Death is not the end. (30 March 2020)

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It’s not often you quote Nick Cave in the title of a lectionary post. But there is context. We lost, in NZ, the first person to COVID 19 yesterday (Sunday). Now, there are those who noted that we lose eighty odd people every day, but for the family of that woman the death is real, raw, and I pray that the newshounds leave them alone. They are running out of stories, at the same time that our leader has closed the local papers, who do some good. I am quite aware that over a thousand people have died in the UK, two thousand in France, and ten thousand (perhaps) in Italy. This is sadness.

So the texts set for us today are two of the three times people were raised from the dead in the Bible: the other was when Jesus raised Lazarus, which was a reading I did not quote a couple of days ago. The fourth, of course, is that Jesus raised himself. Do not listen to the progressive Victorians who liked to bowdlerize the bible, saying that this was fainting, that the person was not dead. The ancients were quite intimate with death: it came to them at any age. They knew the difference between coma and death.

Death is not something to fear, but the judgement that follows. This time is tragic, and we can see errors that may have led us to the current situation, but it is not the end. There is hope, and very very occasionally, a miracle.

1 Kings 17:17-24

17 Now it came about after these things that the son of the woman, the mistress of the house, became sick; and his sickness was so severe that there was no breath left in him. 18 So she said to Elijah, “What do I have to do with you, O man of God? You have come to me to bring my iniquity to remembrance and to put my son to death!” 19 He said to her, “Give me your son.” Then he took him from her bosom and carried him up to the upper room where he was living, and laid him on his own bed. 20 He called to the Lord and said, “O Lord my God, have You also brought calamity to the widow with whom I am staying, by causing her son to die?” 21 Then he stretched himself upon the child three times, and called to the Lord and said, “O Lord my God, I pray You, let this child’s life return to him.” 22 The Lord heard the voice of Elijah, and the life of the child returned to him and he revived. 23 Elijah took the child and brought him down from the upper room into the house and gave him to his mother; and Elijah said, “See, your son is alive.” 24 Then the woman said to Elijah, “Now I know that you are a man of God and that the word of the Lord in your mouth is truth.”

Acts 20:7-12

7 On the first day of the week, when we were gathered together to break bread, Paul began talking to them, intending to leave the next day, and he prolonged his message until midnight. 8 There were many lamps in the upper room where we were gathered together. 9 And there was a young man named Eutychus sitting on the window sill, sinking into a deep sleep; and as Paul kept on talking, he was overcome by sleep and fell down from the third floor and was picked up dead. 10 But Paul went down and fell upon him, and after embracing him, he said, “Do not be troubled, for his life is in him.” 11 When he had gone back up and had broken the bread and eaten, he talked with them a long while until daybreak, and then left. 12 They took away the boy alive, and were greatly comforted.

I note that the widow’s son was not named, but the widow was blaming God and the prophet for bringing into the light her failings and (as a pagan) the attention of the Gods led to punishment. The trick was to not come to the notice of the Gods so the Gods ignored you. All the heroes from Gilgamesh to ALexander had been punished.

But in tat situation Elijah showed that he worshiped a greater deity than the demons haunting her thoughts.

We know the name of the young man Paul raised, but nothing else — apart from that he found the sermon too long and was too tired. His resurrection comforted the brothers. We know in both times God was praised.

But how can we praise in a time of grief? We can have a confidence, that those who died in the faith are blessed: for they can now rest form their effort. They gave witness in their time.

But thisis the time we have. This is a time that we need to do our duty. Abd this is a time that we bear witness to the greatness of God, regardless of the lies of the enemy.