In the midst of life we are in death
I have spoken these words at every funeral at which I have officiated over 25+ years. The words are likely from a hymn originating in France around 750 AD. As long as I can remember they have been part of the suggested graveside service in The United Methodist Book of Worship.
They came to mind over the weekend. Late Saturday evening I had a series of text messages telling me that a Masonic Brother died suddenly at age 43. I did not know him well but had come to know him over the last few years. He had become a Scottish Rite officer only a few months ago and I looked forward to years more of friendship and service. Some stories do not end where we imagined they would.
At first hearing these beautiful words are quite sobering. We are in life and then confronted, sometimes as here suddenly and tragically, by death. It comes we know not when. It seems, at times, to come with neither rhyme nor reason. If human biology is the sum of our existence – if the last beat of our hearts is the last of us – this may be a cry of despair. It is an observation of the universality and finality of death.
But these words are in truth an affirmation, even words of praise. Death is in truth an episode in life and not its end. It comes in the mist of life – if you will in the middle. There is more on the other side of it. Much more.
In his marvelous reflection on the resurrection, Paul writes:
“Where, O death, is your victory?
Where, O death, is your sting?”
The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.
But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
(1 Corinthians 15:55-57 NIV)
Paul is actually quoting the prophet Hosea in the first bit where God promises to deliver from the power of the grave. If the grave is the end its power to overshadow life is immeasurable. If it is a door to more life on the side? Its power is real but temporary, its shadow dark but only for a passing moment.
I need to hear these words today when a 43-year old man with young sons and a grieving wife finds himself in the midst of death. In Christ there is a victory even in a moment of tragic death. And not just for Larry… but for us who remain to bear its grief and puzzle over its meaning.
“For the Christian, death is not the end of adventure
but a doorway from a wold where dreams and adventures shrink,
to a world where dreams and adventures forever expand.”
― Randy Alcorn, Heaven