Covered Up: Hoodies and Shrouds of Death

I am all about those hoodies. As I write this reflection, I’m wearing my bright red hoodie with Ocean City written down one sleeve. Later tonight, you’ll find me in another hoodie with the Denver Broncos’ logo on the side. I love the season of Fall because I wear hoodies. And these hoodies are, in some ways, my security blanket. I spend this entire season in the warm embrace of a comforting piece of fabric. A hoodie does more than keep me warm. A hoodie makes me feel safe. And it’s something I rarely want to shake off.

Isaiah, in our first reading today (Isaiah 25:1-9), imagines death as a shroud. A shroud is a piece of fabric wrapped around us but this one brings no comfort. This shroud is one we cannot shake off on our own. In this passage, death is more than just something that we know will happen to us “eventually.” Instead, as Walter Brueggemann writes, “death here is an active force of negativity that moves to counter and cancel and prevent well-being.” Death is the “power of diminishment,” doing everything it can to interfere with our sense of wholeness and our relationship to each other and to God. Isaiah does recognize death as passive. It’s not only something that will happen later. Death is active right now. And God promises to take everything that limits life and swallow it up. God is active against death because God is, at the core, life-giving.

This reality of death as an active force is not something everyone experiences in the same way. If we own our own home, have health insurance, and know where our next meal is coming from, death feels a bit far away from us. But if we are vulnerable, poor, or suffering, death’s activity (as described by Isaiah) is very real. Isaiah raises up the promise you were given in your baptism and it is the same process the world was given in through the Cross: you will not be defined by a world that diminishes you. Your value rests in the One who holds you forever. “Biblical faith is not a moral system; it is not a mode of holding on or staying in control. It is rather an act of yielding in the present to the assurances given for God’s future.” You are already part of God’s future because you are already part of God’s world. But we need to remember that God’s world is not the same as our own. Inequality and the ways we diminish and dismiss each other is not life as God imagines it to be. We are called to work against the forces of death because we are wrapped up in something more. We are clothed in the person and body of Jesus Christ. And this Jesus is more than just our security blanket for something that will happen later. Jesus is an active right now, transforming us and our world to make God’s future a reality in our lives.

Each week, I write a reflection on one of our scripture readings for the week. This is from Christ Lutheran Church’s Worship Bulletin for 18th Sunday After Pentecost, 10/15/2017.