Tuesday, April 27, 2010

The Sting Fades with the Victory

. As God knits the new life in the mother's womb the family knits a new place in their lives for him or her. With each kick or movement or ultra-sound, the parents begin a life-long relationship. By the time the baby comes, the parents already feel they know the child. And on the day that the child is born, there is such a sweet joy that it simply hums in the room, for the great expectation is fulfilled as the parent is finally united with the child. A friend of mine once told me his first experience holding his first born:
"The nurses laid her in my arms and I just stood there looking at her. My heart began to pound really fast and I started laughing and crying, and I just said 'Oh, I've been waiting for you...'"

. We celebrate life with joy and hope. As a dear Christian passes away, we often choose to celebrate his or her life, rather than simply mourn. We remind ourselves that the saint is now in a "better place", that he or she is now in the loving arms our Father in heaven. Yet it is often a rather bitter-sweet reception here on earth. Our smiles mingle with our tears, our laughter with our sighs. For we still labor under the burden of partition. Even though we remind ourselves that death isn't final, we still feel that our time on earth is it's own thing with a beginning and an end.

. However, life on earth is much like a baby's time in the mother's womb. We're growing and developing, hearing murmurs of our Father's voice seep in between the rhetoric of the world. We become unknowingly accustomed to the sound of His heartbeat through our time here. And He knows us. We are veiled with the world's burdens just as the unborn is veiled within the mother's womb. Yet He still knows us. And He waits for the joyous moment in which we come home.

. To us, death is a departure. It is a great sorrow that oppresses us with an all-too-earthly heaviness in the sadness of separation. Yet, in heaven as a Christian departs this world in death, he or she arrives to a great welcoming of saints and angels. The heavenly bodies cheer the homecoming. And just as a newborn can recognize the voice of the mother from the muffled, shrouded tones heard in the months in the womb, the saint recognizes the Father in full clarity for the first time. For the first time, the saint sees the Father without the distorted veils of pain, sin and misconception. For the first time, God is no longer separated by the great chasm of sin and corruption as His child stands before Him spotless through the cleansing of Christ.

. And God, the Father, is united with His child. And in all the greatness and beautiful expanse of all creation, in all the glory and majesty that is the Omnipotent and Omnipresent God, he looks at the saint - His child. And His joy and unconditional love hums within His heart as it begins to pound faster inside His his chest. And He says, "Oh, I've been waiting for you..."

. O Death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? 1 For the forces of sin that destroy and kill the body are merely able to lay the physical flesh low and release the soul into the merit of Christ and the very Glory of the Lord our God. The victory was afforded to us as Jesus hung on the cross, and the victory was manifested as that same Jesus walked out of the tomb three days later. That's what happened to the sting, my friends. It has been dissipated with hope. Because now the brutal finality of death has been turned into a long distance game of peek-a-boo, in which one is hidden away and later again revealed. And for this, heaven rejoices. For this, the angels cry out in a great celestial acclimation whenever another person comes to a saving knowledge of Christ - for death once again is defeated, and the promise of a saint's homecoming is secured.

. It is because of the everlasting hope that life still continues - that separation does not last - that we gather and comfort each other with the optimism that our time together has not truly come to an end.

"But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus." - 1 Tess. 4:13 & 14

1. 1 Corinthians 15:55 (KJV)

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