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Death Will Lose it's Sting


Our reading from the Narrative Lectionary this week is 1 Corinthians 15:51-57. In these verses, Paul reveals a mystery, that in the end some will be transformed, given a new body, instead of facing death.  In other words death is not one of life's two certain terms.  It seems taxes may be the only guarantee.  

"...in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes." - Benjamin Franklin.

Ok, all jokes aside, these verses are difficult to read.  Paul looks forward to a time when death will have no victory, it will have lost its sting.  But today, we are in the middle of a pandemic, surrounded by death.  Many are scared for their lives, or their loved ones, and too many have already been lost.  Death does not seem to have lost its sting at all, it feels as if it is closing in.

When I worked in wilderness therapy I remember holding a child who was desperately trying to kill himself.  We cried together as he struggled to end it, and I struggled to keep him with us a little longer.  For him, it seemed death had lost its sting.  He ran towards it.  However, the people who would have been left behind would have felt its sting, and even he would have felt no victory. 

A dying man was asked how he was doing, he replied "Oh, I am just busy dying."  He had lived a good life.  He stayed healthy and outlived his peers.  He had a lifetime track record of victory over death, but he was still afraid of the sting.  He said "I don't want to live forever, but I don't want to die today".   

In these verses Paul tells us that death will be the last enemy that Christ stamps out.  I sometimes wonder if that is because Jesus knows that we just couldn't handle living forever in this fallen world.  The weight of it would be too much to bear.  Sometimes we recognize that reality ourselves.  When death is far away we admit "I don't want to live forever." Sometimes, like the child I held, we wonder if the sting of death is worse than the sting of life.  But, most often when death is on our doorstep we say "I don't want to die today".  

Christ's victory over death will be complete, meaning it will include both victory and the loss of the sting.  For this to be a reality, the world must be healed, and we must all be made new together.  In the movie Shawshank Redemption Tim Robbins was hoping towards a future of freedom and Morgan Freeman tried to push him down with the reality of his situation in chains.  Tim Robbins replied "I guess it comes down to a choice, you get busy living, or get busy dying".  The beauty of God's plan for the redemption of the world, is that God wants us to be a part of it.  We get to be "partakers of the divine nature, having escaped corruption" (2 Peter 1:3-4).  We get to be the change we want to see, and with every step in that direction death will lose a little bit of it's sting.  So, get busy living, love radically, do justice, and walk humbly!

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