Friday, April 17, 2009

A Matter Of Life And Death

I’m thinking about death.

Hang on: aren’t we in Easter? Wasn’t Lent the time to think about death? Isn’t Easter all about life?
Well, yes…but Easter isn’t about focusing on life instead of death:
Easter is about resurrection life -
the hope of life beyond death.

As a society, we expend an enormous amount of conscious and unconscious energy trying to do the impossible, to deny death; at the very least, to postpone it as long as possible…or die ‘on our own terms.’ And when children die before their parents, we see that as a particular injustice. We demand justice, in order to find closure; and justice does bring with it a kind of closure, but, in this world all justice is partial, and in more cases than we would like to acknowledge, justice is denied us. So, if we are to find any sense of closure, it cannot depend on justice.

As a society, we expend an enormous amount of energy trying to deny death because we fear death; and we fear death because we do not believe in the hope of the resurrection. Even most Christians do not really believe in the hope of the resurrection, even if they believe in the existence of resurrection.

When someone dies ‘before their time,’ we speak of potential that will now never be fulfilled, of character that will never grow to maturity. And it is true that a child who dies will never go to university, get married, make their parents grandparents – those things we have been conditioned to want, ‘for our children,’ perhaps more for ourselves…But it is not true that their potential will never be fulfilled, or that their character will never grow to maturity.

I was born in November 1972, and one day I will die. But I did not begin in 1972, and I will not end when I die. I had my beginning in Jesus’ imagination before the creation of the world; and in Jesus’ resurrection God has made clear his intention for me beyond death. Not some insubstantial ghostly spirit, but a more-substantial-than-now physical body in a renewed, more substantial than now (because what is shakeable will have been shaken and what is unshakeable will remain) physical world.

My children were born after me, but my beginning was not before theirs. My children came after me, and, if they die before me, they will simply go ahead of me into life. That is not to say that I do not care what happens to them, or that it would not cause me pain to lose them in this life. But it is to recognise the hope of the resurrection, and therefore to not live in fear of death. And in having that hope, the resurrection life that is yet to fully appear has already begun for me.

Unless the Lord returns, everyone I know will one day, sooner or later, face death. Young or old, having finished this life’s work or yet to have begun it, this is but a part of our story – a blink of an eye, at that. God never wanted death for us at all. It was hardly going to derail his plans for us. Jesus died, a violent death, at the hands of the authorities, ‘before his time.’ Just at the right time, the Bible calls it. Just at the right time, while we were still enemies of God, he died for us...he defeated death…he made fully possible full reconciliation between creation and Creator…

I’m thinking about death, in light of Easter.
And that, it seems to me, is a very appropriate thing to be thinking about.

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