From the First Letter to the Corinthians:
The last enemy to be destroyed is death.
(From the Daily Office Lectionary – 1 Corinthians 15:26 (NRSV) – April 22, 2014.)
Two weeks before Easter I came down with the flu. I spent three days in bed with a high fever, a racking cough, and a good deal of body aches and pains. A friend who suffered the same illness (it’s gone around our town and several people have suffered through it) described the muscle pain as feeling as if one had been beaten up, thrown the ground, and kicked several times. It felt to me as if every square centimeter of connective tissue in my body was inflamed at the same time. (This is the first time in a couple of weeks or more that I’ve had enough morning energy to write anything after reading the daily lessons.)
It all made getting ready for Palm Sunday, Holy Week, and Easter rather difficult, and even when Resurrection Sunday got here, I didn’t really feel much like celebrating. I always end a respiratory illness like that with two lingering symptoms: a nagging cough and laryngitis – both were in full force on Easter Eve. Gargling with warm salt water and several doses of codeine-laced cough suppressant got me through the Festival Eucharist on Easter morning.
So here we are at Tuesday in Easter week and the lingering cough is still tagging along. I’m feeling like it, not death, is the “last enemy to be destroyed.” Death is already conquered; the cough is not! In my Easter homily, I preached about that sense many (if not all) people have had from time to time of “dying a little” because of life’s many small disappointments, of how that sense is a result of disordered (sinful) creation disrupting the proper relationships of life, and of how all that sinfulness crashed down through time and eternity, through space and the cosmos, hitting one moment, one place:
Think about the weight of all that sin, all that dying, experienced in little ways every day by all the people who have ever lived . . . think of that weight crashing down
through the centuries,
through the millennia,
through all of time and all of space,
crashing down to a single hour,
a single moment,
a single instant,
on a hill outside of Jerusalem,
on a single man,
a man hanging on a cross
who cried out
“It is finished!”
Death, the last enemy, has been conquered. But there seems to be this lingering, nagging cough still sounding through the universe, still tickling at the throat of creation, still hacking away. It’s the death rattle of death. Pay it no mind. Eventually it and even its echoes will fade away.
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Father Funston is the rector of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Medina, Ohio.