Thursday, October 1, 2009

In The Blink Of An Eye

Things happen fast in our world. Through the Internet, communication occurs at the speed of light. Email has replaced snail mail. Blogs have replaced newspaper editorials. When something newsworthy happens, word of it spreads instantaneously through cyberspace.

In the wake of daily deaths as a result of war, earthquakes, tsunamis and other destructive events, I’ve become painfully aware of something else that can happen with lightening speed: death. Just being in the wrong place at the wrong time can result in instant death.

Several years ago I remember being both amused and irritated with a church council member who said, “We need to plan for the future because Bob could get on the wrong plane and, suddenly, we don’t have a pastor!” I was 32 years old at the time and death seemed in the distant future.

Yet, I know this comment expresses a truth, not just about me but about all of us. Life can end in the blink of an eye.

There are at least three ways we can respond to this truth. One way is to deny it. We can live with the illusion that our life will go on for our allotted four score years and death is far in the distance. Our culture’s obsession with looking youthful, extending life and being healthy is part of this death denial.

Another way is to accept this truth and appreciate how precious and fragile human life is. We can be grateful for each day of life, and for each day of life of those we love. Living with the knowledge that life can have a sudden terminus can free us to live enthusiastically and boldly.

To view this truth through the eyes of faith gives us yet another way of responding. Paul expresses this “third way” in his letter to the Corinthians: “Listen, I will tell you a mystery! We will not all die, but we will all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye…”

Paul is pointing to the promise of resurrection and new life. Death is not the final end of life, but a new beginning. God’s ultimate power is to bring new life out of death.

Affirming this isn’t to deny death. Yes, we will all die and some of us will die too soon or too late. Yet, however long or short our life may be, God’s love embraces us eternally. Death is God’s loving embrace.

The hopeful message of Christianity is that God’s love is stronger than death. And nothing, not even sudden death, can separate us or those whom we love from God’s love. Through faith, the blink of an eye is transformed into the twinkling of an eye. Just as death happens in an instant, so does new life.

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