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Homily from Service of Remembrance and Thanksgiving 2014

The question of what happens when we die has troubled us since the dawn of time, before Stonehenge, before civilisation in any form that we may recognize and yet since Jesus’ time, with two thousand years of thinking and two millennia of modern science including splitting the atom and sequencing the human genome, we are still wondering about it.

Perhaps though our question should rather be more about what and who we are now? Am I simply a body? Or, is there something else that defines me?

If I am just a body then the question of what happens to me is simple to answer, we know what happens to dead bodies the chemistry and biology of that is well documented. But we are not simply bodies. We know that we have a consciousness that is quite apart from our bodies – after all our bodies are constantly changing. When for example I look at my hand, it is not the same hand that I saw when I was five years old yet inside me it is still the same; somehow there is something that seamlessly links the hand of this ancient vicar to the little boy I once was. There is a real me somewhere that is independent of the state of my hand. There is something that is Steve, or Tom or Dick or Harriet that is difficult to put a finger on, difficult to define. We Christians often name this soul, a tiny little word that tries to encompass the immeasurably complex pattern that makes up the real you and me.

One of my favourite Psalms is number 139. it begins:

O Lord you have searched me and known me
You now when I sit down and when I rise up
You know my thoughts from afar.

And it later goes on to say:

For it was you who formed my inmost parts
You put me together in my mother’s womb.

That indefinable complex pattern of consciousness that is you and me is known to God and God recognises us. We know that God loves us, we matter to God and if we matter to him now then surely we will matter always. Why would God stop loving us just because our bodies wore out?

We, that is to say our consciousness, our souls, are known to God and the pattern, that pattern that is us can be remembered and recreated by God. This is terribly difficult to imagine or define, we might call it life after death, we might call it resurrection, we might call it spirit or angel but such inadequacy of words cannot really explain what we mean or more importantly what we feel.

Our Christian hope is not founded on chemistry, physics or biology which are temporary things but on our deepest, inmost, thirst for God, which is present somewhere inside each of us and is part of the eternal spark of creation.

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