In the Midst of Death

by Scott A. Schmieding

Even with reminders of death all around us, I found our “resurrection reality” on display not long ago when I led a committal service in New Orleans.

The deceased was a baptized, faithful sister in Christ, Hazel Pinkerton.  Throughout her painful battle with cancer and even during her final, dying breaths, Hazel often said, “God is good.”  She lived and died as a person who knew the resurrection is a reality.

It was a warm, sunny day when we arrived at the cemetery.  We processed behind the casket through the narrow maze between long aisles of tall vaults and family mausoleums.  Hazel’s remains were placed in her family’s elevated mound surrounded by concrete walls.

To lead the committal service, I stood on a ledge next to the casket.  We sang a hymn and prayed and read scripture.  As I looked out into the faces of those gathered, I noticed something else surrounding us.  Because I was standing a few feet higher than the others, I saw crosses- hundreds of crosses- on the top of almost every vault, mausoleum, and tomb in that cemetery.

At the end of the service, the cemetery workers opened Hazel’s casket and placed a plastic bag next to her body. They explained that in the bag were small pieces of the wooded casket and some bone fragments from the remains of Hazel’s mother.  The cemetery workers had uncovered the fragments as they dug the shallow grave for Hazel’s burial.  Hazel’s husband, Grady, said, “Just thing about how amazing this place will be at the resurrection.  God must be good at jigsaw puzzles.”

How long do you hope to live — 80, 90, 100 years?

Our earthly bodies are like Humpty Dumpty.  We are frail, broken beings.  The passing years provide ample reminders of our frailty: aches and pains, poor eyesight, loss of hearing, high blood pressure, heart problems, memory loss.

To make matters worse, our problem is not just physical- it is also spiritual.  We are broken spiritually because of sin.  The wages of sin is death, and death means that our bodies will decay and return to dust.  Sin has also destroyed our relationship with God.

But every day, we give thanks that we have a Savior who can put any broken thing back together.  He repairs broken lives and broken relationships- especially our broken relationship with His Father.  One day He will even repair our disintegrated, lifeless bodies.

Jesus said, “I am the Resurrection and the Life.  He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.”

This is the message of Easter and the empty tomb.

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