On July 2, 2017, I wrote an article called Kumbaya in response to an assertion that priests and pastors are leaving the church in droves and beautiful church buildings, rich in symbol and story, are having to close up and sell their buildings. If you want to check out that post, you can find it here: Kumbaya
Years ago when I thought I wanted to be a pastor, I was assigned an internship at the Lutheran Parish at Penn State University. My supervisor asked me to teach a course on the subject of Heaven because some students had expressed an interest in such a course. I began the first session by asking the students what they thought happened to you when you die. There was quiet for a little while; then a couple of people jokingly expressed a view that our spirits were let loose in the universe to flit around and meet up with other spirits.
A Penn State senior said more explicitly that because of Jesus’ death on the cross in our stead we were promised eternal life. I asked her what that meant to her. That seemed to stump her. She hemmed and hawed a bit and resorted to our ghost-like spirit continuing to live on past our natural death. I told her that I thought that was interesting. Then I asked her one question: “When you confess the Apostles’ Creed, what do you do with the assertion that We believe in the resurrection of the body?“
You could have heard a pin drop. She was speechless and still. Everybody else around the table was as well. Slowly she gripped the edge of the table and said: “Do you mean to say that we MEAN THAT?”
Worship isn’t about play-acting. It isn’t a bunch of sweet platitudes so that you can check off your church box for the week and then get back to the stuff that matters. Worship is the Gospel meat and drink that totally transforms life. It is life and light. It is the armor for battle.
When you are afraid of dying or so wrapped up in grief over the death of someone who has gone before you, you aren’t ready for what may be waiting around the corner. When I was a little girl, I used to be afraid of the bedtime prayer my parents taught me:
Now I lay me down to sleep
I pray the Lord my soul to keep
If I should die before I wake
I pray the Lord my soul to take. Amen.
That fear of dying in the night took hold of me. When my daughter was little, I took the liberty of bringing some defensive forces into the picture. I later discovered that there are many variations on this version:
Now I lay me down to sleep
I pray the Lord my soul to keep
May angels guard me through the night
And wake me with the morning light. Amen.
The old and new testaments of Christian scripture, beginning with the Book of Genesis and ending with the book of the Revelation to John make it quite clear who it is that Christians worship as God. The Apostles Creed spells that faith out in a concise way and then ends with what the Christian church teaches about death: We believe in the resurrection of the body: and the life everlasting. Amen.
Everything changes with this belief. Yesterday I posted a link to an article about stopping the genocide of Christians on my Facebook page, and I changed the security setting to Public so anyone could see that post. Not one single person commented on that or reacted to it in any way. Not one. Why is that? Is it no longer allowable for a Christian to admit their faith in public? Have we grown so politically correct that we who are Christians are afraid to admit it?
Or is it that we don’t really believe the genocide of Christians is happening in the world – in the same way, that people didn’t want to believe that the Armenians were slaughtered in the first world war, or that the Jews were targeted for eradication in the second world war?
Maybe we can’t bring ourselves to believe it. Maybe we are worried about making a public statement about it. When the horror of Hitler’s death camps was made known – the German people were made to walk through the concentration camps, see the dead, dig graves for the corpses. They had to finally face what had been going on all over Europe.
The Apostles Creed tells us a foundational truth of our Christian faith-based solidly on the scriptural texts of the Old and New Testaments. Death is not the end. Our bodies will be raised up. There is one who is greater than earthly powers – even when those powers are evil and bent on slaughter.
Christianity is not for sissies. Christian worship is not about sweetness and light, or about being able to cross off our religious public duty for the week so that we can get back to things that are fun.
Christian liturgy and worship give us the foundation and tools for life in this world whatever may come our way. Sometimes what comes our way threatens us. We are given these gifts. Memorize such texts – texts of Scripture – study and read the three great ecumenical creeds. They are armor – should you need it.
Nicely written, like always!!! A VERY interesting subject, Death. I had an opportunity to completely embrace death, to let go of this life and see what would be next, but I chose to continue to live. Have to say, it would have been so easy to have gone the other way. Truly a moment of complete peace, no regrets, no anger, no feelings other than absolute peacefulness…
I believe that some people are made to suffer in order to be able to not be afraid of death and to embrace death as a very viable, acceptable and no longer a scary option.
What is death, we will only know when we die and finally experience it. Scary for most people, but it is inevitable and there is no way we can escape it.
Thanks for your thoughts, Lester! I always appreciate hearing from you. Ann
Great post! Have nice day ! 🙂 jihjy
Thanks, Thomas! I appreciate the feedback & hope that you will follow my blog. All the best! Ann