It has been two and half weeks since my grandmother passed away. So many sweet memories are still coming to my mind as I walk through my daily routines. I do not think it is a coincidence that exactly two weeks since I saw my Mema for the last time I completed a book that has taken me close to 2 ½ months to read. Nor do I think it was a coincidence I read the ending pages on the way to visit Scott’s Aunt who is dying of cancer. Of what coincidence do I speak? A sermon delivered by Dietrich Bonhoeffer during the early years of his pastorate.
Death is such a strange and foreign part of this life here on earth and it is hard to put into words what it is and how we are to respond. This is why riding down I-45, I believe the words from Bonhoeffer’s sermon reached into my soul. The words express and describe death in a way that so clearly explains how others and I can have a right understanding of death and walk in the peace and comfort of our Lord Jesus Christ. So in memory of my Mema and all those whose loved ones are facing death or have already passed, I would like to share with you the following so that you too might be comforted.
“We know that Bonhoeffer thought of death as the last station on the road to freedom, as he put it in his poem, “Stations on the Road to Freedom.” Even if millions have seen Bonhoeffer’s death as tragic and as a prematurely ended life, we can be certain that he did not see it that way at all. In a sermon he preached while a pastor in London, he said:
No one has yet believed in God and the kingdom of God, no one has yet heard about the realm of the resurrected, and not been homesick from that hour, waiting and looking forward joyfully to being released from bodily existence.
Whether we are young or old makes no difference. What are twenty or thirty or fifty years in the sight of God? And which of us knows how near he or she may already be to the goal? That life only really begins when it ends here on earth, that all that is here is only the prologue before the curtain goes up—that is for young and old alike to think about. Why are we so afraid when we think about death?…Death is only dreadful for those who live in dread and fear of it. Death is not wild and terrible, if only we can be still and hold fast to God’s Word. Death is not bitter, if we have not become bitter ourselves. Death is grace, the greatest gift of grace that God gives to people who believe in him. Death is mild, death is sweet and gentle; it beckons to us with heavenly power, if only we realize that it is the gateway to our homeland, the tabernacle of joy, the everlasting kingdom of peace.
How do we know that dying is so dreadful? Who knows where, in our human fear and anguish we are only shivering and shuddering at the most glorious, heavenly, blessed event in the world?
Death is hell and night and cold, if it is not transformed by our faith. But that is just what is so marvelous, that we can transform death.” (Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy by Eric Metaxas)
Praise God we can transform death by placing our trust and faith in Christ Jesus and the work He did on the cross for our sins. We can take our hope and reassurance from 1 Peter 1:3-4:
“Praise the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. According to His great mercy, He has given us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead and into an inheritance that is imperishable, uncorrupted, and unfading, kept in heaven for you.”
Whether 2 months, 20, 30 or 50 years, God promises to hold us through the loss of loved ones. May you be held and over flooded with peace today.