The combination of two readings at Evening Prayer on Wednesday has been running around my brain the last couple of days. In 1 Kings 17, the prophet Elijah raises from death the son of a widow who has been sheltering him during the divinely-imposed famine in Israel; in Acts 20, the apostle Paul brings back from death a young man who has fallen from a window after falling asleep during a lengthy apostolic homily.
Back from death.
I don't want to be morbid about it, but there's really no getting around the fact that death is the only absolutely terrible thing, the only thing that is, in an absolutely unqualified sense, disaster. Anything else, even the worst thing, leaves us with some hope, or perhaps the possibility of learning, or perhaps the door to repentance. Death ends it all. Let's not kid ourselves or give false comfort by saying that death is not the end. It is the end. The annihilation of everything I have been, could have been, wanted to be. And it is an intruder. I was not made for this. In so far as life is God's gift, it is grace, benefit, goodness - yes, even in all its struggles and hardships. Death is the taking away of that gift. Nowhere else do we see so clearly, if we have the eyes for it, that we stand under God's judgement.
All our days pass away under your wrath.
To be called back from death is nothing less than new creation. Undoing the destruction, preserving the personality, remaking the life that has passed into shadow.
How can it be?
Jesus died, so that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery.
Do you believe this, O my fearful soul?