March 25, 2020

Normal death is not in lockdown

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Damien Hirst: New Religion

Normal death is not in lockdown.

Normal death is not following government directives.

Normal death is not watching for the latest updates from the Prime Minister

Normal death did not stockpile humans like toilet paper.

Normal death was confident there would be plenty of humans left over for after the virus had done its job.

Normal death went about its daily life doing what normal death always does.

Killing people.

Be assured, normal death services have resumed as normal.  Funerals are no longer normal. But everything else about death is.

Normal death kills people in the ways that we grew to consider as normal.  Cancer, suicide, age, heart attack, drug overdose.

Normal death has just claimed the life of a young man who was in my daughter’s school cohort just over a year ago.  One year out of school with the world at his feet, but a tree through his windscreen.

A tragic normal death.  Not, tragically, a normal funeral.

Funerals will now no give us the chance to undertake the almighty grieving we once were entitled to.

Such grief will have to be stored up for later, pressed down, suppressed perhaps, for when the floodgates of grief are permitted to be opened by the culture for anything beyond this deathly virus.

Oh the pain and grief that is waiting and building and bubbling! Would that it were not so!  But it is.

Normal death. Tragic, awful death.  Yet so normal. A year has not gone by in the past five or so in which a student from that school has not been killed according to the pattern of normal death. Normal to all those on the periphery.  Monstrous to all at the centre.

Yet now we know that death is not normal.  Now we know that it is not on the periphery, ever. Now we know in a way we had perhaps not known before, that it is an all consuming monster.

Now we see what it looks like for a whole culture to be enslaved to the fear of death.  We laughed about that. We ignored it. We bought white goods and went on cruises to dull the toothache pain it caused us collectively.  But now we see what it means to be enthralled by death. To be enshrouded by it.

Now we see that the “devil-may-care” attitude for all these decades of good times in the West was just all a bluff.  A bluster that now looks foolish.

We are reminded in Hebrews 2 of Jesus:

Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.

Held in slavery by their fear of death. That slavery was easily transposed into freedom as we went about enjoying the fruits of our labours in a society of ease that cannot handle death.

But strip back the veneer a little, and there is that fear of death – normal or otherwise – in all its skull-grimacing urgency.

What shall we do in these times of death, both normal and abnormal?  We must look to life.  And not to normal life.  That life is now the way of death.

But that reading about Jesus gives us hope.  Why?  Because there was a peculiar abnormal death that lead to a peculiar abnormal life.

Jesus tastes death, it says, so that its power would be broken over us – the enslaving fear we had – and still have – of it.  Normal death had no power over him, yet he gave himself willingly to death – an abnormal death – for us.  Jesus goes through death to a new way of living altogether

And this abnormal life? Let’s call it new life.  New creation life.  Life that really is life.  Jesus frees us from the devil’s power of death over us.

For we were fooled into thinking normal life looked like ease and pleasure and comfort and experiences and personal freedom. But underneath it all was a lurking sea monster screaming towards the surface intent on dragging us down to the abyss.

Yet in his abnormal death, and now his abnormal life, Jesus offers us perfect freedom in life or death that no lockdown could ever provide for us.


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There is no guarantee that Jesus will return in our desired timeframe. Yet we have no reason to be anxious, because even if the timeframe is not guaranteed, the outcome is! We don’t have to waste energy being anxious; we can put it to better use.

Stephen McAlpine – futureproof

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