The people's voice of reason

O Death, Where Is Your Sting?

It’s been my experience that funeral home directors generally have a great sense of humor. I asked a gentleman about this once and he explained that a sense of humor is the only thing that saved him from awful depression. I can imagine these men and women deal with the greatest of tragedies.

But on the other hand, I’ve heard some interesting stories from them. One funeral home employee told me about trying to salvage a graveside service after several pallbearers were drunk, and one fell into the open grave. I can’t imagine officiating at this service and trying to recoup!

It wasn’t funny to me at the time, but it was memorable.

I was in the Old Live Oak Cemetery in Selma conducting a service not far from the mausoleum of Alabama Sen. William Rufus King, the only Alabamian to serve as U.S. vice president, albeit briefly. He was sworn in on the island of Cuba where he’d traveled for his health, only to die a month later. He also became the only vice president to be sworn in on foreign soil. Today he’s honored as one of the founders of Selma as well as James Buchanan’s vice president, at least for a few weeks.

Nevertheless, I was nearby this site and trying to comfort the family when I felt sharp pain in my feet and legs. I tried to be discreet but found to my dismay that I was standing in a nest of yellow jackets. I think I was stung three times, but managed to complete the service. A dignified and cultured Selmian, Louise Swertfeger, later told me she was stung repeatedly as well, but I remember her sitting and looking, well, dignified and cultured, despite this.

I always think of this funeral when I read Paul’s word in 1 Corinthians: “O Death, where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory?” (1 Corinthians 15: 55).

All my life I’ve heard preachers explain this verse to their congregations. Christ took our punishment on the cross temporally so that we can be released from the sting of death eternally.

Death does sting. No one of us wants to see the deaths of those we love, except in times when their suffering is so terrible with no hope of recovery. Most often death is as unwelcome as a thief in the night. The death angel is normally not invited inside our homes to visit.

But Paul reminded his readers, and us, that the sting of death is temporary. Those who believe and follow Christ are assured that he accompanies us across the River of Death and brings us safely home to the father.

This is our resurrection hope. -30-

“Reflections” is a weekly faith column written by Michael J. Brooks, pastor of the Siluria Baptist Church, Alabaster, Alabama. The church’s website is siluriabaptist.com.

 

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