"Behold, a host arrayed in white, like thousand snowclad mountains bright..."
The Church is at its best at the time of death. The best hymns, the best texts, the best sermons all come when the Church comes face to face with its most ancient enemy. This was impressed upon me as I sat in Kramer Chapel on the campus of Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne, Indiana, at an evening chapel service. We sang (with tears in many eyes) the great hymn quoted above; we heard the great texts from Revelation 21 and 22, and we heard a sermon that proclaimed comfort to all those who mourned the loss of loved ones in the year that had passed. The Church is at its best at the time of death.
The Bible could be subtitled: "A Book on Death." In its sacred pages, we learn the cause of death, and its tragic results. We hear the people of God cry out in anguish against the terror that is death. Then, piece by piece, starting from the very day in which death came, we begin to see the solution to death come together. God's answer to death is Christmas, it is Good Friday, it is Easter. God's answer to death is Jesus.
Jesus is all about defeating death. That is why He came, that is why He died.
Death was undone by the death of Christ.
The Church therefore should be at its best when facing the reality of death. Not because death isn't a big deal, not because its 'just a part of life' or any of the other lies our world tells us. The Church is at its best at the time of death because it proclaims the solution, the answer, the victory. The Church preaches against death, the Church sings against death, the Church shows the risen Christ to a dying world and to death itself. "Where, O death, is thy sting? Where thy victory, O grave?"