Death and Gospel Hope

At this time of year we do a lot of remembering. We remember those who have gone before in the faith at All Saints and All Souls, we remember the Bonfire Plot, and of course – yesterday and today – we particularly remember those who gave their lives in the Great Wars. This year we have also been remembering the Reformation, 500 years after it “started” in Wittenberg.

Death is a part of life, and will come to us, and those we love, sooner and later. One of the privileges the church has is to mourn alongside those who grieve, and offer both comfort and the hope of Jesus Christ.

The death of a loved one makes us stop, even if only for a moment, and step outside ordinary life. Something has changed, which will never change back. Someone has left, who can never come back. In the news recently there was a story about the collision of two black holes. It was a cataclysmic event, causing a shock-wave to travel through space at the speed of light. By the time it got to us in August, it was just a ripple – but the extraordinary thing is that the collision happened almost 2 billion years ago! Such is the un-imagineable vastness of space that the shock-wave has taken literally thousands of millions of years to reach us. Certainly puts second class post into perspective.

But there is something even more amazing. And that is that you and me – tiny specks of dust as we are within this huge cosmos – are each known and loved by the one who made it all. You and me are known by name, since before we were born, say the Psalms. And not only are we known and loved, we are invited to become his children. God’s sons and daughters. And if that wasn’t enough, this invitation extends beyond the grave, beyond death itself. And all this has been made possible by another cataclysmic event, which happened 2,000 years ago, in the Middle East, when God himself died, in the person of Jesus. God died. God died at the hands of the Romans. And he was buried. For you, and for me.

But the story doesn’t end there. Jesus didn’t stay in the grave. According to the gospel, Jesus came back to life a few days layer. In John’s gospel Jesus promised that he is the way to God. That he is the resurrection and the life. That he is the good shepherd who will bring us, his sheep, home. And we have this hope – this sure belief – that whoever trusts in Jesus shall never truly perish, but have eternal life. Not only life after death, but a complete and meaningful (although not necessarily easy or safe!) life before death. That God so loves the world, that he did this for you, me, and all creation. And Jesus proved it by rising again from the dead, all those years ago. Death could not hold God then, and cannot hold Him today. In our sorrow, then, there is a hope. As we mourn, we stand in the shadow of one who has tasted (and conquered) death. As we face our own black holes, our own cataclysms, we can know the one who is light itself. Who cries with us in our pain, but offers the hope of joy everlasting today, and in the life to come.

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