Death bathed in the fiery life of God

Death is always a scary thing to face; even as the author of the epistle to the Hebrews affirms the victory over death that we have in Christ, he also presupposes the reality that the ineluctable trajectory of death that all humanity faces is a constant burden born by all,

14 Since, therefore, the children share flesh and blood, he himself likewise shared the same things, so that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, 15 and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by the fear of death.

songbirdMore personally, my own mortality was something I was pressed up against with my “incurable” cancer diagnosis back in late 2009, early 2010. I tasted, palpably, what it feels like to face what we all unfeelingly live with everyday; the reality that we are all going to die. This reality plunged me into an array of emotions; primary of which was fear. I woke every morning to hear the morning birds singing, and forgetting for a moment that I was probably going to die from an invader into my body that didn’t want to leave, but then quickly being cast back into the abysmal realization that indeed as the birds sang I was dying (and sooner than I had ever dreamed)! Each of my days became dark cavernous things with a bleak hope that I might actually (miraculously) make it to the light (maybe survive) I could vaguely make out at the end of the hole I was in.

I bring my personal situation up to underscore a global reality; we are all going to die (lest the Lord return in Second Advent prior). Whatever the expression of our own personal demise, it is an inevitability that we all live with; ironically with every breath we take. This sounds all so bleak, indeed it is, save the fact that God in Christ in his love shaped power has entered into the depths of our humanity all the way down; and in so doing he has provided hope in and through who he is pro nobis (for us). Katherine Sonderegger writes beautifully of this reality as she opines upon God’s omnipotence and fire like life:

It is the most fundamental metaphysical claim of all, that that Dynamic Life exists, the primal fire burns. For just this reason, life after death, and even more, life in the face of death, is not a concept or a doctrine or a pious hope–not first or principally!–but rather the simple and profound acknowledgment of the creature standing before, and so bathed in, this Omnipotence, this fiery Life. It cannot be baulked, but everything in heaven and on the earth, all powers and principalities, even proud death, will bow the knee before this Living Lord. That is first and principally what the faithful mean when they scoff at death, and what Athanasius praises when he sees the Roman world freed from the feverish fear of death. Even more it was what the faithful intend when they affirm that they and the whole created order will rise again. The Force that is God’s very Being radiates outward, expands and explodes, never ceases or wearies, does not stand in reserve but is always, everywhere, Alive. To merely touch the hem of this garment is to be healed: the Power goes forth from Him, the Power that lives as Deity, the One God.[1]

There is hope oh beleaguered soul. What Sonderegger writes of is our hope; God is truly all powerfully Lord of all, Lord of life (not of the dead). But sometimes we must repose in the valley of the shadow of death in order to thirst for this unquenchable fire to burn away all of our fears with his immortal life.

 

[1] Katherine Sonderegger, Systematic Theology. Volume One, The Doctrine of God (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2015), Loc. 2949, 2955 Kindle.

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