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Resurrection: In our end is our beginning by Maxie Dunnam

This is the sixth and final article in a series of articles Maxie is writing about the beliefs behind our views of evangelism. Check out the prior articles on Wesleyan Accent (first, second, third, fourth, and fifth).

Natalie Sleeth has given us one of the most popular hymns written during the past fifty years, “Hymn of Promise.”  The last two lines of the hymn gives the core message:

In our death, a resurrection; at the last, a victory, 

unrevealed until its season, something God alone can see.

She wrote the hymn for her husband, the late Ronald Sleeth, who was professor of preaching at the Iliff School of Theology. He lived only twenty-one days from the day he got the diagnosis of a malignancy to death. Natalie wrote that hymn for him before he died.

A personal friend of the Sleeths told me a moving story:

For several years Natalie had battled multiple sclerosis, which ultimately took her life. Before she died she wrote a beautiful statement for her grandchildren in which she told of how she began to realize that she was growing older and that her body was beginning to wear out. She talked to God about the situation and asked God to help her.

God heard her and said, “My child, when I made the world and filled it with people, I had a plan. I wanted my people to have life for as long as they could, but not forever because then my world would be too full with no room for anybody. I planned it so that when it was time to leave the earth, my people would come and live with me in heaven where there is no pain or sadness or sickness or anything bad.”

Natalie said softly to God, “Is my time to come and live with you getting closer?” 

And God said, “Yes, but be not afraid, for I will always be with you and I will always take care of you.” 

Natalie said to God, “But I will miss my family and my friends, and they will miss me!” 

And God said, “Yes, but I will comfort them and turn their tears into joy and they will remember you with happiness and be glad of your life among them.”

Slowly Natalie began the journey to heaven and day by day drew nearer to God. In the distance she could see light and hear beautiful music and feel happiness she had never known before, and as she moved toward the gates and into the house of God, she said to herself with great joy in her heart, “That’s good! That’s good!”

Natalie Sleeth claimed one of the central truths of the Christian faith – the promise that death is not the end. The resurrection of Christ gives credence to his claim, “Because I live, you will live also” (John 14:19). The heartbeat of the gospel is the death and resurrection of Jesus. Natalie Sleeth experienced the meaning and hope of this powerful reality that Jesus died but was raised by God and offers us the same glorious possibility.

The driving power behind the Christian faith is the resurrection of Jesus. In the  beginning, as the faith was being experienced, expressed and celebrated in community, to be an apostle meant you were an eyewitness to the Resurrection. In the four Gospels there is the picture of Jesus that could have been shared only by those who had experienced him as the risen Christ. 

The Resurrection dominated the theme of every Christian sermon. The New Testament is filled with line after line affirming what Natalee Sleeth sings and concludes, 

In our end is our beginning
In our time, infinity
In our doubt, there is believing
In our life, eternity
In our death, a resurrection
At the last, a victory

Unrevealed until its season
Something God alone can see

She had affirmed it week after week in worship:

I believe in the Holy Spirit,

the holy catholic* church,

the communion of saints,

the forgiveness of sins,

the resurrection of the body

and the life everlasting. Amen.