Rev. Peter J. Haugen
St. Paul Evangelical
Whenever death openly invades our lives, it is a violently painful experience. Death is always present for us in this vale of tears, though we typically blind ourselves to his presence. Life here moves inevitably towards death, whether it is sudden and catastrophic or lingering and agonizing, and we are all of us dying.
Nevertheless, for much of our lives, death is simply a shadowy figure lurking in the background, easily ignored in our present. This is too often why we ignore our spiritual lives. If we felt death’s terror more keenly and regularly, such complacency would be much more difficult. When death does invade, then, it is always something of a shock, even when it is not entirely unexpected. It is always painful, and we begin to understand just how violently unnatural death is.
Death’s invasion tempts us to follow the many disciples of our Lord Jesus who “withdrew, and were not walking with Him anymore” (St. John 6:66). Our experience, our eyes, our feelings would tell us that death is final, that death has won, that the present sting of death is forever. We are tempted to abandon the One who promises otherwise.
But in this our experience, our eyes, our feelings are a lie. The promises of our Lord Jesus are not dependent upon anything so fickle, but upon our Lord’s own eternal self. The victory of death is an illusion, and the sting of death is but a temporary reality for those who have been called by God to faith in Christ.
This promise of our Lord is sealed and secured in His own death and resurrection. He has conquered death and the sin that has caused death, as witnessed by the Holy Spirit and by the water and the blood that flowed from our Lord’s pierced side. We cling through faith to His Word and promise… even in the face of death.
But our faith must be watered and fertilized and fed if it is to live. It is a gracious gift of God, delivered to us through His Word and promise, and nurtured by that same Word. It must be so if it is to survive the storms and droughts of life here on earth. It must be rooted deep the fields of the Church, lest it be destroyed before it has reached full maturity. Do not neglect the gathering of the saints. Be nourished and fed where God is present for you, preparing you to die a good death, a death under the sign of faith in the Son of God.
When the many left our Lord Jesus, He asked the Twelve, “You do not want to go away also, do you?” (St. John 6:67). St. Peter answered for them all, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life” (St. John 6:68). May you all receive the grace of our Lord to make this your response as well. Amen.