Yesterday evening, I caught an article on Stag Beetles on Countryfile. Stag Beetles spend six or seven years as big fat grubs underground, eating dead wood, an essential role breaking down fallen trees so that we aren’t eventually overwhelmed by them. Then they form a cocoon, and six weeks’ later emerge as a large beetle. The Stag Beetle only lives as a beetle for about four weeks, during which time its sole purpose is to reproduce.
It made me think about death and resurrection. Jesus talked about death and resurrection a lot. His call to followers was to come and die. On a daily basis. In other words, not a one-off thing. Not a life-after-this-life thing. A this-life thing. Not that I don’t believe in life beyond death; but that I believe in a life defined by death and resurrection.
This is not abstract. It is personal, lived, over and over. As a family, we have just relocated from the North West to the North East. We have died to one life, and been raised to another. We have died to a life that was familiar, where we knew who we were – because who we are, as persons, is defined in relation to other people, not self-defined, nor even defined by God alone because God who is community places us in community – and were known. God has uprooted us, and replanted us. And here we are not yet known, and have yet to discover who we are called to be.
Sometimes we put up a fight, resisting dying, dying to self. We will not forgive that person, until we are exhausted in our unforgiveness, quite spent. But ultimately we cannot hold off death. In the end, we die. In the end, we die to our unforgiveness, when God steps in and slays us with his forgiveness.
Sometimes we resist dying. But I notice something else. Sometimes, perhaps far more often, when we have died and have been raised to a new life – a fresh start, a new beginning – we resist leaving the tomb. After all, we have no choice over the dying, or indeed the being raised to new life; but we do here. The tomb, the cocoon, is safe. To break out takes effort: I don’t know enough about beetles, but I know that when butterflies emerge from their cocoon, they must regain their strength and dry off their wings before they can discover that now they can fly.
Resurrection means having to learn a new set of rules. How, do you imagine, did Jesus discover that he no longer needed to open the door, that he could walk through walls as if they were more flimsy that the set on Neighbours? Was it innate knowledge – as the butterfly knows it can fly – or discovered?
The rules are different here, because the call is different here; the incarnation is different here (not dissimilar to the many incarnations of the one Doctor, if you are a Whovian).
The rules are different when we have died to unforgiveness and been raised and need to figure out how to live as a forgiver. Or when we have died to some particular prejudice and been raised and need to figure out how to live as a reconciler. Or when…
Death and resurrection is the only story in town. Even the city itself experiences it, over and over.
Right now, our newly-resurrected bodies are feeling quite raw. But as we emerge from the tomb, and flex our limbs (or whatever form God has chosen, for resurrection bodies shape-shift: men and lions and oxen and eagles, to name a few) we will discover ourselves anew.