Tuesday, March 20, 2007

The Promise of Death

Jesus calls us out into the wilderness, so that we can finally…die. He frees us from the cruel slavery of neverending existence by inviting us into the delightful freedom of life everlasting.

Yet we struggle and fight and grasp to survive in a world that is dead. This world trudges on and on in endless cycles of lifeless living. We live like the ancients whose creed still echoes in our world: "what has been, is, and will be again." We simply tread round and round a gristmill of movement without change.

Think of the horror of living day after day after day with no hope of change. The loneliness that chokes the soul growing day after day. The bitterness of disappointment increasing moment by moment. The pain of betrayal, the loss of innocence, the web of envy, the fire of lust, the sting of regret entwining our souls breath by breath.

Imagine lying in a bed wracked with pain from cancer slowing eating through the body. One day the doctor comes and delivers the bad news: "All our tests indicate that you are never going to get well—and you're never going to die." Day after day after endless day of pain twisting and turning through the body.

The world we cling do kills the soul and the body stumbles forward in numbed chaos. Jesus came so that we could finally…die.

Before Jesus came, the world couldn't die. Everything kept turning in circles. Everything and everyone cannot escape the endless circle. Reincarnation is the inability to die. Endlessly reappearing in one form or another. No memory. No power to change. No mercy. No redemption. Just endless circles.

C.S. Lewis paints this terror of not being able to die in "The Great Divorce." The condemned cannot die. Thus they cannot change. They simply grow firmer and stronger and more resolved in their illnesses, handicaps, bitternesses, self deceptions. Harder and harder and harder. Moving farther and father apart.

Jesus comes so that man might finally die. For unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies it remains alone. But if it dies, it produces much fruit. The cross brings death--an end to our world. As we travel through lent, we embrace the hope of the cross, the hope of change.

At first, the cross seems like a destructive intrusion, an unwanted invasion of our comfort zone. The comfort of our lifeless world may come to an end. But then the resurrection welcomes us to a new heavens and a new earth. St. Paul reminds us that we will face tribulation, distress, persecution, famine, nakedness, peril, or sword (Rom 8:35). We will know the struggles of loss and weakness and hardship. We will be delivered to death for Jesus' sake. And the life of Jesus will be manifested in our mortal flesh (2 Cor 4:11).

And in His life, we will discover a love that does not waver, does not weaken, does not fade regardless. In His life, we will rest in a love that encircles us with life everlasting, leading forward to new worlds and new heavens we never imagined.

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