To meet their maker and to have time to repent or make amends, to repair broken relationships, to say good bye or to say thank you. Today many make arrangements for once they have died rather than prepare for their dying.
This changes are reflected in the way funerals are changing. It is good to celebrate a person’s life and remember their specialness, but often our celebrations are devoid of grief or sadness with little or no acknowledgement of the reality of death. In fact, the body is not present at all with a private committal taking place elsewhere with just a few people.
Often today’s funerals are not even about the person who died but about “managing our grief.” They are no longer “about the grand drama of the gospel but about the smaller tale of grief, not about the story of the resurrection but the story of us.” (Accompany Them with Singing, Thomas Long, p. 33).
Last week we celebrated Easter and the miraculous resurrection of Jesus.
Last week we celebrated Easter and the miraculous resurrection of Jesus. It was a reminder to us that while most in our community are in denial and confusion about death and what comes after, we are not.
Death is real and inevitable. It is alien and brutal. It is the “last enemy” (1 Corinthians 15:26) which steals our loved ones, shatters our families and breaks our hearts. Its horror, agony and finality reminds us of our own mortality.
Yet in the face of that inevitability we confess with Peter: “God raised him (Jesus) from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him” (Acts 2:24).
In his death and resurrection we believe Jesus conquered death once and for all. Death no longer has the hold over us it once had over us. We know death is real, but we no longer deny it. We know death is horrible, but we no longer fear it. We know we will die, but it is not the end. We are full of hope because Jesus is the first of many. One day, at a time unknown to us, Jesus will return and we will experience the reality of resurrection just like he has. Life will then be greater, grander, and superior to all we now experience. The resurrection of Jesus changes death forever. No longer is it a prison but it becomes a passage. We will end up in a grave but won’t stay there.
Stephen L Baxter