Fred Craddock writes a story about a close friend in the throes of terminal illness. In his story he tells of a grim, dark figure that knocks on the door and delivers unwanted messages. The first message is tests. The second is radiation. The third message is chemo. The fourth message is relapse. In all the messages the grim figure is perceived as death, an entity to be avoided and feared. Each time a message is delivered the door is slammed in death's face. But at the last death persists into the room. But the story doesn't end here. The ending of the story is the Church gathered to remember his friend. They are singing "Now thank we all our God ... with hearts and hands and voices!"
I think this story is about a condition that we Christians share together. It is the paradox of devastating events that Satan sets before our eyes to break our faith and a God that tells us to look past those events to Him. Satan's message is that we are mortal, flawed and weak. God's message is that our mortality, our flaws and our weaknesses only work to show God's strength. His purpose draws His people even closer to a God that loves us. That same God has overcome death and actually uses our death as a reminder of the goodness and grace He gave us during our lives. Satan sings about the finality of death. God sings about the newness of passing from this world into a new and eternal life with Him.
This Sunday is "All Saints Sunday" and we will read the names of those who have entered the Church Triumphant. This will be a special time to come closer to the God who will sustain me on Saturday as I deliver my mom's eulogy. We will all be reminded of lives lived in the reality of good times, bad times, joys, sorrows, successes and failures These times are all part of the seasons and purposes of God. I hope you will be there to be part of a Church that facing death squarely in the face can sing ... "Now thank we all our God, with hearts and hands and voices, Who wondrous things has done, in Whom this world rejoices; Who from our mothers’ arms has blessed us on our way ... with countless gifts of love, and still is ours today."