October 10, 2012

"O death, where is your sting?"

I have recently completed my three times per year ritual of going to the cemetery where my parents are buried (together, in what is called a "companion" grave site), clearing weeds away from the monument that bears their names and dates, and placing a seasonal floral arrangement.

A good friend asked by why I do this. She said, "After all, they're not really there." I agreed with her and explained I do this because I recognize this space as the place where I bid them an earthly farewell, and that's very special to me.  Also, I recognize this space as the place from which they will be resurrected when Jesus calls them from the grave. The call may come next year, one hundred years from now, or a thousand years from now. It doesn't matter. Because I believe in the resurrection, a burial spot is sacred ground. That sacred ground
deserves care and maintenance, if at all possible.

(Image from Elmwood Cemetery, Detroit, Michigan)

"O death, where is your sting?'

I enjoy listening to this part of The Messiah when the Chorale at my church performs it each year during the first weekend of December. When, in the past, I've considered this, I have usually considered that Jesus removes the sting of death from the hearts and souls of those who leave this earth, and must go into a place longed for, but not fully known.

Now when I think about this, I also consider how God removes the sting of death from the hearts and minds of those left behind.

It's possible for me to go to the cemetery and care for that resting place without becoming overwhelmed by grief and sadness. My heart is lifted when I consider how these loved ones now dwell in the uninterruptible presence of God, receiving their promised rest, waiting for the ultimate reunion when saints of all ages will  join together to worship God joyfully for all eternity.

"O death, where is your sting?"

When I consider those who have passed from this life, I no longer think about their last days in the hospital and in hospice. I remember their frail bodies, but also that they are no longer limited by that frail body. I consider how amazingly joyful their spirits must have been when they moved from a broken body to the light-filled presence of God. Death's sting dies in light of that truth.

"O death, where is your sting?" It is buried along with every other mark of The Fall that was crucified by Jesus Christ on the cross.

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