While getting my hair cut on Friday the 13th, I heard about a wedding planned for that same evening at our local cemetery. Really? Didn’t hear what the bridal party was wearing, but one of those invited wasn’t going to attend because she was superstitious and didn’t want to be there after dark.
Death continues to be shrouded in ignorance. Notice the popularity of zombie entertainment of late. The vampire cult has dwindled, possibly, but the half-dead still captures our attention. We want to be lured in by a strange combination of romance and fear. Is this a way to keep our fears at bay about the finality of death, or is it a form of “whistling in the cemetery?”
We also laugh at death. Popular movies have been made to illustrate this: Arsenic and Old Lace, Ghostbusters, Casper the Friendly Ghost, Beetlejuice, Death Becomes Her, and others. Some of our coping mechanisms surrounding death include humor. In autumn and winter we’re clearly reminded of the cycle of life. Things come to life, flourish for a time, then wane, and die. While trying to minimize death’s impact, we have found ways to celebrate cultural holidays: Day of the Dead, Halloween, or All Saint’s Day.
Growing up in the Midwest, our family used visit an apple farm to see Mr. Pumpkin. In the crisp air of Indian Summer, my parents waited in line for us to sit on his lap and get our picture taken. I don’t remember talking with him, like Santa Claus, but he was impressive with his orange suit topped by his jack-o-lantern head.
Seems harmless, like helping kids dress up and sending them out to collect candy from the neighbors. But there are darker versions and practices afoot. A house on my street is one example. The garage door is guarded by a huge pair of grim reapers, and the yard has corpses swinging from the tree waiting to be interred in nearby caskets. What is the message here, do you suppose?
The pagans also have rituals associated with this time of year, where the dark arts are practiced. You wouldn’t want to mistakenly happen upon this kind of celebration uninvited. Those groups prefer secretive meetings.
The Bible also discloses the nature of death, an afterlife, and the outcome of evil. These are serious matters with far-reaching results. God’s Son came to earth to free mankind from the curse of sin and death. Jesus’ substitutionary death on a cross of shame accomplished God’s merciful plan. Anyone can avail themselves of this promise.
New life, resurrected life after death, is the answer to one of our greatest fears.
We aren’t meant to be zombies, vampires, or something to laugh at. Others have convinced themselves that nothing exists after this life. Nothingness is their hope. This belief attempts to deny a just, holy, and compassionate God by avoiding the question of our origin. Did we really come from nothing in particular, only to return to that state?
Death and dying is scary until one is able to hear what God says about it. I Corinthians 15 is a treatise to examine in this context. A long passage, it confirms all that God did when raising His Son to new life, not a half-life or nothingness. It doesn’t traffic in secret ceremonies or trivial distractions.
“If there’s no resurrection, there’s no living Christ….If corpses can’t be raised, then Christ wasn’t…then all you are doing is wandering about in the dark, as lost as ever…But the truth is that Christ has been raised up, the first in a long legacy of those who are going to leave the cemeteries…Death swallowed by triumphant life…Oh, Death, who’s afraid of you now?” (I Corinthians 15: 13, 16, 18, 20, 54 The Message)
Death, in truth, is meant to lead us to something glorious. After this life, with its joys and trials, we will be given a much better existence in God’s presence. His Word is full of this promise. It’s out in the open for anyone to discover. Life and death aren’t meant to be dealt with in ignorance.