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Blessed Are the Dead

I have always flirted with singing. I say flirted because I didn’t push to develop my voice. I did it for fun. For years I was told that I could not sing. Yet I continued singing to myself every day. One day I mimicked Placido Domingo’s voice in ‘Perhaps Love’. To my amazement and my friends amazement I pulled it off. Everyone encouraged me to perform it for our upcoming Harvest concert. Again it was well received. After that, I began flirting with choral music.

I joined the choir at church and the Methodist Chorale of Jamaica. It was an ecumenical choir consisting of many denominations, despite the name. One year we did Johannes Brahms’ A German Requiem. My favorite movement from the composition was ‘Blessed Are the Dead’. It was difficult. The notes were very high. I sang first tenor and experienced much discomfort from singing like a castrato male. Yet I loved it! The words took residence in my heart.

Blessed are the dead
that die in the Lord
from henceforth

Yea, saith the Spirit,
that they rest from their labors,
and their works shall follow them

Why am I thinking about death. I recently comforted someone who lost a loved one to suicide. Only two weeks before we buried my cousin. At the funeral there was much mourning but it was preceded by the great news of the work she did, selflessly and silently for decades, for the Lord.

A few months earlier I had a conversation with a friend regarding someone who was on life support. Many requests were being made for God to perform a miracle. During our conversation the will of the Lord was revealed. His will was for the person to die. By Word of wisdom, the Lord graciously stated why it was best for the person to depart. A few hours later, confirmation of the death came. The individual’s brief life on earth had ended but life in eternity had just begun.

Death is an event we all have to deal with. There is a Latin phrase ‘Media vita in morte sumus’ which translates ‘in the midst of life we are in death’. We do not like to talk about it. Some people refuse to make plans because they believe doing so will cause them to die before their ‘destined time’.

Talking about death makes us very uncomfortable but it is something we must talk about. What should we as believers do when there is death?

Traditional Approach to Mourning

Our Jamaican tradition is for there to be 9 days of mourning. It is customarily called ‘nine nights’.  During that time people visit the home. Music and games are played and there is feasting. People will carry food to the home or make monetary donations. Everything is done to comfort those who have lost their loved one.

At the funeral and graveside, some people go all out with their mourning. They go in deeeep! Their cries are so loud that it almost wake the dead. When my grandmother’s husband ‘Uncle George’ died we experienced something similar. Our cousin and neighbour, Miss Matty, uttered a cry that alerted the village for miles around.

“Wwaaayiieee! Maas George dead!”

It was extremely loud and repetitive. Everyone instantly knew that Mr George had died. The entire rural village of Friendship District, St. Ann, Jamaica, came streaming towards the home. People left their fields. Their shops. Children left school. Everyone came! That was decades ago but we still have a few of these people at the funeral. Don’t deny it, families do have one of those relatives.

Mourning is differently in several cultures. When Jacob, Israel, died. Joseph, his brethren and all of Egypt mourned the loss of their patriarch for 70 days. Can you imagine that!  All of 70 days. Then they carried him to Canaan to be buried and observed many other days of mourning. The Bible tells us that when the Canaanites saw the mourning that was done at the threshing floor of Atad, they said ‘This is a grievous mourning for the Egyptians’. (see Genesis 50:1-14). In Mexico, mourning is done for days. People will visit the relatives of the deceased. Meals are served to visitors. Lots of people will join in prayer for the dead. Altars are erected to the dead. The latter observations I will address in another article. It differs by countries and cultures but there is normally some period of mourning.

I believe that is is time that we have a different conversation about mourning. The body of Christ present something different from the traditional observations. Our minds must be renewed. What has happened to us? Christians rejoiced while they were being slain in the Colosseum  of the Roman Empire. They faced death with joy, gladness and peace. What has happened. Have we drifted so far from the Word of God that we dare not consider our hope? A biblical approach is needed. Our minds and hearts must be prepared for a different reaction when a saint dies?

Ecclesiastes 3:1-4 New King James Version (NKJV)

Everything Has Its Time

To everything there is a season,
A time for every purpose under heaven:

A time to be born,
    And a time to die;
A time to plant,
    And a time to pluck what is planted;
A time to kill,
    And a time to heal;
A time to break down,
    And a time to build up;
A time to weep,
    And a time to laugh;
A time to mourn,
    And a time to dance;

Biblical Approach to Mourning

Philippians 1:23 Amplified Bible (AMP)

23 But I am hard-pressed between the two. I have the desire to leave [this world] and be with Christ, for that is far, far better;

 Jesus wept at Lazarus’ grave. Why? He was deeply saddened that the people mourned although He was in their midst. Despair had overtaken them. It caused them to forget that He was the resurrection and the life (John 11:25) . Hope in his ability to grant life was lost. Are we mourning because we do not understand that life is in Him?

It is important that we prepare our hearts for the departure of those we love. Mental, emotional and financial preparation must be made, if possible. Otherwise, we may fall to the clutches of the spirits of depression and despair.

God prepared the prophet Ezekiel for the death of his wife. He told him when he would take her and how to observe her death. It was a sign to the people. (See Ezekiel 24:15-24). If we are willing to listen, He will tell us, years before, a loved one dies. He will not us be unaware (John 16:13).

We must serve our relatives. Share the gospel with our unsaved relatives. Regularly pray for their salvation. Be patient. It will not be easy. Encourage those that are in Christ. Co-labour with them. Pray for them also. Encourage them to make prepareations for that day. Help them make it, if you are allowed. Help them finish well.

Let the words of God resonate in your soul. Fix your mind on the truth of God’s words. Death is not final. It is only the beginning. After death only the body remains. The true man is no longer there. Our soul and spirit has transitioned on to glory.

1 Thessalonians 4:13-17 English Standard Version

Therefore we are always confident, knowing that, whilst we are at home in the body, we are absent from the Lord: (For we walk by faith, not by sight:) We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord. Wherefore we labour, that, whether present or absent, we may be accepted of him.

2 Corinthians 5:6-9 King James Version

But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord.

Let us rejoice!  Rejoice! Our loved ones fought a good fight. Rejoice! They ran a good race. Rejoice! There is a crown of righteousness that awaits them. Rejoice! They rest from their labours. Rejoice!

2 Timothy 4:7-8 New King James Version

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing.

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