+ Swing Low, Sweet Chariot... + + Therefore my heart is glad... because you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead +
The good news is, death has been conquered! We shall not sleep away into dust and forgotten-ness. We shall share the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The Old Testament provides some good places to reinforce the Easter message that people forget long before the dog days of summer. My favorite is Job 19:23-27:
“Oh, that my words were recorded,
that they were written on a scroll,
that they were inscribed with an iron tool on lead,
or engraved in rock forever!
I know that my redeemer lives,
and that in the end he will stand on the earth.
And after my skin has been destroyed,
yet in my flesh I will see God;
I myself will see him
with my own eyes—I, and not another.
How my heart yearns within me!”
Then, there is the story of Elijah being carried off to heaven in a chariot of fire (2 Kings 2:1-14). Because Elijah does not die, he is allowed to make a cameo appearance in the New Testament. I feel it is my duty in preaching to stitch the New and Old components of the Bible back together. Many in our churches have fallen into the Marcion heresy of dismissing the Old Testament and its, supposedly, wrathful Hebrew god. Such Gnostic gibber-jabber is running amok in today’s church and preventing people from grasping the full joy and mystery of the Gospel we proclaim.
Or the beautiful Psalm 16, “Therefore my heart is glad... because you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead.” What is significant about this and many Psalms, is its conviction that we escape a meaningless end by virtue of God’s commitment to His relationship with us. Relationship is everything. The Gospel in both the Old and New Testaments is one continuous story of God expressing His eternal love for frail, struggling, individual human beings.
The chariot that avoids the meaningless pit of Sheol, swings down for us one at a time and we experience the good news, each in our own resurrection.
In the words of Emily Dickinson:
Because I could not stop for Death—
He kindly stopped for me—
The Carriage held but just Ourselves—