The first few days of November are traditionally used for remembering those who have gone before us—the faithful departed—and, naturally, reflecting on the nature of life after death.
Remembering Our Past
Every Friday morning the guys from my small group at church meet up at Starbucks for coffee and conversation. There’s never any kind of plan. Sometimes we talk about movies and TV shows, sometimes the goings-ons of the week, sometimes great theological and philosophical matters. We like to keep it interesting. This morning was no different. We met up and spent a couple of hours together.
The topics of conversation today were varied, as usual, ranging from struggles at work to married life to single life to pedagogy, but for awhile we talked about ancestors. Greg talked about his British heritage. Eric told us about how his family came to America from Germany a few generations ago. (Apparently his great-great-grandfather was a locksmith in trouble with the law for tampering with someone’s locks who fled to Texas and changed his name. He later got shot for breaking an entering. Someone should have warned him about Texans…) All of this talk about ancestors, though not intentional, was quite appropriate for All Saints’ Day. A day for remembering.
I’m really not sure where my family comes from. My grandpa has done most of the ancestry research in our family. I know that before we were in Texas we were from Georgia. As far as we know our family has always been from the south. I wrote a few stories from back in the day here.
What about you? What legacies have you received?
Forgetting Our Death
Naturally, remembering our past leads toward a reflection on the nature of death and life thereafter. I don’t think that moments of remembrance like this or funerals ought to be particularly somber occasions. Because, though death is a part of occasions as these, it is not the focus. These occasions aim to focus on the life of those gone before rather than dwelling on death. However, I think that this is often said with an attitude of dismissal, often quoting the scripture “Death, where is your sting?“
Death truly does sting. When it strikes, we are all marred. Families are left with holes and empty spaces; children become orphans spouses become widow(er)s. There is a place for mourning, for weeping, and for lamenting just as Jesus did when Lazarus died. Because the answer to the question of that scripture, “Death, where is your sting?” is NOW! The sting of death is now! Now is when we feel its pain and its irreversable effects.
The beauty of the scripture is that it speaks of a coming day.
When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written:
“Death is swallowed up in victory.
O death, where is your victory?
O death, where is your sting?”
It speaks of a day when our perishing bodies will be replaced with something that does not waste away or end. That is the day that the sting of death is lost. I was thinking about this one day while at a funeral. I will ask you the same way it came to me: Do you remember that time when you were a few years old and you slipped on the concrete and scraped your knee? Hardly. I mean, I assume something like that may have happened to me at some point when I was little. Do you remember all the tears you cried? No. Maybe I did cry, but I don’t remember all that. This is what death will be like in the age of eternity.
In the coming age, we will forget about death the same way we forget about the scratches and scrapes of youth. We will still remember it, but it will only be a memory. A faint memory. What hope we have in the age to come! Death itself will die and we will be left with nothing but life!
Beholding the Saints and the Splendor of God
One of my favorite things about this day is that, when I think of those gone before, I remember that we are not alone. I remember that we have a rich history of saints gone before us.
On that day, when we stand before the throne of God, with death in the rear view, we will not only be able to look up to behold the splendor of the Lord but we will also be able to look around to see that we are surrounded by all the saints of God. We will stand in the midst of every tribe, every tongue, and we will know that we are not alone.