Updated: Mar 9, 2019
Read, slowly, the opening verses of T. S. Eliot’s “East Coker.”
In my beginning is my end. In succession
Houses rise and fall, crumble, are extended,
Are removed, destroyed, restored, or in their place
Is an open field, or a factory, or a by-pass.
Old stone to new building, old timber to new fires,
Old fires to ashes, and ashes to the earth
Which is already flesh, fur and faeces,
Bone of man and beast, cornstalk and leaf.
Who, especially after having donned dozens, even scores, of years hasn’t seen what the eyes in this poem have seen? If you wait long enough, even houses come and go, and they all, along with us, end up in the earth. No wonder, as he lay dying, did King David utter: “I go the way of all the earth” (1 Kings 2:2).
As humans, like all other living things, we die; as humans, unlike all living things, we know it—tough stuff for beings who, according to Scripture, were wired to live forever.
Death is an intruder (see Romans 5: 12-20), never part of the original plan, and it was to end death that Jesus came and went to the cross. For, as Paul so eloquently writes: “The last enemy that will be destroyed is death” (1 Corinthians 15: 26).
Death, an enemy, the last enemy (which means there are others), is going to be destroyed. Hard to imagine, isn’t it, a world without death when our world is suffused with it and when it’s all we know?
Yes, as T.S. Eliot so eloquently expressed, things come and go, including us. But, by faith, resting on promises that we don’t deserve and on a grace that we haven’t earned, we live with the hope that one thing in our existence now that will be transient is transience itself, all thanks to Jesus.