And so when we proclaim all this today, we as Christians are charged to address ourselves to two different sorts of delusion. On the one hand: we face a culture in which the thought of death is too painful to manage. Individuals live in anxious and acquisitive ways, seizing what they can to provide a security that is bound to dissolve, because they are going to die. Societies or nations do the same. Whether it is the individual grabbing the things of this world in just the repetitive, frustrating sameness that we have seen to be already in fact the mark of an inner deadness, or the greed of societies that assume there will always be enough to meet their desires – enough oil, enough power, enough territory – the same fantasy is at work. We shan’t really die – we as individuals can’t contemplate an end to our acquiring, and we as a culture can’t imagine that this civilization like all others will collapse and that what we take for granted about our comforts and luxuries simply can’t be sustained indefinitely. To all this, the Church says, somberly, don’t be deceived: night must fall.
On the other hand, this alone would only be to echo the not very helpful remark of John Maynard Keynes ”“ ‘In the long run, we are all dead’; not much of an Easter message! So the Church says: ‘We shall die, we shall have no choice but to let go of all we cling to, but God remains. God’s unshakeable love is untouched by death, and all we do and all we care about matters to him. He and he alone is free to make us afresh, to re-establish the world on the far side of every catastrophe.’
It isn’t so much that Christians say, ‘Death is not the end’. In an important sense, it is the end, and we must prepare for it as people of faith by daily seeking to let go of selfish, controlling, greedy habits, so that our naked souls are left face to face with the creating God. If we are prepared to accept in trust what Jesus proclaims, we can ask God for courage to embark on this path. We don’t hope for survival but for re-creation – because God is who he is, who he has shown himself to be in Jesus Christ.