1 Corinthians 15:51-55
While death is an inevitable experience that awaits each of us, we rarely talk about it until we have to. We find death an awkward topic and feel uncomfortable around those who have lost loved ones, unsure of how to share their grief or offer comfort. In the absence of words that seem real and relevant, we often rely on platitudes to soften death’s harsh reality and mystery. However, when we follow the counsel to “hug, hush, and hang around,” we discover the ministry of presence that most effectively demonstrates our love.
Scriptural images of the death experience provide a foundation for a theology of hope that confronts death. But much about the end of earthly life remains a mystery. The ancient Hebrews spoke of death as being gathered unto one’s people. Jesus assures his followers that to depart this life is to be at home with God. For Christians, the resurrection of Christ becomes the crucial clue for understanding death as victory rather than defeat, a new beginning rather than an ending.
Paul focuses on death as change: we will all be changed (v. 51). In death we divest what is temporal about us to claim what is eternal. We exchange what is perishable for what is imperishable, we trade what we cannot keep for what we cannot lose. Paul speaks of our bodies as being perishable, but he proclaims the hope of a spiritual body, an imperishable home of the soul. He affirms the continuity of this life with that which is to come, but proclaims a radical difference. What we tend to see as final defeat is actually the experience of victory over all the limitations and painful loss in this life.
How do you care for others in their time of grief? Think of someone who is effective in comforting others and give thanks for them. Who has been a strengthening presence for you in a time of loss?
God of life and love, assure me of the reality of resurrection and the truth of your promise of eternal life through the living Christ. Amen.