Holidays are heart-hurting times if a loved one has been lost. Christmas must be the loneliest, but Easter can’t be far behind. Celebrating Jesus’ resurrection that points to coming reunion which in turn must make the present only emptier.
When the Bible predicts the future, it leaves foggy spots and unanswered questions. It’s a sunny and clear forecast, though, when it tells us we will live because Jesus does (John 14:9). Consequently, we have hope, but not without grief (1 Thessalonians 4:13).
What follows is a passage from Walter Wangerin’s excellent book, Mourning into Dancing. (Wangerin is a Lutheran minister, award-winning author, radio broadcaster, professor, husband, and father, who is slowly dying of cancer.) Mourning into Dancing is available from Amazon–-http://www.amazon.com/Mourning-Into-Dancing-Walter-Wangerin/dp/0310207657/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1458930935&sr=1-1&keywords=mourning+into+dancing.
Softly, without raising her head, Gloria whispered to me, “Where is he?”
I misunderstood her. I thought she meant Jesus, and I said, “Here. He has always
been with you—-“
“No, Pastor,” she said, looking at me now. “Where is Sonny Boy? Where is he?”
Before I could answer, the Senior Citizens broke into song and distracted Gloria
and gave me a respite from the question. But I didn’t forget it.
And I answer it now: “He is with the Lord.”
But I want to refine that answer until it truly comforts you, Gloria. It is not meant cheaply. It comes after long thought.
Listen: when Sonny Boy left this life, he left creation as God gave it unto us. He left all things and the space that contains things. He left history and the time that contains history. He departed time, Gloria, immediately and entirely to be with God.
You and I are still inside of time. We will move in tiny ticks of seconds through long months and the interminable years. Through days and days we creep toward the Last Day, when all of us will meet God, the living and the dead together, because on that Day the dead will be raised to life, and Sonny Boy too.
From our perspective, that’s a long time away.
But Sonny Boy has popped free of time.
From his perspective, there is no time any more. He doesn’t have to wait. He is there already! For him it is already the Great Gettin’-Up Morning—and he’s up! He is raised from the dead. And we are there too. And we are meeting each other in the joy of the saved. And when you and I have died, all that is now for Sonny Boy will be now for us as well, as if no time at all had intervened. He is with the Lord.
But we have a while to wait yet before we experience the now he knows. But he’s not waiting.
Between you and Sonny Boy, Gloria, you are the lonelier one. All your sorrow has been for yourself while still you are stuck in time. He’s the glad one. From his perspective he has never been apart from you. The instant he rises from the dead, so do you.
It’s a mystery. We shall not all sleep (which sleeping makes time a mere blink to the sleeper). But we shall all be changed. In a moment. In the twinkling of any eye. At the last trumpet.
For the trumpet will sound the long and sudden note, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. This mortal shall put on immortality. Then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written,
DEATH IS SWALLOWED UP IN VICTORY!
O death, where is they sting?
O grave, where is thy victory?
The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
Therefore, my beloved Gloria, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as you know that your labor is not in vain. No, not in the Lord.
May our resurrected Lord
fill us who grieve
with hope and peace
and, yes, even joy,
this Resurrection Sunday!