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Death

Obsessed with Death

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A visitor to church might have wondered what was going on yesterday. All Saints Sunday is somewhat of an unusual one, as we remember with joy the deaths of those saints who have gone before us. In churches around the world, we took time to list the names of church members who have died within the past year. We even sing in gory detail about the deaths of the saints of old:

They have come from tribulation And have washed their robes in blood,
Washed them in the blood of Jesus; Tried they were, and firm they stood.
Mocked, imprisoned, stoned, tormented, Sawn asunder, slain with sword…
(TLH 471, v 3)

A glorious band, the chosen few, On whom the Spirit came,
Twelve valiant saints—their hope they knew And mocked the cross and flame.
They met the tyrant’s brandished steel, The lion’s gory mane;
They bowed their necks their death to feel—Who follows in their train?
(LSB 661, v 3)

Nice thing to be singing about with the kids, isn’t it? Being stoned, sawn in half, eaten by lions, burned to death, beheaded… Yep. Nothing to see here, folks. Just an ordinary church service, singing about various ways to die. What is it about Christians, that we’re so obsessed with death?

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Life is Hard and Then You Die

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Life is hard and then you die.

While the exact origin of the quote may be debatable, it’s a sentiment that resonates with many people. When I was a kid, I wanted so badly to be an adult. In my mind, I’d really be free then. Free to do whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted. I could stay up as late as I wanted, eat chocolate whenever I wanted, buy whatever I wanted. I’d get married and have kids and be a perfect mother and a perfect wife with a perfect husband, and we’d all live happily ever after. Basically, I’d have it made. But then I became an adult and realized that adulthood wasn’t all it was cracked up to be. I discovered that I’m not a perfect wife or mom, and neither are my husband or kids perfect. As a child, I never considered things like financial struggles, job loss, relationship difficulties, sickness, or the challenges of parenting. Despite my high hopes for adulthood, my adult self knows something my younger self did not: life is hard.

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Sine Nomine (from the archive)

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(This post originally ran on November 2, 2015, but is entirely apropos for us as we again celebrate All Saints’ Day in the church year.)

I love All Saints’ Day. The Scripture readings speak of the saints in white robes around God’s throne in heaven, we recall the faithfully departed, and we sing some of my favorite hymns. One such hymn is “For All the Saints.” The words are so poignant that I get tears in my eyes every time I sing them. Even the tune name sounds majestic: Sine Nomine. Anything in Latin sounds scholarly, like there’s a great meaning or message there. Growing up, I knew nomine meant “name,” so I figured it was something like “A New Name” or “A Holy Name.” I didn’t realize until I was an adult what it actually meant- “Without a Name.” What? Obviously at some point, someone realized the tune wasn’t named and (quite originally) named it “nameless.” They did at least put it in Latin so it looks more sophisticated, but still. Without a name? Really?

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To Be Made Whole

We met on the elevator.  I had noticed him earlier, of course.  He was hard to miss.  I surreptitiously watched him eat breakfast with his daughter, wondering what their story was.  We had a one-minute conversation on the brief ride from the first floor to the second, and then he was gone.  I don’t even know his name.

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Sine Nomine

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I love All Saints’ Day.  The Scripture readings speak of the saints in white robes around God’s throne in heaven, we recall the faithfully departed, and we sing some of my favorite hymns.  One such hymn is “For All the Saints.”  The words are so poignant that I get tears in my eyes every time I sing them.  Even the tune name sounds majestic: Sine Nomine.  Anything in Latin sounds scholarly, like there’s a great meaning or message there.  Growing up, I knew nomine meant “name,” so I figured it was something like “A New Name” or “A Holy Name.”  I didn’t realize until I was an adult what it actually meant- “Without a Name.”  What?  Obviously at some point, someone realized the tune wasn’t named and (quite originally) named it “nameless.”  They did at least put it in Latin so it looks more sophisticated, but still.  Without a name?  Really?

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Remembering Your Baptism

For a kindergartner, my daughter has a pretty decent concept of what baptism is.  Her class had a unit on baptism in the fall, and she came home excited about it every day.  One day she announced to me seriously, “Mommy, if the devil tempts me, I can tell him, ‘Get away from me, devil.  I am baptized.'”  Absolutely true, and incredibly mature for a kindergarten student.  But how many of us really take our baptisms that seriously?

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How to Plan a Funeral

I hope people cry at my funeral. Now, before you go thinking I’m completely self absorbed, let me explain that. It’s not what you think at all.

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My Guardian Angel, my Grandpa

“Heaven gained another angel today in the passing of my aunt.”

“My grandpa died five years ago and for these five years I’ve had the best guardian angel ever.”

“Today is the anniversary of my dad passing away. I woke up to a beautiful sunrise and I knew he sent it to remind me he’s always with me. Thanks, dad!”

Have you seen statements like these? I’m sure you have. These kind of sentiments are very common and often said to help people deal with the death of a loved one. There’s a slight problem with statements like the ones above, however. None of them are even remotely true.
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A Matter of Life and Death

The death of Robin Williams has merited a lot of attention over the last few days. It was tragic in every way, and since he was so famous news splashed all over instantly. Facebook and Twitter were flooded with quotes, clips, and tributes to Robin Williams, and the subject of depression was discussed and even debated at length. Yet one touchy subject was never brought up. What comes next? What happened to Robin Williams when he died? Oh, sure, there was that touching tweet “Genie, you’re free,” which was debated in certain circles, but reviews and tributes focus pretty much solely on the legacy he left behind. Few people in modern society want to think about what really happens after a person dies. But let me ask you this- if you were to die tonight, do you know what would happen to you?

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