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Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Facing Down la Santa Muerte


Facing Down la Santa Muerte

(Recently I met with a young man in his mid-20s and we talked about this subject. That got my wheels turning. And so, taking my cue from the religious cult in Mexico, "Nuestra SeƱora de la Santa Muerte" “Our Lady of Holy Death,” I would like to talk about facing down death.)

La Santa Muerte lingers around in the shimmering shadows of my periphery at every doctor’s appointment; at every exploratory medical procedure; at every birthday; with every new ache and pain in my body. And she would pirouette around Paul, as can be seen in how often he addresses his own death in Philippians, 2 Corinthians and 2 Timothy; and yet Paul would respond:
as it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Philippians 1.20-21).
Before we co any further, let me ask you: What do you want to be remembered for?...Honestly, when you and I die there will not be a disturbance in the Force; the earth will not shudder; the skies will not rip open; and chariots of fire will not whisk down to take us for a ride. So we need to put aside the grandiose and gaudy fantasies because they will only leave us with a handful of dust and disappointment.

Paul’s way of dealing with death:
  • Comprehensive Courage: “as it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always
  • Christ Honored: “Christ will be honored
  • Come what may: “in my body, whether by life or by death.”
  • Capital: “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.”

As Cornelius Plantinga Jr. puts it, people who can say these kinds of things “are Christians who have resolved to live fully but not frantically” (“Beyond Doubt,” 322).

How can Paul be this way, how can he show such resilience in facing down Lady Death? Because his heart and confidence were in line what the writer of Hebrews said… “Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery” (Hebrews 2.14-15).

As the old English puritan, Richard Baxter once wrote, “Christ leads me through no darker rooms than he went through before.”

I encourage you to make Philippians 1.20-21 your:
  • Prayer
  • Passion
  • Program


Feel free to use this outline.

Mike

(I presented a shorter version of this material when giving a charge to ministerial candidates at the 130th Stated Meeting of North Texas Presbytery in Tulsa, Oklahoma on 6 May 2017. This particular outline was given today at the Oklahoma State Capitol when I spoke at the Capitol Forum)

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