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Sunday, 13 May 2012

Death - the final frontier

Okay, so I used to be a bit of a "Trekkie" - but only with relation to the original series of Star Trek!

Yesterday, in my capacity as a Force Chaplain, I attended the annual Strathclyde Police Force Service of Remembrance, held for the families of both serving and retired officers and staff members who have died during the previous twelve months.  It was interesting to note that, according to the various references made, each of them had not "died" but had, euphemistically, "passed away"!

On this morning's Sunday programme on BBC Radio 4, the subject of death was also raised.  There was criticism that, in schools, everything and anything about sex is taught, but that pupils are not prepared for death - although death is assured for everyone (at least prior to the Rapture of the saints), while sex is not necessarily so!  I don't know the current situation, but "death" was an integral topic in the "Rites of Passage" course that I taught!

However, it is often the taboo subject; the one about which we don't like to talk; the one that has a plethora of euphemisms.  Why should that be?  I usually suggested to my pupils that it is because it is considered to be "the unknown" and, as such, it is something that we fear!  What would help, of course, is if someone who had genuinely died, and been buried, were to rise from the dead.  Then we would know that it is not unconquerable; and that. alone, would make it less scary!

And that is the central message of the Christian Gospel!  That Jesus of Nazareth - the carpenter turned itinerant preacher - was, in fact, Almighty God in human flesh.  The familiar (to some!) words of the Apostles' Creed state, with beautiful simplicity, that "He was crucified, dead, and buried.  The third day, He rose from the dead."

Read that again, if you have any fear of death!  "The third day He rose from the dead"!  He showed that death is not the end, but the doorway to a fuller and better life - at least for those who have placed their trust in Him for salvation.  So the apostle, Paul, referring to the writings of two of the Old Testament prophets, could write: "Death is swallowed up in victory" "O death, where is thy victory? O death, where is thy sting?" (I Cor.15:54(b)-55).

The process of dying may, for some, be painful, and even terrifying.  But death itself has no hold on, or terror for, the true child of the living God.  Hallelujah!

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