Meaning in Death

“To die, to sleep—
No more—and by a sleep to say we end
The heartache and the thousand natural shocks
That flesh is heir to—’tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wished! To die, to sleep.
To sleep, perchance to dream—ay, there’s the rub,
For in that sleep of death what dreams may come
When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,
Must give us pause. There’s the respect
That makes calamity of so long life.” — Hamlet
Continuing a recent theme, we must pause to question whether there is any meaning in death. Death — that closure of possibilities; Death — that last enemy to be defeated. Whether it is embraced in a stoicism or a philosophical release of the soul from the body (à la Socrates) or it is shuddered at and avoided (à la Hamlet), it is the inevitable end of humankind. It is experience throughout life in the deaths of others. Is it darkness? Can one die with dignity? Is avoiding death the purpose of health and modern medicine? These are just a few of the questions.

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True Martyrs

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They’re supposed to be safe there but they’re not. They’re vulnerable. Say the holy words. Remember Issa. — Homeland, Abu Nazir

Are you a martyr? This word carries with it certain connotations today. These are not necessarily the best or most loving connotations. Especially in the wake of terrorism and jihadism in the twenty-first century, martyrdom is associated with killing (often suicidal) for a religious cause. Or it is associated with dying, being killed, for belonging to a certain religious group, persecuted, often times, by a different religious group. But it was not always defined in this manner.

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Hope: A Theological Virtue

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And now faith, hope, and love abide.

Paul ends a well known passage of Scripture with these words. He goes on to claim that the greatest is love, but the three taken together — faith, hope, and love — are known as the theological virtues. They are virtues that go above and beyond the classical virtues (prudence, justice, temperance, courage), derived not from the natural state of human life but from a developing relationship with the divine. Today, it would seem odd to call these virtues, and even more odd to call them theological, since does not hope (or love or faith) abide in cultural without the need for God? To begin to understand this, we must begin with time.

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Hope in Hard Times

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I don’t know where you’re at. I don’t know your circumstances. I don’t know your pain or your suffering, but I do know that you will face them. All people undergo various pains, troubles. Some might seem light and momentary; some are world destroying, so destructive that all the meaningful things you’ve built up around yourself crumble away. There are times when there seems to be no hope.

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Politics and Hope

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Man is a political animal. — Aristotle

The great political question, according to the philosophers of the enlightenment, was why would the individual give up her inherent liberty to another body, to an institution. Different theories arose, the social contract being the most dominant. But I think there is another reading possible: we come together, because we are hopeful, because we hope for a better life, a better world, a better future.

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Sermon Edition: Manifest in Human Life

This is the situation: a foreign people have moved into the land. They dress differently than you. They eat differently than you, and so they even smell differently than you. Some of the countrymen have taken it on themselves to oppose these foreigners, sometimes violently. And there is violence, back and forth, an unstable situation, with untold amounts of human suffering and misery. Now, given this week, this could be Paris, but in fact, it was also the same situation in first century Palestine. Only, of course, those foreigners were the ones in power, and some of the countrymen, the Jews, were complicit in the occupation, leading, of course, to more violence. The baptism of Jesus is situated in this situation, and it speaks to this situation and to human life, complicated with its politics, its ethics, and its symbols. Speaking of, let’s talk first about water here.

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…behold, new things come.

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“And he who was seated on the throne said, ‘Behold, I am making all things new.'” — Revelation 21:5

 If all endings can be beautiful while being painful, embracing the new should come as no surprise: it can also be beautiful and painful. Birth itself is a painful process, and it exemplifies a fact of all beginnings: they are hard. When things change, they do not go without resistance, but as we push forward, we may yet enter into joy. We may yet see all things pass away and all things become new…

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