"When you're standing at the crossroads that you cannot comprehend
Just remember that death is not the end.
And all your dreams have vanished and you don't know what's up the bend
Just remember that death is not the end.
Not the end, not the end,
Just remember that death is not the end."
~Bob Dylan
        We have all heard Psalm 23:4 at some place or another, whether from Coolio's Gangsta's Paradise, or at great aunt Hilda's funeral, but I'll throw it in for good measure:
"Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I will fear no evil for you are with me"
Okay, so Coolio's lyric's differ slightly...

       Those of you who are connected to fellowship in the metro-Detroit area know about Dr. Bob Patterson, and know that we've been walking in the shadow of his cancer for 2 years.  The end of my semester this verse came alive to me.  The most beautiful girl I've ever seen in my life, Anna Bonde, was hit by a drunk driver in Illinois.  A week or so later a kid I grew up with name Nick Rose collapsed at a tennis match and died.  And now I am back in Detroit to find that dear Dr. Bob is in an unstable condition.  Death, indeed, is all around us. We all have to greive death at some point or another if we live long enough. We also have to die sometime.
         Anna's funeral was unique in many ways.  Her father was her pastor, and amazingly gave one of the sermons.  His words will stick with me always. Those who knew Anna know about the life in Anna. She was constantly beaming with light from Jesus, even her friends that weren't believers could recognize this. This is what her father said (paraphrased of course), "Those who know Jesus died and started living eternally.  Those who knew Anna could see that she was living eternally. She didn't die in that car accident, she died a long time ago, and has been living ever since." And he told her highschool buds, not necessarily all christians, "Seek after that eternal life. Seek after that life that you saw in Anna." I wish everyone in the world could have known her.  I really do. Because she displayed the life of Jesus better than anyone I've come across yet. She truly lived. Anna's dad's words are still with me as we walk with the shadow of death all around us.

       I came across this quote earlier this year:
" 'I will not be tortured to death,' I cried, 'I will meet it half way. The life within me is yet enough to bear up to the face of Death, and then I die unconquered.'"
~George MacDonald, PHANTASTES
        You see, living in this world is a battle against death.  Clifford Buckingham (fabulous name, isn't it?) pointed out that we live in a world where we are never certain when we wake up in the morning, whether or not we will survive to see the end of the day.  Everyone has this battle, not just Christians. Actually, as Anna's dad told the weeping congregation, Christians don't really have this battle . We sing a song at church called the Servent song "Our Jesus broke all the chains and He conquered death just for us and He walks now free in Glory so that we could be His brothers."  Jesus conquered death so that we could die unconquered.  Suddenly death becomes a reason to rejoice!
        One of our elders at my church mentioned his teaching last sunday that "Come Go With me To That Land" is the happiest song in our song book. It's the only one our no-rhythm-white-congregation actually cares to claps their hands to. We sang it last sunday and the whole room came alive with hopes for eternal life. The song reminds us that "We're gonna meet Jesus in that land," and "There''ll be singin and dancing in that land" and "Milk and Honey in that land" (unless you're a Rastafarian, right Lisa?), and everyone just gets hyped for heaven. 

       Death is this world's most dangerous weapon, but Jesus defeats even that.  I like how Mr. Bob Dylan relates the desperation of losing dreams and death in his song "Death is Not the End."  A battle I always face is the desperation of having my big dreams vanish. I see that as the single worse thing in this world that could happen to me (I think we all have ideas of what the worst thing in the world would be).  But notice that I said "In this world."  Death is just a part of this world. Those who have sided with Jesus have conquered this world. The world will strike us with its last battle when death comes.  Some of those battles are long and force us to undergo extensive suffering, like Dr. Bob's cancer; some are instantaneous like Anna's car accident.  No matter how we face this battle called death, we will win it. We will die unconquered. 

      So while you walk through the valley of the shadow of death,  just remember that death is not the end.      
May 14, 2001
Death Valley
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