The Weekly Epistle 9/20/23


As you reflect upon the recent passing of long-time Living Hope members Brad Wallace and Ella Eshelman, the words of the psalmist may come to mind. 

                                     “Precious in the sight of the LORD                                                                                       Is the death of His godly ones.”                                                                                                     Psalm 116:15

These oft-cited words have comforted grieving believers for millennia. Yet, as I read these words out loud to Marilyn Jorgensen (who is now in hospice care) earlier this week, I was dumbstruck by their oddity. Death—the chief consequence of sin—is precious in the sight of the Lord. How can this be? 

As I reflected upon the passage, it occurred to me that the paradox presented to us by the psalmist is ultimately resolved in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Jesus took on the sting of sin and death so that we may experience the blessing and joy of resurrection. For Brad, Ella, and all those who have died in faith (Hebrews 11:13), physical death functions as a portal—a final step of faith—into the ultimate resurrection. Perhaps this is what the psalmist meant when he said, “I shall walk before the LORD in the land of the living.” (Psalms 116:9) 

With that said, we ought to avoid a flippant view of physical death that merely celebrates a life well lived. Death, even the death of a believer, ought to be mourned because the value of our resurrection directly correlates to the cost paid at the cross. When we feel the weight of Jesus’ death, acknowledging it for the horror it was, our appreciation for the resurrection of our loved ones will undoubtedly increase. By contrast, when we reduce the passing of a believer to a celebration, we cheapen the Gospel. No, we do not grieve like those who have no hope, but we do grieve. (1 Thessalonians 4:13) Moreover, we ought to grieve because in doing so, we honor the memory of our loved ones—just how important they were to us and how greatly they will be missed—and we honor the great sacrifice by which their ultimate resurrection was secured. 

When a good friend of mine unexpectedly passed away, I was greatly comforted by a brother in Christ who exhorted me to “Mourn hard. Mourn well.” Living Hope, I now exhort you. As we wait for the fullness of our hope to be realized, Mourn hard. Mourn well. 

Grace and Peace,                                                                                                                                                 
Pastor Dan