The death of Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II, has caused me to ponder the mystery of life and death again this past week. Normally when I teach Year 11 Religion Studies and Year 10 RAVE, at some point in the year I will ask my students to think about any question they would like to ask me. There are a couple of simple rules: the question has to be respectful and it has to have some connection to faith or spirituality, however tenuous that connection might be! There are all sorts of different questions that arise, but one of the most frequently asked questions is, “What happens after we die?”
This is my favourite question: favourite because it is the hardest to answer, which means you can have lots of fun thinking about it! I find theology really interesting, philosophically, and the question of what happens after we die is very interesting indeed. I was so interested in this question that it formed the basis of my PhD in theology through Flinders University. Our library here at SPSC has the published version of it, called The Greenie’s Guide to the End of the World.
In addition, it is also my favourite question, because it is all about hope.
Hope is in extraordinarily powerful thing. Hope keeps people going. The hope that, at the end of our lives, our spirits go to a place of calm peace and joy, is an incredible boost to our lives now, here in this place and this time. One of my favourite theologians, the German Jürgen Moltmann, writes about the energy that the hope of eternal life gives us now, in this life.
Our true hope in life is wakened and sustained and finally fulfilled by the great divine mystery which is above us and in us and round about us, nearer to us than we can be to ourselves. It encounters us as the great promise of our life and this world: nothing will be in vain. It will succeed. In the end all will be well! It meets us too in the call to life: ‘I live and you shall live also.’
(From: Jürgen Moltmann, The Source of Life: The Holy Spirit and the Theology of Life.)
When I think about hope, particularly the hope of eternal life, the idea that comes to mind is that our actions, what we do in this life: the people we help, the joy we bring others, the music we create, the stuff we make, the incredible mathematical problems that we solve, the art we create, the short stories we write or tell, they matter. They count! All of this, all of it, enters into God’s eternity, that place where our spirits go when we die. What we do now echoes in eternity.
I went to the opera a couple of weeks ago. Two of my sisters were singing in the chorus, so I was kind of obliged to attend (!), but, in addition, I love opera. For a couple of hours Mrs McCall and I listened to some stunning singing. The set was great, the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra terrific, and the leads, the soprano, the tenor and the baritone, all world class. It was extraordinary – a couple of hours stolen in time. Those moments, when Lauren Fagan, playing Violetta, hit her top notes, which were crystal clear and reached the back of Her Majesty’s Theatre loudly and powerfully with no microphone, were incredible. They were just moments in time, and then they were gone. However, as I sat there, marvelling at her power and her control, I thought, “Somehow those moments last. Somehow they echo in eternity.”
The mystery of hope is that life is beautiful and nothing truly beautiful ever really dies – it just enters into a different state of being.
The Reverend Dr Theo McCall
Image source: Sydney Times