From the Desk of Pastor Olsen
I have seen too much of death lately. Two congregations in our Meadowlands Cluster ended their ministries this year. You may have noticed that our attendance at Trinity is down. That is due in part to the death of several faithful saints that were regularly present with us at worship. Death tore into my family last month and robbed us of the fresh, new life of Parker Hayes.
The Apostle Paul is not sentimental when he speaks about death. He doesn't call it "passing on" or "going to a better place." He calls it what it is: The "enemy." According to Paul, death is nothingness; and if death is allowed to have the last word, life is nothingness too. "If Christ has not been raised," says Paul, "your faith is futile." If there was no resurrection, then Jesus' life and ministry only confirm that nothing we do, nothing we believe, nothing we love matters because death has the last word.
"But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead," Paul insists. So death does not get the last word. The resurrected Jesus is "the first fruits" of a new creation. "For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive," says Paul. Nothing that God has known and loved will be lost. "God is not God of the dead," says Jesus, "but of the living, for all live to him." Redeemer Lutheran in Maywood, Holy Spirit Lutheran in Leonia, Parker Hayes and all those in our congregation known and loved by God have been woven into the fabric of the new heaven and the new earth John of Patmos talks about in the Book of Revelation. The communion of saints and the life everlasting-that's the last word.
Make no mistake about it. Death is still out there and it still hurts. It ends life tragically and too soon. It lingers, allowing life to continue in pain and futility far longer than seems necessary. But Jesus' resurrection has taken the sting out of death. It can no longer hang over us like a black cloud, threatening us with oblivion and telling us that our time is running out. Death's threats are as empty as Jesus' tomb. Quoting what is probably an ancient hymn of the early church, Paul declares:
O death, where is thy victory?
O death, where is thy sting?
The God who made us from dust and returns us to dust promises to recreate us from dust again. Death cannot deprive us of life because our lives do not belong to death. Trapped between the saints in light on the one side and the church on earth at the other, death's kingdom is shrinking and will finally evaporate altogether when time is folded into eternity and Christ is all in all.