Not Without Hope
There is a certain and inevitable outcome to our lives. We shall not live for ever. And that’s a fact.
Some will live out their lives, their end coming at ‘a ripe old age.’ Others will die too soon, perhaps tragically. No one wants that - devastating, tragic, sad. All of us hope that we will have a full, long life and that we shall 'pass through’ perhaps quietly, peacefully, in our sleep - on into our eternal rest.
Perhaps as we age and come closer to the inevitable, we think about ‘cramming for the finals’ so to speak. But how does one prepare? Who is ever ready for what lies beyond? Is that all there is, all there was? 'Is that all She wrote.’
I am immersed in the hobby of genealogy and I’ve come to feel that I almost know many of my forebears, at least a little, even though they passed through decades, even centuries, ago. Will I meet them one day and really catch up on the years in between? Will we truly 'know, as we are known; never more to walk alone?’ as says the old hymn.
The Anglican Book of Common Prayer says that we can commit our loved ones ‘in sure and certain hope of the resurrection to eternal life - through Jesus Christ our Lord.” Commit the body to the earth from which (ultimately) it was formed… and the soul to the One who created it... in sure and certain hope...
St. Paul writes that we who believe in what God in Jesus Christ has done for us and by His Spirit is doing within us even now as we live out our days, do not sorrow as those who have no hope. Christians dare to believe (the faith itself being an incalculable gift of God’s grace) that death is not the end, but rather a beginning - as much so as a baby's birth - the coming to an end of the 9 month gestation, into the light of life in a new way and in a new day.
Or perhaps another metaphor. May I introduce it with humour, even though I'm trying to consider death as gently, quietly and respectfully as I can? ... As two caterpillars were chatting together they looked up as a butterfly fluttered by. Said one caterpillar to the other, ‘You’ll never get me on one of those!’
But indeed the best for the caterpillars, as for us who believe, is yet to be. Despite their soon-to-be encasement each in its own dark, shrivelling, death-like cocoon, they will later emerge into a wondrous - albeit totally different, new life.
And so too in each Spring: - No tulips or daffodils, without the cold, dark, frozen earth of winter and the burial of each bulb and seed. No fruit in some cultures either, if the tree does not first lose its leaves and stand naked, cold in grey-black, and perhaps clad in snow, till the new sap-life, sprouts, stalks and leaves of Spring appear. No new life comes unless there be death before.
So that happens. In nature all around us. But what about us?
Jesus said, ‘Because I live, you will live also?’ In fact, he said: - ’The one who believes in me shall never die.’ I think he meant, even when one dies naturally, that’s not really the end. He gives Life to those who receive it, receive Him, as gift: this Life beyond - eternal life.
Not that He didn’t die. Dying horribly, wrongly, but in the end purposely. For His death ultimately conqors Death, Sin and all that ails us and is presently still wrong with this world... and guarantees Life and the putting of all things (including us) right.
If we trust in the One Who has raised Him from the dead, we too will be raised to newness of life. And that can begin now even as we await our own demise, even as we say our tearful good-byes to those whom 'we have loved and lost awhile'... even as we ‘cram for the finals’ - being sure we’re ready for our day appointed.
And that's not about doing anything, but trusting the One who by sheer grace has done everything necessary for us and is preparing a place, a Home for us, eternally.
So we do not lose heart. So we are not without Hope.
Script and Original Music Score - Laurie Barber