Thursday, March 26, 2009

Death Visited Our House Today (Friday, March 13)

IM001465 Death visited our house again today. No, it wasn’t any of my children or my wife or any other person in the family. It was Sugar. She was our pet. I know, it isn’t the same. And yet, we still feel the same. After all she had been a part of our family for six years. She was a Latino Cockatiel, beautiful yellow with big dark eyes and that red spot on the side of her head. Every morning when we got up she would chirp a good morning. At night when it was time to go to bed, Sugar was the one who tried to keep us on schedule with an obnoxious squawk. She enjoyed watching movies with us. I think she liked Fred and Ginger better than James Bond, but we all enjoyed them together. We also joked that she was the only Orthodox Lutheran Cockatiel in the world. In the morning if we weren’t prompt in turning on Pirate Christian Radio, she would begin to complain. She listened with raped attention to Issues, Etc. and Fighting for the faith. I’m sure she was tempted to use the comment line a time or two. The thing is she was a part of our household and a part of God’s creation that we lived with every day. We hated death that took this little treasure from us. So, we cried. We groaned.

For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. (Romans 8:20-21, ESV)

The trouble is this isn’t the last time we’ll face this problem. And next time it just might be a child, a parent, a sister, a spouse, or a brother. This little death only points out that there is more to come, more hating death, more crying, more groaning.

The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. (1 Corinthians 15:56, ESV)

And there it is; we sinners facing the sting of death; we sinners facing our mortality; we sinners facing the wages of our sin.

My daughter, 17, asked if animals go to heaven. There’s no good answer. I told her that God created animals and loves them as a part of his creation. And thanks be to Jesus, when he comes again we will live in a new heavens and new earth, a physical place full of physical things, made to have relationships with physical human beings. There were animals in the Garden; it seems to me they’ll be animals in eternity with Christ, too. When Jesus comes again all things will be made new.

But there real issue here isn’t weather Sugar will be with us in paradise. We faced our sin today. We faced our death. Without Christ, facing death would truly be a hopeless prospect. With Christ, death is swallowed up in victory.

I tell you this, brothers: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. 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?” (1 Corinthians 15:50-55, ESV)

Our comfort in the face of death is the death and resurrection of Christ. He makes the difference between hopelessness and hope-full-ness. In the future we will still face the crying and groaning, but for us the groaning has an answer. The answer is Jesus.

Jesus, our Savior, died on the cross as the punishment for our sin. When we face death, we don’t face the sting of it anymore. Our sins are forgiven. The law that requires our permanent punishment has been taken out of the picture by Jesus. Our death doesn’t lead to eternal death, eternal punishment and separation from God and each other; instead it leads to eternal life. Jesus shows this to us in his resurrection. He didn’t stay dead. After three days He rose again. He lives. He gives us the promise of life after death with him. And there is even more. Jesus is returning to end the groaning forever. Death has been swallowed up in victory. For now we must die. When he comes again death will come to an end. The pain of death is knowing that it will end, and wishing for that to happen now.

You see, it doesn’t really matter if the death we are talking about is the death of a bird, our beloved pet Sugar, or the death of a young child, an old woman, or my death or yours. Jesus is still the answer. Jesus is still the hope. Jesus stands in the face of death. Thanks be to God he gives us the victory, in Jesus Christ.

That little yellow bird has left a hole in our hearts, a part of the groaning of creation. But the groaning will end. Come, Lord Jesus, Come! Amen.

No comments: