Tuesday, 22 March 2016

Today you will be with me...

Copyright unknown. Not mine anyway
Clemency has a particularly womanly  metaphor for what happens after death. She compares it to a baby in the womb. Inside the womb the baby lives in a tiny all sufficient world. It is dark, warm and comfortable and all needs are met. Occasionally some hints of another, larger world drift in: there is perhaps music or the sound of voices or unusual movement, but the baby has no idea of what awaits after birth. While it is ignorant of all the things - people, air, sun, moon, tastes, colours, smells - which make up this new world, it is ignorant also of the basic principles and concepts -light, dark, up, down, hot, cold, painful, pleasurable - which it will need to make sense of  what lies outside. The baby is born into a new world which is beyond any comprehension and which is unimaginably bigger and more real than the tiny confined space of the womb. And the little world of the womb is seen to be not opposed to this bigger world, but actually a part of it.

So at death we will be born into a new world whose constructs are beyond our ability to guess, and the principles and concepts by which we will make sense of those constructs, are similarly beyond our ability to imagine. From time to time hints of this new world reach us, far off echoes of incomprehensible events and things. From time to time, in our deepest religious experiences we grasp the merest glimpse of the life which waits us, but it is all beyond knowing.

"Today you will be with me in paradise," said Jesus to one of the thieves being executed with him. Jesus speaks very little of afterlife and there isn't much in the Bible generally about what follows life on earth -or for that matter what precedes it - but that hasn't stopped countless generations of Christians taking those few little scraps of text and concocting out of them the most elaborate and ingenious schemas which are all, without exception, balderdash. We are not told because we are not capable of knowing, any more than my child in Clemency's womb could comprehend that "Daddy isn't home for dinner tonight because he is at an archdeaconry meeting in Christchurch."

One day, soon enough, we will all know. Until then Jesus' words hint that we are encapsulated in a far bigger context, one in which even the crucifixion for theft of some first century miscreant will have it's place and some sort of meaning. Until then we are required to trust (that is, have faith) and get on with the business that lies about us at every hand.

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