“For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: so shall we ever be with the Lord.” 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17
It was “very early in the morning” while “it was yet dark,” that Jesus rose from the dead. Not the sun, but only the morning-star shone upon His opening tomb. The shadows had not fled, the citizens of Jerusalem had not awaked. It was still night—the hour of sleep and darkness, when He arose. Nor did his rising break the slumbers of the city. So shall it be “very early in the morning while it is yet dark,” and when nought but the morning-star is shining, that Christ’s body, the Church, shall arise. Like Him, His saints shall awake when the children of the night and darkness are still sleeping their sleep of death. In their arising they disturb no one. The world hears not the voice that summons them. As Jesus laid them quietly to rest, each in his own still tomb, like children in the arms of their mother; so, as quietly, as gently, shall He awake them when the hour arrives. To them come the quickening words, “Awake and sing, ye that dwell in dust” (Isa. 26:19). Into their tomb the earliest ray of glory finds its way. They drink in the first gleams of morning, while as yet the eastern clouds give but the faintest signs of the uprising. Its genial fragrance, its soothing stillness, its bracing freshness, its sweet loneliness, its quiet purity, all so solemn and yet so full of hope, these are theirs. (Streams in the Desert)
My good friend and neighbor across the lane enhanced my vocabulary this morning. Our paths typically intersect en route to set out trash for pickup. I look forward to these casual opportunities to swap snippets of theology and offer morsels for meditation throughout the week ahead. A handful of us gather for worship on Sunday nights in Dick’s recording studio near his house, so Monday mornings are a good occasion for reflection. Dick is essentially a philosopher who happens to also be an accomplished musician, and I enjoy when he shares what he is reading at the moment, or an experience that sets him to thinking. Today, my musically inclined philosopher friend shared over trash cans a new word added to his vocabulary from his current reading. The word is “dotage.” He explained that at first he thought it had something to do with doting over someone, like a proud mother does to a cherished son, but that isn’t it at all. It holds a far more sobering meaning. Dotage is the stage of life when health, vigor, and mental faculties deteriorate (“you could live here and look after me in my dotage”). These are declining years, the autumn or even winter of one’s life.
Dick dropped this linguistic bomb then bade me farewell, leaving me to contemplate my own dotage while wearily toting garbage the remaining distance to its appointed place. For some odd reason I suddenly felt years older. Perhaps the soreness in my lower back is not merely muscle strain, it is muscular degeneration, and the fatigue I feel isn’t caused by overwork, it is due to deteriorating physique. Almost as suddenly, Scripture sprang to the rescue and arrested my mental downward spiral: “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness” (Lamentations 3:22-23, ESV). Oh, the wonder of the thought—fresh mercy every morning! I may be sauntering into the autumn of life or slogging unaware through aging’s winter snow, but God’s grace never tires and Christ’s mercy is always young.