous mystery that has been revealed to the saints. His secret is this:
“We shall all be changed!”
When we die, we will not stay dead. The body will go into the grave and its elements decay, and my 5’8’ 162 pound body will turn in time to the dust from which it came. And there my body will stay, becoming one with the earth for a season. I may lie there for years or decades or centuries or even millennia. But that does not matter.
In the twinkling of the eye (the time it takes to blink), in an atom of time (the Greek word for “moment” here is atomos, meaning indivisible), we shall all be changed. After millennia of waiting, after thousands of years of wondering if the Lord will return, and after years and years of wondering when our own sufferings and humiliations will end, we shall all be changed.
Life has a way of going on day after day pretty much the same way. The sun sets. The sun also rises, and there is nothing new under the sun. But I know better. Sometimes, God works in a way that is discontinuous with His normal, invisible means of working: these occasions are what we call miracles, and they are rare.
But at the age of 32, I was single and had not dated much. I wasn’t outgoing and had a small world of friends and acquaintances. I had just about resigned myself to remaining single, and I extrapolated from what now was to what would be. Drawing a straight line from where I was at, I arrived where I already was: single.
But God must know something about non-Euclidean geometry because He doesn’t always draw with straight lines. One miracle later, God dropped Jackie into my lap, and in the twinkling of an eye I was forever changed.
There have been several notable shocks of metamorphosis (“change in shape”) in man’s history. The first was at the Fall, when Adam and Eve played their cosmic game of Let’s Make a Deal and traded the perfect life they had with God for what was behind Door Number 2, the fruit of the tree. What was behind Door Number 2, of course, was sin and death and the ruination of the cosmos. In the twinkling of an eye, mankind was all changed so that we should now all sleep.
This metamorphosis was rather visible and obvious, but the second great metamorphosis began as small as a mustard seed. 2000 years ago, when God became man, in the twinkling of the eye of the Holy Spirit, Mary conceived Jesus Christ, and humanity was changed.
And at the Second Coming, this time with great fanfare of trumpets and undoubtedly spectacular brilliance and shock and awe, we shall all be changed!
Death, which has seemed so normal and permanent, will be shown to be mortal. Sin, that great doppelganger of our true existence in Christ, will be shown to be a parasite from which the Great Physician has healed us.
When I read the Psalms and hear David lamenting how great his enemies are and how his life is in peril, I sometimes wonder what in the world it has to do with me. I don’t have many (if any) people that are obviously persecuting me (though some may give me their fair share of trouble!) My life is not in imminent danger, and I don’t have many visible enemies.
But I’m forgetting something – and someone. I do have enemies after all, for because I am united to Jesus Christ in His death and resurrection, His enemies are my enemies. Chief among these are sin, death, and Satan.
In the twinkling of an eye, all my old enemies, who seem to be eternal, will be surgically removed from my life and the lives of the saints, and we shall all be changed.
Did I mention the fact that in the resurrection I’ll get a new body?
God cares about the body. Any artist who has chosen to create 1,000,000 different species of insects cares about the bodies of this world that He has created. If God so clothes the insects of the world, which are food for birds and others and are often the pests of the world, then how much more does He care about the human body, the only kind of body that He has chosen to dwell in?
It is the body that will be resurrected, for the soul will not see sleep (but will go to Paradise or Hell while we await that Great Twinkling of the Eye). But when your body is resurrected, it will not be resurrected into the condition in which it died but will be restored to perfect health, beyond what it had on earth.
Those who have lost limbs will not be armless or legless in heaven; those who are crippled with arthritis will throw away their pills and walkers; the body will stop attacking itself in a cancerous rage or with autoimmune diseases; the blind will see and the deaf will hear; divorce will not be possible, and murder and violence and theft will be abolished; and all the sources of heart and body ache and suffering will be changed in the twinkling of the eye.
As for me, I’ll have back my body that used to be able to run 15 miles in a day – only better. It will be like the dreams that I still occasionally have in which I can run forever and not grow weary.
And so He who has already emerged victorious over sin and death and Satan will share His victory with those who are united to Him. For this He died, that you might have the victory.
And, therefore, because we shall all be changed and because Christ has died and won the victory for you, know that your labor for Christ on earth in not in vain, and seek always to increase in the work of the Lord (verse 58.)
“We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed.”
For this reason, St. Augustine said: “These are words given to those who triumph, that you may have something to think about, something to sing about in your heart, something to seek with faith and good works.”
Prayer: O Lord Jesus Christ, who by Your death took away the sting of death; Grant to us, Your servants, so to follow in faith where You have led the way, that we may at last fall asleep peacefully in You, and wake up in Your likeness; through Your mercy, who lives with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, world without end. Amen.
Point for Meditation:
Meditate on the sin and suffering and imperfections in your life. Then meditate on your resurrected life in which you will be delivered from each of these by the victory of Jesus Christ. Respond with praise and thanksgiving.
Resolution: I resolve to remember the Lenten vows I have made, the one good work to which I know Christ is calling me, or the one sin which I know He is asking me to give up. Having remembered His call, I will renew my labors on earth, knowing that Christ has won the victory for me.
© 2013 Fr. Charles Erlandson
Category: Give Us This Day