I couldn’t help but think how strange all of this was, the scene unfolding before me. Shoes shifting uncertainly in the fresh dirt scattered on the dark grass, the smell of earth eerily comforting as I stood in the black-shrouded crowd. Rain imminent in threat as I looked up into the gray sky. The crowd felt the moisture coming.
Veiled in black. Covered in our darkest threads.
Into your hands, Father of mercy, we commend our sister…
My stomach was grumbling. Of all the moments to be reminded of my continual groaning for food, this might be the worst. Nothing like a funeral to bring out the appetite. I thought of the Italian dinner waiting for us at the reception. Not a single Nanny meatball would be there, but close enough.
We stood appalled at the hungry grave before us, like a starving adult ravenously devouring a spread of fruit and cheese at a dinner party. We all felt it, this embarrassed horror. A jagged, gaping earthy mouth in the ground open wide to receive another emptied loved one.
How many more meals? How many more holes must we dig? A numbness encased my heart. My beard is wet and I’m not sure if I have been crying or if the rain started pouring. A hunger pain shot through my abdomen. Get it over with, Father.
And it’s here, at this conflicted graveside with groaning insides, that words uttered thousands of years ago come welling up inside of me.
He will swallow up death forever…
It is a timely word to the people of Israel. After many lengthy words about exile and judgment ultimately due to covenantal failure, the prophet moves to a vision of the end of all things. And there, in words that come like a sun-ray through the impending doom-clouds, the old man tells of a renewed place for these wanderers. With unforeseen resolve, he tells of One who refuses to let the tyrant Death to run rampant any longer…
The weight of life has been and will be hard, and toilsome. But the shadow that hangs over the living will be banished, fleeing under the piercing light of eternal day.
We know this weight. It has been a constant reality for us who live this side of eternity. But it’s day will be done. It will be swallowed up.
Who can stop the unyielding appetite of death? Who can reverse the effect of all of our constant running and blaming? Who can swallow up the swallower?
Well, He can.
Behold, this is our God.
- How does death shape your everyday living?
- When was the last time you lamented over the effects of decay and sin in our world?
- What about God as the “swallower of death” causes you to worship?
- As ambassadors of God on earth, how can we be realistically aware that the sting of death still exists, and yet mourn with hope?
- Phil Maucieri