Thumbing our nose at death

Thumbing our nose at death

Halloween is our way of facing our fears head on.

This is the season of Halloween. You see it everywhere. Decorations. Stores selling costumes. Kids getting ready to collect hoards of candy. I don’t really “get into” Halloween. As a chaplain and pastor who has often dealt with death, I have a hard time with a holiday celebrating or emphasizing death in costumes or Halloween horror movies. In a normal life circumstance people are genuinely horrified at such horrendous acts of brutality, murder or accidents that claim the lives of our loved ones. So, why this holiday when death is depicted everywhere we turn?

I have thought about this for a long time. I know for the kids it is the fun of candy and dressing up in costumes, but I wonder if Halloween is our way of facing our fears head on. Maybe it’s about “thumbing our nose” at something we fear or dread; our way of showing our contempt at death. Maybe it is a way we try to “undemonized” something we fear and dread. Typically, we don’t want to think about death because it reminds us of our own mortality. Funerals are not fun things to officiate or attend because someone you loved has died. It reminds us that someday that someone will be you. We don’t want to think about that! But Halloween changes all that for a few weeks in the fall when death seems to be everywhere from ghosts to ghouls to things we typically fear and try to avoid (spiders, bats, zombies, etc.). People dress like death. People scare each other or watch scary movies. Maybe it is a cry of our culture to “get back at death” or to put the fear of death beneath us.

We all have stories of people we have loved who have died. When it gets personal, it hurts and brings sadness to our lives. And that sadness is real and it doesn’t go away quickly. Real grief can last for weeks, months, even years. There are moments of deep sadness I experience over the death of my dad many years ago; family or friends who have died. I think it is important to understand that grief and sadness in our lives and in the lives of others who struggle with grief.

There is another holiday I really enjoy that “thumbs its nose” nose at death. Our calendars label it as Easter. I call it Resurrection Sunday. It happens in the spring and celebrates what Christians have understood to be the foundation of our faith. It is the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. The Bible tells us how Jesus died on the cross, becoming the sacrifice for the forgiveness of our sins. He died in order that we can find hope, peace, and release from the guilt of sin, and a new lease on life. The good news that sealed all those possibilities for our own lives is the resurrection of Jesus from the dead.

We celebrate it on Easter Sunday. Jesus conquered death — and it is not make-believe! Jesus rose physically from the dead and death no longer has mastery over him. What does that mean for us? Through our faith in Jesus and receiving this new life through Christ, this hope and faith in what he has done for us also gives us victory over death. I Corinthians 15 in the New Testament is a whole chapter that explains what the resurrection of Jesus means for us and how we understand death, but also eternal life and what that means for our eternal future (what happens to the real us when this body dies). There is one part in this chapter that is kind of like a “thumb your nose” at death when it says in verses 55-57, “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” That victory for us came through Jesus’ death and resurrection. When we put our faith and trust in him and follow him, he exchanges our present and future from death to eternal life. Eternal life is experiencing all the goodness of God forever.

For me, Halloween is not the time to “thumb my nose” at death. Easter is! The resurrection of Jesus from the dead. In our part of the world, Easter happens in the spring when the earth is “resurrecting” in a sense, from the long cold winter. New life springs up all around us! Jesus takes away my fear of death. He takes away the dread. And even with those who have passed away, Jesus is my hope that I will see them again. Because through Jesus, we too, will live again. Jesus is my hope. Jesus is your hope! Life eternal!

• Daniel R. Wiese is pastor of the Church of the Nazarene. “Living & Growing” is a weekly column written by different authors and submitted by local clergy and spiritual leaders.

• Daniel R. Wiese is pastor of the Church of the Nazarene. “Living & Growing” is a weekly column written by different authors and submitted by local clergy and spiritual leaders.

Pastor Daniel R. Wiese

Pastor Daniel R. Wiese

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