Thursday, June 27, 2013

The Challenge Continues, Day 172: Nehemiah 10-12; Psalm 140; I Corinthians 15

O Death, Where is Thy Sting...
First, a caveat...this posting is not light, not at all....

I know resurrection. I know it because I have seen death. Death is an end; but death, I know, is not the end.

I know that with my whole being.

But knowing death is not the end does not mean we can avoid its sting. Death is not an abstract, or an idea that we can choose to accept of reject. It is where we are all heading, the moment that will, eventually, overtake all of us. We can brace against that, sure...we can wrestle with it, absolutely. We cannot avoid it. It simply is, for in this life whatever is born is going to die. There are, rising from that truth, two assumptions we need to embrace if we are to be a people of faith: the first is the assumption that what we do in this life matters, and it does; and the second is that in Christ, our faith and hope, death is not the end of us.

Two simple assumptions...and yet upon them rests the very foundation of our being. I have been with people as they have died. I understand that when a person dies, their body transitions from being a vessel of life to being something from which their essential self has departed. What was animate is now decaying; it is no longer alive. That is apparent. I have also borne witness, countless times, that when that essential self departs from this life they go. Instead of their just ceasing, I am left each time with a profound awareness that the dying are on their way.

Paul is working so hard to illustrate this truth to the Corinthians. I think he is trying to remind them that no matter how confident we are of our own strength and power in this life, for life in Christ to be true we have to embrace the certainty that God's work in us is not complete (and never can be) until there is resurrection. And, there cannot be true resurrection until there is true death. That is what he is saying when he says, "As in Adam all die...." That is also just how powerful Jesus' witness is in his resurrection, "so also everyone will be given life in Christ."

What is mortal must pass, so that we can be raised. Beautiful...and terrible. It means that even as we all pass through the gate of birth into life, so also in order to know the kingdom of God we have to be prepared to embrace going through that other gate that lies at the far side of our existence. Paul's reminder of that to the Corinthians reminds me to keep that truth before me...and to work, moment by moment, to populate the in-between days of my life with meaning--with an intent to make the most of what God has given me. For us now, time is God's greatest gift to us....and only when we have used up, wrung out, meaning from every last moment of the time we have, can we then turn the page.

Death? It is our end in this well as the gate we pass through into resurrection.

I know that with my whole being.

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