On religion: It’s a matter of life and death … and life


Jon Powers - Contributing columnist



Like most Christian pastors, I have officiated at hundreds of funerals over the decades. Also, like most other pastors, I have never performed a funeral without including some form of this ancient proclamation from the Anglican Book of Common Prayer: “Earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust; in sure and certain hope of the Resurrection into eternal life.”

Belief in the “Resurrection into eternal life” is bred in the bones of our Christian faith. Indeed, without this core belief, Christianity would be a lovely philosophy, even a powerful ethic, but not much of a religion. This belief is the core DNA of our faith.

What many of us who are Christians often forget, or do not even realize, is that belief in the Resurrection is not a new concept brought into the world by Christianity. Rather, embrace of the Resurrection was a vibrant thread of Judaism, in a variety of forms, for example:

“Thy dead shall live, my dead bodies shall arise, awake and sing, ye that dwell in the dust, for thy dew is as the dew of light, and the earth shall bring to life the shades” (Isaiah 26:19).

“And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to reproaches and everlasting abhorrence” (Daniel 12:2).

Indeed, debate over belief in the Resurrection was a hot topic of concern for the Jewish religious community of Jesus’ day:

“As he said this, there occurred a dissension between the Pharisees and Sadducees, and the assembly was divided. For the Sadducees say that there is no resurrection, nor an angel, nor a spirit, but the Pharisees acknowledge them all. And there occurred a great uproar; and some of the scribes of the Pharisaic party stood up and began to argue heatedly, saying, ‘We find nothing wrong with this man; suppose a spirit or an angel has spoken to him?’” (Acts 23:7-9)

For some of us who get that belief in the Resurrection was deeply ingrained in the Pharisaic strain of Judaism, long before Jesus walked the earth, we yet miss the powerful reality that Islam also holds belief in the Resurrection as a core pillar of their faith. In the Holy Qur’an, Surah 19, The Book of “Jesus Mother” Mary, verse 33, Jesus said shortly after his birth: “So Peace is on me the day I was born, the day that I die, and the day that I shall be raised up to life again.”

Related verses are found throughout the Holy Qur’an, for example: “Among His signs is that you see the earth dry and barren; and when We send down rain on it, it stirs to life and swells. Surely God Who gives the dead earth life will raise the dead also to life. Indeed, He has power over all things. (41:39)

It is in the heart of this historical and ongoing conversation between Judaism, Christianity and Islam, that Jesus is recorded saying those powerful, pivotal words of proclamation: “I am the resurrection and the life; they who believe in Me will live even if they die, and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die.” John 11:25.

So this is the foundation of my Easter faith: I sing the mighty power of God, rooted in God’s sacred covenants as recorded in ancient Judaism, and revealed in the life and death and resurrection of my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, and revealed yet again in the Holy Qur’an. Yet Easter, for me, is a far cry from just an annual rite of spring. Easter is a daily reality, which I celebrate with every little breath I take.

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Jon Powers

Contributing columnist

The Rev. Jon Powers is the university chaplain at Ohio Wesleyan University.

The Rev. Jon Powers is the university chaplain at Ohio Wesleyan University.