The beauty of death

Sermon delivered by Rev’d Akua Ofori-Boateng at Lashibi Funeral Home’s All Soul’s Day Service. (To listen click https://youtu.be/OHfB7-VztUA)

We tend to think of death as an end to all good things.  We despise death because we believe it creates separation between us and those we love.  Death has become for many of us a hideous monster that cuts off all our joys when it comes upon us. And sometimes it makes us bitter…and angry with the world…even angry with God. Because we can’t understand how a loving deity could allow such horrors to take place.

We  feel this way because we think of death as a loss – a loss of a good human being, a loss of potential, a loss of the time that we could have spent.  And so when someone we love dies we are deeply saddened partly because we miss them, but mostly because we view death as a misfortune has befallen them and us.

But that is not what the Bible says about death.  Philippians 1:21 says death is gain.  And the Oxford dictionary says gain is, to increase…to acquire something…to take possession of something…or to get an advantage.

So when Paul says, “To die is gain” it means, in death one is getting an advantage…one is acquiring something…one is increasing.

So the question is, what does a person gain when they die? What do we acquire, or take possession of when we leaves this world?  

That is what I want us to explore this evening using the hymn “In Heavenly Love Abiding”

Let us sing the first stanza

In heavenly love abiding,
no change my heart shall fear;
and safe is such confiding,
for nothing changes here:
the storm may roar without me,
my heart may low be laid;
but God is round about me,
and can I be dismayed?

The first thing we gain in death is A Perfect Life

All of us as we sit here today are subject to all kinds of imperfections in life. We are subject to the joys and disappointments of this life…we are victims to the process of growing and aging…sometimes we are healthy, sometimes we are sick. Sometimes we feel happy, and at other times we are depressed and miserable.  And as we get older, we change from one condition of pain and misery to another.  When I was younger, I would hear my parents friends talk about their diabetes and high blood pressure medication…now they talk about is spondylosis. 🙂

But in heaven, life is perfect. Revelation 21:4 says, “There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.” What this tells us is that there will be a continuation of life…but this time it will be hassle-free! High blood pressure free, diabetes free…spondylosis free.

And therein lies a promise from God…and it is this…that Death is not the end of our existence. The Lord Jesus promises us that: “he who believes in Me, though he dies, he will live…”  In other words, in death, we do not leave the world of the living to join the world of dead, rather we leave the world of the dying to join the world of the living.

When we believe this, and we are faced with the death of our spouse, our parent, or even our child…then in as much as a storm is brewing around us and our hearts are at their lowest point…we will recognize the presence of the Lord encamped around us, and we too like the hymn writer will ask the question, “[how] can I be dismayed?”

The second stanza

Wherever he may guide me,
no want shall turn me back;
my Shepherd is beside me,
and nothing can I lack:
his wisdom ever waketh,
his sight is never dim,
he knows the way he taketh,
and I will walk with him.

In Psalm 23, David describes his experiences with God in terms of his own experiences as a shepherd.  And he writes the psalm in such a way that,  God is the Shepherd, and he David is the sheep.

So when our hymn writer says, my Shepherd is beside me, and nothing can I lack, it is a reference to Psalm 23 verse 1 which says,The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.”  And it is a reminder to us that when we are faced with death, especially when that death alters our life financially, we can look to the second part of Psalm 23, which assures that if we believe as David did, that God is indeed our shepherd, then we can find Comfort in His presence…Peace in the knowledge that He will lay a table before us…and Hope in the fact that our loved one will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”

And therein lies our second gain in death, which is A Perfect Home.  A home that is not flooding like Accra…a home that is not burning like California. A home that is not burdened with the complexities of divorce and the strife that is happening in many of our families …a home where what people say and do what they truly mean.

This home, is a place that Christ Himself has talked to us about…it His Father’s house…the one that has many rooms…

The one of which Thomas asked “so how can we know the way?” to which Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me.” It is for this reason that like the hymn writer, we should  said, “he knows the way he taketh, and therefore I will walk with him.

The third stanza

Green pastures are before me,
which yet I have not seen;
bright skies will soon be o’er me,
where darkest clouds have been;
my hope I cannot measure,
my path to life is free;
my Savior has my treasure,
and he will walk with me.

When we are in the throes of dealing with the death of a loved one, we often reflect on many things to take our minds off our pain.  Sometimes we reflect on our happy memories of the person…how they laughed, their favorite foods, things we did together…

Or sometimes we reflect on scriptures like  Isaiah 41:10 where God says to us, “Do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

You see, all of us in order to get through difficult times need something to egg us on…you know something to get us through…a promise…a reward…some kind of hope…

And so as we struggle through the death of someone we love, we must find that hope the knowledge that God has given us the strength to overcome our suffering and has promised that, if we “…hope in the Him will renew [our] strength…” (Isaiah 40:31)

The Hymnist encouraged herself and encourages us with the words “bright skies will soon be over me, where darkest clouds have been” In other words at her young age of 27, our hymnist; Anna Letitia Waring; was not focused on present her problems, but rather on the rainbow after her storm. 

Like her, we must see joy beyond the present.  We must see the beauty of death in the words of 2 Corinthians 5:1 where Paul says, For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands.” And this is the third gain of our loved ones in death… A PERFECT NATURE. A nature free of all the troubles, ailments and defects of the human body.  

And so this evening as we remember our loved ones who have died, let us remember them, not as they were, but as they are now.  With a perfect nature…

Because, today, unlike us… those we treasure are all clothed in glorious bodies…heavenly bodies…powerful, immortal, incorruptible bodies.  And that knowledge and the is why the hymnist wrote…and why we should sing the words…

my hope I cannot measure,
my path to life is free;
my Savior has my treasure,
and he will walk with me.

In the name of the Father, Son & Holy Spirit…Amen

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