Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Where, O Death, Is Your Sting?

"Where, O death is your victory?  Where, O death, is your sting?"  In short, death's sting is in the sudden ripping away from us those whom we love.  Paul's words in 2 Corinthians 15:55 point to the resurrection and Jesus' victory over death, but let's face it; death still stings.  A lot.

When those we love die, part of us dies with them.  It is brutally painful, and it often feels as though the world stopped and yet you are the only ones who knows it.  The silly world and everyone else continues on, completely unaware that it has all come to an end.  As one who believes in Jesus, I do believe in his resurrection.  I believe that in death, life is changed, not ended, and that when we die, we go on living with Jesus in God.  I believe our life and unity with God through Jesus can't be ended by death.  Still, death sucks.  My father died five months ago, and even though I believe Dad is well and good with Jesus, his death still stings like a sonofabitch.

Earlier this week, a good friend of mine suffered the loss of her mother.  It was totally unexpected, and my friend is knee deep in the sting of it.  I called her yesterday evening to talk, and amidst tears and sharing our pain of loss, my friend said, "it's been years since I've wanted so badly to call people and actually hear their voices; typing and reading on social media just won't do."

Later that night, I was reading the beatitudes in Matthew's gospel, and I was struck by Matthew 5:4, "Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted."  Of course, folks try to comfort us when we are mourning, but the blessing Jesus describes is more than kind words from those we love.  When we mourn, our defenses tend to be stripped away.  We're raw and exposed, and in that fragile state, the true and deep connection of those we love can sink into our hearts in ways our regular defenses don't allow.

When we are mourning, our fig leaves are gone, and we are left a little more naked, a little more vulnerable, and a little more receptive to our longing for human connection.  Nothing less, nothing else will really do.  We need to be comforted by people when we mourn, and we need to be comforted by God when we mourn.  While saddened and devastated with grief, we walk more closely with God and with other people. 

Jesus tell us we are blessed when we mourn, because during those times of mourning, we can be closer to how we were in Eden than in most other times in our lives.  While I wouldn't wish the sting of death on anyone, I can't deny the blessing Jesus talked about.  I'm grateful for the blessing that comes with grief, the open heart that allows grace to fall inside because nothing else will suffice.

Death is awful and final (except that it isn't), and though Paul might have misplaced it, death's sting is doing quite well, ready to strike every time death occurs.  I can't deny that, and I won't deny that.  I have to admit how much death stings.  Then, I can also take seriously the grace of Jesus, the blessing of Eden, and the new life given in resurrection.  Death sucks, but it doesn't have the final word.

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