Connecting with Culture
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Tomorrow afternoon at 3pm, a national minute’s silence will be observed as the Duke of Edinburgh’s funeral begins. The service will be viewed by millions around the world, but, for all the ceremony, it cannot possibly do justice to the fact that an extraordinary life spanning our turbulent 20th Century has ended.
In one sense the death of a ninety-nine year old, however distinguished, is unspectacular. It is not a tragedy in the way that, for example, the death of a child is. In another sense, however, death, whenever it calls, is always tragic. In the words of the Princess Royal, ‘You know it’s going to happen but you are never really ready.’ Death is cruel and degrading, dehumanising, the ultimate betrayal. It is, as the apostle Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 15:26, the last enemy.
It was Robert Bulwer-Lytton, the 1st Earl of Lytton, who said: ‘There is nothing certain in a man’s life but that he must lose it.’ We all experience the valley of the shadow of death, and, in the context of the global pandemic, that valley has seemed deeper and, perhaps, nearer during the past year. I am certainly not alone in having experienced the anguish, pain, and abandonment of death during lockdown.
In view of all this, declaring ‘I believe in the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting’ is an act of defiance and subversion. In light of Jesus, his life, death, and resurrection, everything changes. Our final enemy is destroyed. We look forward to not only life-after-death (‘sleeping in Christ’, ‘resting in peace’), but, more significantly, to life-after-life-after-death: rising in glory, the resurrection of the body, and a new creation.
The hope that God, through Jesus, will raise those who have fallen asleep should comfort us as we deal with the pain of death. But, it should also make a tangible difference to the way that we live on earth, right here, right now, in the spectacular-ordinary of our everyday lives: In our work to produce things that are good and of service, in our activism, in our personal relationships, and in our leisure time, we live in light of the new age begun in Jesus, risen and exalted. We live to bring the life of heaven to earth.
Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.