A few of you have told me that you like my last Wednesday musing on death. One of you said, “it was timely”. And I said that I would muse more on how our faith help us in living into death.
Over the years I have observed that people find it difficult to talk about death. Some live in denial of death. We refuse to talk about it. It’s uncomfortable, and so we avoid the subject, and that avoidance increases the chances of us being unprepared when the realty of death comes – to loved ones, or to ourselves.
The deaths of two of our members (Joan and Ian) once again reminds us of the reality of death and the suddenness of it. Please remember their family members in your prayers.
My second observation is some of us minimise, sanitise, or sentimentalise death. When the subject is raised, we skip ahead and want to talk about heaven, “going to a better place”, “being with God” forever, and so on.
Death is a Gift
Over the years I have reframed the way I look at death. Let’s not see death as ‘a punishment for human sin’ but as a gift. Humans are not meant live forever. To any of us who have even a basic scientific education, this way of thinking is untenable. Death, we see, is built into the unfolding of creation. Do you know that later this year, on 15 November 2022, the world population is projected to reach 8 billion. If we humans live forever, what’s going to happen to planet earth?
So how is death a gift? For those who suffer sickness or oppression, of course, it’s easier to see death as a friend, a gift, a rest from labours, an end to suffering. But even for those who experience a life full of health and freedom, we must realise that refusing to make room for others … for one’s children and grandchildren, for the children of our neighbours … would be an act of selfishness. And what would we become by hoarding opportunities? We would become ungrateful, complacent, egotistical, perhaps even bored.
I believe understanding the role of death, in this way, helps us appreciate every sunrise and sunset, every day, every breath and heartbeat … because our days are numbered. If we don’t live mindfully, we will waste the precious gift of time. If we don’t seize opportunities, we will waste our precious abilities. Death is a gift meant to wake up the living, to nudge us toward a life of purpose and intention.
“Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain, but if it dies it bears much fruit.” – John 12:24
Death doesn’t have the final Word
When Christians talk about the resurrection of Christ, they may be proclaiming that death did not have the last word in the Jesus story because his followers were raised up to be his new body. It shows us that life is stronger than death, that hope is stronger than despair, that love is stronger than hate and that nothing is impossible with God. That should give us all hope in our lives. Not only because Jesus conquers death, but because he is showing us, revealing to us, a pattern for our own lives. He’s showing us that we can always hope that suffering is not the last word, and that God always can bring new life out of what seems to be a dead situation. And that nothing can separate from the love of God.
“For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” – Romans 8:38,39
We know death has no age preference. Truth is that the Bible has more to say about life on earth than life to come. Whatever we might say about life after death are faith claims or speculations.
Death is certain and by faith we believe that death does not have the last word.
So let us cherish our life with every millimetre of a second by “loving God with all our heart and with all our soul and with all our strength and with all our mind and our neighbours as yourself.” (Luke 10:27)
Hope this if helpful. Certainly this is not meant to be last words.
… in the meantime, blessed be.
Rev Swee Ann Koh
3rd August 2022