The Shadow and the Sun
I John 3:1-3
See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. All who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure.
THE WORD OF THE LORD.
An elderly man, terminally ill, watched his wife bake his favorite cookies. She placed them on the dining room table. When his wife went back into the kitchen, the man – with great effort – crawled from his hospital bed to the dining room. He reached up from the floor with his hand, and grabbed a cookie on the table. Tasting the cookie made him smile. Reaching up for another cookie, he felt a stinging slap on his hand. He looked up to see his wife holding a spatula. “Stop!” she said. “Don’t eat those cookies. They’re for your funeral!”
Today, All Saints’ Sunday, I want to talk briefly about death, not because I am feeling morbid or feeling particularly old. However, I can this year relate to the Beatles’ song – “Will you still need me, will you still love me, when I’m 64?”
I know many people think talk of death depressing. They are like the person who said, “Death is life’s way of telling you, ‘You’re fired!’”
No, I want to talk about death because it is healthy for us to speak openly about the unmentionable, whether we are young, middle aged, or old. For our view of death determines what we do with our lives.
I know you may consider death to be a shadow casting its darkness over your life. Yet, death is not the enemy our fears make it out to be. Imagine the alternative – living here forever. Life without death would be unbearable – time would just go on and on. Session meetings would last forever. We would never have to make a decision. Sermons could last for hours or days. I could always make one more point. We could take weeks deciding if going to work was worth the effort. “We would be like the Greek gods, bored,” playing with our lives and the lives of others for mere fun and no point.
If we do not move on, who could move in? No new music, or plays, or books would be written. It would all be Bach and no Beethoven; all Shakespeare and no Andrew Lloyd Webber; all wordy Dickens and no succinct Hemingway
Without leaving, we would never see what is beyond the horizon. No growing old means no growing up. The advancing years make all people have purpose.
Death gives us a reason to let go of past grievances and mistakes. There is no time to hold onto hatred or heartaches. Forgiveness becomes the key to living.
In nature, death is always a way to new, though different life. For example, being born means death to life in the womb, but life in a greater world. A life in the womb cannot conceive of life with air and light and space. So we now cannot conceive of life without the constraints of these bodies or the constraints of time and space.
You cannot prove life after death; but you cannot disprove it either. Consider this, we are in essence spirit, not flesh; then if we are spirits who have bodies, then at death, just as musicians can leave their instrument and take up new instruments to make music elsewhere, so our spirits can find new ways to make new music and new life in new places. “Death is more friend than foe.” (Coffin)
As our Scripture text says, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him…
The Death of Those We Love
Of course, that leads us to the other part of death – living with the death of those we love.
Loss is painful. We wonder – “does life have anything to give like what it has taken away?” (Anonymous source) In grief, one hour your heart is light, and the next it sinks hard in your chest.
Having seen much grief in others and myself, I have learned this - just as there are seasons of shock and sadness; there are also seasons of joyful remembrances, new growth, new life, and new relations.
You grieve because you lived fully and loved dearly. It is not because life is meaningless. To love is to be alive; to stay in grief is to spit in the face of the One who created you. To hold onto bitterness is forbidding your loved one from moving on to new life. It is a bird keeping her young in an egg, or a butterfly in a cocoon.
All Saints’ Day gives us the opportunity to give thanks for the life of all those who have died; who have moved on to new horizons. True, we do not know what is beyond the grave. We only know our Creator is. If we can trust God for having given us life now, we can trust God with ourselves, and our loved ones, about life afterwards.
About those who have died - Grieve today, but let go tomorrow, and be grateful forever.
Finally this – death can, indeed, seem a dark shadow over life. However, “where there is a shadow, there is the sun.” (Novel)
Mortality seems a dark shadow, only if you keep looking down. Look up, and you see the sun. The shadow proves the sun’s existence. Moreover, the light is far greater than the dark.
Death is not the enemy. Fear is. And, hope is the cure.
(Copyright 2017 by Jack Hughes Robinson. Use by permission only.)