Saturday, July 31, 2010

The World and Death

Many people have lamented that Christianity is on the decline. I don't have to list names, I'm sure you can think of many different articles or speakers and the like. However, why? What is bringing about this decline? We are seeing an increasing love of the world. There is much more in the world that entices, that pulls Christians away - the dissipation of life are pulling folks away.

But why is the world so much more enticing? Is money and lust and power just that much better today than it was in the past? No - people still could run after these like fools in the past, just as people do today. Is it technology - that we have such easy access? No - Satan has always made temptation and vice seem easy.

No, the big difference that I see is our attitude toward death.

Today, I get to bury a friend and colleague - the Rev. Joseph Myers. He died suddenly and unexpectedly at the age of 61 (and he didn't look 61). He was in good health - and then there is death. He's the second youngest person I will have buried - the only person younger was in horrible health, lungs destroyed by smoking, and Kerrie fought a good multiple year battle.

No one saw Joe's death coming. . . and that's why Christianity is on the decline; that's why the world's appeals are so much stronger. We forget about death - we push it out of our minds - we all assume we've got our 80 or 90 years coming to us if we stay healthy. There's not a person who I've talked to who hasn't been not only shocked at his death, but also *surprised* by it.

Think about that. We will find death to be surprising.

Now, contrast that to the Centuries past. Death was never surprising. Oh, it's occurrence might be shocking, might be tragic - but unexpected. No. There was the knowledge that death comes to us all, and it probably will come sooner rather than later. And so there was this understanding, this knowledge that the fleeting joys of this life were temporary - it was the joys of the life to come that are lasting.

But we don't see that now. Now, we all know that we have miles to go before we sleep - so we might as well live it up in the meantime. This comes out in our approach to God, our approach to worship, our hymns. In old hymns. . .you almost always died... but who cares, in Christ you will live forever, you will be raised to new and better life. Even the old classic American hymns that Lutherans will sometimes denigrate do that - Amazing Grace, Rock of Ages - you die at the end - but who cares - Christ has risen and won me salvation.

The modern song. . . not so much. And the thing is, we don't miss it. Death doesn't necessarily hit us so soon. I remember being at high school in Minden, and a classmate died in a car accident. Now, Ryan was my third classmate to die, in addition to a grandmother and others. But for some of the people in the school, he was the first person they knew, really knew, who had died. And they were 15.

We push off death (here one might rant against the video games and say that we desensitize... but no, we have no experience of it to desensitive. Actually, sanitized urban life probably does more to keep the experience of death away than anything else), we pretend it doesn't come. And the thing is, Christianity has never been just about having your best life now, about being all that you can be, about having run and rock and roll. It was about conquering over our old foes Sin, death, and the Devil.

Is it any surprise that when one foe is treated as a myth and that another is a stranger that the appeal of sin would be that much greater?

Remember, you too shall die. But in Christ Jesus, because of his death and resurrection - death can go suck it, it shall not keep you, for it could not keep your Lord and Master, your Living Head, Christ Jesus.

This is the Christian faith.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I took my 17 yr old to the funeral of a 16 yr old we had known since he was 4 who had O.D.ed. They played rap music at his funeral. They tried to bleep out the obscenities and didn't entirely suceed. I pointed out the look on the Father's face to my daughter. It was one of bewiderment and utter hopelessness. And I reminded her that this is what death is without Christ.