He is Risen: You Can Stop Pretending Death Is OK

 
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As many of you sadly know, early on in the movie, “The Lion King,” the lion cub Simba loses his father. Fortunately, throughout the movie, we get to hear a theme song called “The Circle of Life” to make us feel better about death. The implied message is that death is ok, normal and maybe even good. Life and death make a never-ending circle. Your dad is now fertilizer for a tree! In movies that kind of comfort works. In the real world it’s B.S.

Sadly, this advice flourishes outside of the cartoon animal kingdom as well! How often have we heard this at funerals, even supposedly Christian ones? The fact is, we like to pretend that death is ok because we are helpless against it! It’s in our house, sitting at our table, sleeping in our room, hovering over our heads. So we do our best to normalize and spiffy death up. We do our best to blend death into life.

We don’t say “died”—we are afraid of that word. So we say “passed on.” We even try to make our dead one look alive! Even though beneath the clothes a body is rotting. Even though beneath the smiles, hearts are crying and screaming and desperate! How often have you heard someone say, “Gramma looks great!” No she doesn’t. She looks as far from great as you can possibly get! She looks freaky! She’s dead!

The circle of life? Death is a part of life?! Hog wash! Don’t you dare mix death with life! Don’t you dare confuse life with death! Death has no place in the company of Life! Death is a foreign intruder! A nasty monstrous invader. Death is the very definition of unnatural.

Of course, we should care for the bodies of those who died. But do not for a moment pretend that this is all natural and normal. It is not natural to die. It is totally unnatural. When God created the world He did not include death. Nothing was to die. Instead it was to live, to be fruitful and multiply. It was Adam and Eve who chose to insert death into the world when they did not believe God and stole His fruit. And we, their offspring, have been bringing death into the world by our disobedience ever since. And now we try even to convince ourselves that we like death.

Because of Jesus we don’t have to pretty up anything ugly thing in life!
— Joel Hess

I get it, though. Everything dies. It sure seems normal and natural. We can count on three things in life: death, taxes and a slo-mo scene in a Wes Anderson movie. It’s strange how people are always so surprised by death. It’s the most consistent thing in the universe. Well, next to our predictable corrupting ourselves and the world.

No wonder the ladies came mourning to the tomb three days after Jesus died. They came to go through all the routines: cover up the stench with spices, ensure his arms and legs aren’t outstretched in some creepy position, say their last goodbyes. It’s the least they could do. It was the very, very least they could do before overwhelming all-consuming visitor, Death.

Yet for the first time ever, instead of death interrupting life, life interrupted death! An earthquake. An angel. An announcement. Do not be afraid! He is risen! The chain around our necks busted. For in His flesh, all humanity died and rose. In the waters of baptism you were there! You have been chained to a better Master. One Who serves His servants. One Who walks out of graves. He promises to raise us up, too! So, don’t be afraid. You don’t need to dance around death. You don’t need to put lipstick on it and pretend it’s your friend. You can say it. Because, as Paul says, its sting is gone! It has no teeth!

Because of Jesus we don’t have to pretty up anything ugly thing in life! We can talk frankly about sin, temptation, the most devilish ugliest thoughts, addiction and every monstrosity that runs through our head or has been done by our hands. We don’t need to water down sin to feel better about ourselves. Christ has paid the price of it all. We are no longer afraid of it! The circle and the cycle are broken!

So go throw away your Lion King VHS or DVD! Delete it from your digital library, or skip over it on Netflix! You are free!

Rev. Joel Hess is the fortunate pastor at Emmanuel Lutheran Church in Cadillac, MI, where God’s reality pierces through our illusions by His Word, flesh and blood and gentle waters.  He is the author of many half written projects; a talented musician and artist.  His contributions to the Jagged Word deal with the intersection of theology, culture and the arts.




 
 
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