Chorus: We’re marching to Zion, beautiful, beautiful Zion, we’re marching upward to Zion, the beautiful city of God. Verse 4: Then let our songs abound, And every tear be dry; We’re marching through Emmanuel’s ground, We’re marching through Emmanuel’s ground, To fairer worlds on high, To fairer worlds on high.
—ISAAC WATTS (1674–1748)
I remember singing this hymn on one of our bus trips in the Holy Land when we went to the old city of Jerusalem. It is such a wonderful happy hymn set to an upbeat march-like melody of fellowship and joy! It’s #625 in our ELW hymnal. Anyway, there is however, a juxtaposition here…it is a happy, joyful song of death and dying! That’s odd, isn’t it? Joyful and happy marching through Emmanuel’s ground? Well, yes, because in Christ (who is “Emmanuel” God with us in the flesh) the promised Messiah has show up in Jesus and resided in the city of David and all those in Christ are passing through on our way to fairer worlds on high! In other words then, to know and trust this Jesus, is to be in his death and resurrection too! For Christians, death is not the last word! Resurrection to new and eternal life is ours as a gift from Christ. True, we all experience Good Friday in our lives, times of sadness, suffering and death. But the Good News is that there is Easter! There is an empty tomb and a resurrected Christ! Hallelujah! Therefore, we can live now, in the present, with renewed joy and purpose. We can face our struggles and even death in the news and light of the resurrection! Yes, there is a sting to death. Yes, we grieve at our losses. All that is real and I don’t diminish that. However, the mustard seed of faith that God gives us, allows us to continue to serve and witness, live, love and make plans as those who have an inheritance in the heavens (1 Peter 1:3-4). With this in view, we talked about death and dying at our mid-week Lent devotions. And here are some resources for you, dear Christian, if you choose:
Issues of Life and Death by Deac. Betsy Karkan
It’s all about death – and life! by Robert C. Blezard
Dead Right by Heidi Ernst
My Pre-Planned Funeral Celebration Form