Tuesday, December 9, 2008

As winter cold takes a physical & emotional toll, do not succumb to death's friendliness

FARMER'S PERSPECTIVE. Wendell Berry writes eloquently of winter as a season of dying. The contemplative Kentucky farmer watches and respects--even reveres--the turning of each season. Berry accepts more readily what many of us struggle with: the acceptance of death as natural, death as part of a given cycle, death as a necessary yielding under a sun that taketh away as well as giveth. Berry's words ring forthrightly true enough. Winter is the season in which things that started dying in Autumn are killed by frost and freezing even before Winter officially begins.

DORMANT, DEAD, OR SEEDED FOR LIFE? But even the farmer who respects death also knows of life within and beyond these apparent deaths. Some of these "dead" plants are merely dormant. Other organisms, apparently dead, have a life that seems to betray rationality. Still others truly die, but leave seeds behind--seeds that await warmth and light in order to spring forth. And behind the dead and dropped leaf is a covered, protected bud.

A PASTOR'S PERSPECTIVE ON DEATH. As an urban pastor and not a rural farmer, I haltingly acknowledge winter's power of death. It seems that every passing year, it takes an elderly parishioner and I preside over more funerals in winter than in any other season. "Pneumonia is the old man's friend," the adage goes. Well, I do not like that adage. I do not like any words or philosophies or musings that excuse death--that cater to death, that pay homage to death, that bless or deify death. I do not like these because they make a "friend" and an acceptable eventuality something our Lord has declared to be the "enemy" which shall ultimately be defeated.

NOT THE LAST WORD. If you say I must acknowledge death, then acknowledge with me the power and promise of life, of rebirth, of resurrection, and of the eventual triumph of life over death. Acknowledge with me that "the last enemy to be destroyed is death." Let us not revere death. Let us acknowledge its temporary claim, all the while looking it straight in its hollow eyes and declare that Life shall require from it all it has unjustly claimed, that the only death that shall ultimately last will be its own. Hallelujah! Amen.

I welcome your comments and/or questions in the spirit of dialog. Share yours by clicking on "comments" just below. They're moderated only to reduce incivility. Shalom!

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