Death is not the worst thing

Today was kind of a strange day for me. Instead of spending it hanging out with my fellow MTC 4th year buddies I spent it with my sisters, trying to work out what contribution we wanted to make to our grandmother’s funeral on Tuesday. We were very close to my grandparents on mum’s side, and the 4 of us were their only grandchildren. When Grandad died I felt like I had tonnes of memories I wanted to share with people – so many good times to look back on. The memories were so fresh then. But not so with Grandma.

I feel like I’ve actually had two grandmothers in one. The first – the one I love so much, is the Grandma whose house we spent every school holidays at because mum & dad both worked. The Grandma whose house my older sister and I were quarantined to when we had the chicken pox. The Grandma who, along with my Grandad, turned up at our house 6 weeks into their 6 months camper van trip around the country, because they missed us too much. Instead they packed up me and my sisters (I was 10, my sisters 13, 7 & 5) and took us on a 4 week trip to Cairns. Probably the greatest holiday of my life and only 1 of many they took us on over the years.

The other Grandma only appeared 6 years ago. The Alzheimer’s started long before that, but 6 years ago Grandma became an old woman who didn’t know who I was anymore. By the time she died there wasn’t a single person in this world that she recognised.

I’ve heard it said that death is not the worst thing that can happen to a person. For Grandma this is certainly true. She was a woman who loved Jesus and served him with her whole life. Death was the best thing for her.

On Thursday she had surgery to pin a broken femur, and on Tuesday she died from post operative multi-system organ failure. Alzheimer’s may not have killed her, but it took her life from her years ago. It was back then I grieved the loss of my wonderful grandmother. For that reason I don’t feel sad that she died. We lost her 6 years ago and we have grieved for all those years. I do feel sad that the last 6 years are the freshest memories right now. I hope they fade and I start to remember the 24 amazing years before that. But I also don’t want to forget the last 6 years completely, because they remind me of this truth

Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed – in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed.  For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.” [1 Corinthians 15:51-54]

When I think about that I feel indescribable joy – because God is good and faithful to his promise. Death is defeated and my Grandma lives! She is raised imperishable with a body and mind that work. Praise Jesus that she is home with him. I look forward to joining them one day.

Rest in Peace

Don’t worry, no-one died. Actually Andy Irons did but this is not about him. Well, its a little bit about him, because the phrase ‘rest in peace’ appeared on my Facebook homepage several times today. Not unexpected really – happens every time someone dies. Rest in peace. What I do find slightly unexpected is when my Christian friends use it. Maybe its a deficiency in my understanding but I’m not really sure what it means when Christians say it. That is, I don’t know what they are trying to express when they say it.

As Christians we know this

27 People are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment. Hebrews 9:27

We also know this

36 Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on them. John 3:36

Some will rest. They’ll rest in peace because they rest in Jesus. And for the others – this pithy expression of sympathy seems disingenuous at best.

The only way to rest in peace is to rest in Jesus. Want to know more?

Death is not the end

20But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. 22For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. 23But each in his own turn: Christ, the firstfruits; then, when he comes, those who belong to him. 24Then the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power. 25For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. 26The last enemy to be destroyed is death. 27For he “has put everything under his feet.” Now when it says that “everything” has been put under him, it is clear that this does not include God himself, who put everything under Christ. 28When he has done this, then the Son himself will be made subject to him who put everything under him, so that God may be all in all. 1 Corinthians 15:20-28

Do not resuscitate

It’s one of those things you see in TV shows all the time. I’ve lost counts of the number of times a story on Grey’s Anatomy has revolved around a DNR (do not resuscitate) signed by patient, then disputed by a loved one. How about when Issy was unconscious after surgery on her brain. Alex, her new husband pleads for the doctors to do something. Insert suspenseful 2 minutes before the chief exclaims “screw the DNR” and they save her life.

It makes for exciting TV and until this morning meant little more than that to me personally. But this morning my mum signed a DNR order for my Grandma. Strangely since then all I can think about is every TV show I’ve seen when a doctor ignores a DNR and the patient miraculously survives.

This is a little different though. Firstly you may wonder why my mum signed it and not my Grandma herself. Grandma lives in the dementia ward of a nursing home. She has Alzheimer’s disease. Mum has power of attorney so this is just one among many tough decisions she has to make for her mum.

I think she’s doing the right thing. If something happens and Grandma is in a situation that requires resuscitating, even if doctors successfully revive her, she’s still going to have Alzheimer’s. She still won’t know who any of us are. She still won’t remember how to talk. She’ll still need someone to feed her. And bath her. They can revive her a hundred times over but she’s not Grandma anymore and she won’t ever be again. She won’t ever have it good again in this life. But I know where she’s going when she dies and she will have it great then!

I love her and I miss her so much. There’s never a day I don’t pray for her. Everyday the same prayer. Jesus, please make today the day you take her home.

Want to know where you’re going when you die? Find out here.

Reflections on Mark 15:33 – 41

The Death of Jesus

33At the sixth hour darkness came over the whole land until the ninth hour. 34And at the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?”—which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

35When some of those standing near heard this, they said, “Listen, he’s calling Elijah.”

36One man ran, filled a sponge with wine vinegar, put it on a stick, and offered it to Jesus to drink. “Now leave him alone. Let’s see if Elijah comes to take him down,” he said.

37With a loud cry, Jesus breathed his last.

38The curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom.39And when the centurion, who stood there in front of Jesus, heard his cry and saw how he died, he said, “Surely this man was the Son of God!”

40Some women were watching from a distance. Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James the younger and of Joses, and Salome. 41In Galilee these women had followed him and cared for his needs. Many other women who had come up with him to Jerusalem were also there.

There’s been a few moments in my life when this passage has had a strong impact on me. The most recent was last year during a class at college. We had spent the term looking at Colossians 1:15 – 20 which talks about Christ, the one by whom ‘all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible … all things were created by him and for him’.

After a few weeks of considering Christ as the creator of all things, we watched the scene of his death in ‘The Passion of the Christ’. I’ve seen the movie a few times and I’ve always found it a little unsettling, but this day was very different. I came to the conclusion that its inadequate to say that Jesus died for me. Because he didn’t JUST die. He was tortured, and humiliated. He was everyone’s enemy. And during this, while his was nailed to a cross, he calls to his father and he is mocked some more. He didn’t just die for me.

He also didn’t just die FOR me, he died because of me. Isaiah 53 says ‘We all like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all’.

Watching the portrayal of this scene from Marks gospel I felt the full weight of that, probably for the first time. I don’t think I had ever really considered before what my part was in Jesus’ death. It’s easy to remove myself from it or to think that if I were there I would have been one of the good, faithful women who had followed him and cared for him. But I realized that it’s much more likely that I would have joined those mocking Jesus that day. In fact I did join them, because his death was a culmination of everyone’s sin, including mine. My sin isn’t just something that happens in my life, years after Jesus’ death – I was right there in the midst of it all, because he was wearing MY sin on the cross. Jesus, the one who created all things, who gave all people breath, breathed his last because of my sin.

So that was quite an overwhelming and emotion hour not just for me, but my whole class. After class I sat with some friends just trying to work out what it was that we were feeling and how to pick up and get on with our day. I see the answer in this passage. While it reminds me of the magnitude of my sin and the part my sin played in Jesus’ death, it also shows me the power of his death and why I don’t have to worry about those things too much.

At first it may not seem that impressive that when he died the curtain in the temple was torn in two, but it’s a beautiful sign of what happened in that moment. When I become a Christian one of the first things that really amazed me was the size and the power of Jesus’ ability to forgive us. I had being struggling with the thought that my sin was too big for Jesus to forgive.

But here we see not just any curtain, but a massive 3-inch think curtain that separated sinful man from a Holy God, spontaneously tear in two. And we see a centurion, a Roman soldier who was there to take part in the crucifixion, confess ‘surely this man is the son of God’. Jesus’ death is powerful enough to abolish the divide between us and God, and powerful enough to make the most unlikely people confess that he is Lord, and powerful enough to forgive even my sin.

I was to reflect on what this passage means to me for our Good Friday service. To me it means that Christ was tortured, humiliated and died not just for me, but because of me and that this it’s powerful enough to bring me forgiveness. Surely that means I owe him my life. Because surely this man IS the Son of God.