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Words of life in a dying world

April 25, 2011 No Comment

by Don Schiemann 

As a pastor, I have often been called to the hospital when a church member is close to death. There are a number of Bible passages I read to the dying to comfort and strengthen them in their last hours—in some cases, in their last moments.

One passage in particular seems to have a powerfully calming effect. “Lord, now let your servant depart in peace, according to your word. For mine eyes have seen your salvation which you have prepared in the sight of all people, a light to lighten the Gentiles and the glory of your people Israel” (Luke 2:29-32). As a matter of fact, in several instances as I read this passage to the dying, they took their last breath.

But God’s Word not only prepares people for death, it also prepares them for life. The message of Easter is such a life-giving word. On the first Easter morning, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome went to the tomb of Jesus to anoint His dead body. Instead they found the stone rolled away from the entrance to the tomb and, inside, an angel who said to them: “You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid Him” (Mark 16:6).

That was indeed startling news. Even more amazing was that, later on, they actually saw the risen Saviour. St. Paul documents multiple resurrection appearances. He writes, “For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born” (1 Corinthians 15:3-8).

This Easter, churches throughout LCC and beyond celebrated and rejoiced in the words “He is risen.” Why? Because in the midst of this dying world, they are words of life. Jesus, the incarnate Son of God, has taken our place under the Law and, at the cross, atoned for the sins of the whole world. God the Father has raised Him from the dead and promised there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus—only life!

The message of Easter prepares us for life. Christ is risen from the dead. He has conquered death. Through faith, we are connected to Jesus’ life, death and resurrection. This connection is so complete that the Scriptures tell us, “Here is a trustworthy saying: If we died with him, we will also live with him” (Titus 2:11).

This is the essence of the Christian hope. As sinners living in a sin-cursed world, every breath we take draws us to the end of our earthly life. Yet, trusting in our Lord Jesus and His promises of forgiveness, life and salvation, these same breaths draw us to the end of all suffering, pain, sorrow and death, and the beginning of resurrection life with the Lord and Giver of life! The hymn writer expresses it so well:

Thine the glory in the night, no more dying, only light

Thine the river, Thine the tree, then the Lamb eternally.

Then the holy, holy, holy celebration jubilee,

Thine the splendour, Thine the brightness

Only Thee, only Thee! (LSB 680)

Rev. Don Schiemann is president of Lutheran Church–Canada’s Alberta-British Columbia District. 

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