(The Vicar’s Letter for April’s village magazines)
Benjamin Franklin, the famous scientist and co-founder of the United States of America once wrote “in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes” As recent publicity about some companies has shown, perhaps taxes are not so certain after all, but death is still with us.
The author Terry Pratchett, who died recently, wrote a lot about Death, who was a character in Pratchett’s Discworld books, responsible for ensuring that every living thing was properly collected when it reached the end of its life. Pratchett’s Death is not unkind, but rather is concerned about justice, and sometimes prepared to be flexible – and there is always something to come after the end of life.
In the weekly “Faith and Belief” sessions at Swavesey Village College, we have been offering the students a choice of six topics to engage with, all based round the Easter story: hope, evil, justice, forgiveness, suffering, and death. Invariably, the first topic they all choose is death.
Perhaps it is a measure of how we as a society relate to death that youngsters find themselves drawn to explore questions about it, and even a staunch atheist like Terry Pratchett couldn’t bring himself to think of it as the end of all possibilities.
In the Christian year, the Easter story, with death at its heart, is not nearly as popular as Christmas: there’s no baby and no tinsel (though chocolate is an Easter bonus!) Instead there’s betrayal, immense suffering, death … and resurrection!
The Bible never shies away from the reality or the pain of death, but it also holds out the promise of resurrection – that the end of this life does not mean the end of meaning or love, that nothing good is ever really lost, and that God will, at the last, bring all things together in a new creation.
Jesus’ Resurrection was the down-payment for all our resurrections and the time when, in the words of Revelation, God himself will be with us; he will wipe every tear from our eyes, and death will be no more.