JAC Online

Death to Life
by Captain Paula Hambleton


Staying Alive, Staying Alive........... so are you singing it now? Ah, Ah, Ah, Ah, Staying Alive, Staying Alive. As morbid as it might sound, this is the song you are recommended to sing through in your mind if you ever need to perform CPR, CARDIOPULMONARY RESUSCITATION! It’s just the right beat. And good news, if you collapse with a heart attack anywhere near me, you'll be glad to know, I am an expert at CPR! I can potentially save your life! Yes, I am a nurse, a registered nurse.


I’ve been a nurse a long time and in that time I’ve learnt a few things. One thing I’ve learnt is that there are always signs and symptoms leading up to a person needing CPR! If we miss the signs or ignore the signs, when the person has a critical event like a heart attack, death is more likely than if we treated the person in the lead up.


And IF that person does survive, it’s often a less than full life, with a much shorter life expectancy.


I am also a lifelong Salvationist, who is now a Salvo Officer in my 10th year. I’m also actually a fifth generation salvo and an OK, so it’s safe to say, I’ve been around the salvos a while!!


So what does this have to do with anything? Recently in The Salvation Army in Australia we have released a new vision and mission. We’re doing this for two reasons that I understand;


1. We are merging from two territories to one; and,


2. We are dying.


As part of the revisioning we were asked to play some videos. The first video we played as part of the new vision laid it out plainly. You can watch it here: https://youtu.be/X1N2zE_GSoI


But here was the message I got from the first video; The Salvation Army in Australia is on a serious downward trajectory. We are dying. Yes, there are snippets of life here and there, and I think the mission heartbeat is strong in many. But still, dying we are. And without a revisioning, without change, we will die!


And although I think this re-visioning is good, I ask myself these questions; have we waited too long? Have we missed the boat? Is death inevitable anyway? Are we at CPR stage?


I don’t know that answer, but I have to ask the question; why did we wait till now before responding? Did we see the signs and symptoms? Did we see them and ignore them? If we didn’t see them, why not?


One thing nurses and salvos are good at is taking observations. In nursing we take observations frequently, in the critically ill we take them hourly, most others we take them 4 times per day.


In the salvos we take observations through our stats. In fact, we've been brilliant at taking our observations through statistics. And if we saw the stats, our observations,  and recognised the signs and signs and symptoms to say that we are dying, why have we ignored them? Why have we waited till now to respond? Is it too late?


To put more personal context to this, I am an eternal optimist. If you speak to most people who know me well, they would tell you that I am a glass half full person! It’s easy for me to see the silver lining. So I don’t ask these questions lightly. I ask because I have a vested interested in The Salvation Army!


So what if we die? I’ve been thinking this through. Is death really the worst thing that can happen? In fact, should it happen? Is giving in to death actually the path that will lead us to life? Here's the thing, if we die, we can’t just half die, we must fully die. Every sacred cow we hold, everything laid on the altar, everything surrendered.


Here’s the question, if we want to live, to be reborn, do we first NEED to die? Galatians 2:20 says; My old self has been crucified with Christ, it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me". This implies complete surrender, giving yourself over to Christ, even to the point of death of your inner man!


And then there’s that part about old and new wine skins in the bible. You can’t have new wine in an old wine skin. If God is doing a new thing, can it be done WITH the old? Does the old NEED to die?


This is where the nursing analogy loses ground. Because dead is dead, physically. Spiritually, I believe in life after death, but in a physical sense, once you're dead, there's no coming back. But death is part of life! We fight it with all our might, with our technology, with all our skill, but in the end, we still die, it's the natural order of things.


But death does give way to new life! In every sense! We may grieve what we lost, but we rejoice at new birth!


Are we as a Salvation Army trying desperately to hold onto the old and decaying while trying to birth the new? Can we even do that? Do we need a new baptism of sorts, a spiritual renewal where we put everything to death, surrender it, dead and buried, and then raise to new life? Is that the only way forward?


2nd Corinthians 5:17 says it best. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ he is a new creation. Old things have passed away; behold all things have become new”


Death is scary. But remember Jesus? I can imagine the disciples, those who loved him, watching as he died, grieving hopes and dreams, everything they held sacred. Surely death can’t be the answer! And yet… 3 days later… Ah Ah Ah Ah… Staying Alive, Staying Alive!


Isaiah 43:20 - Behold, I will do a new thing, Now it shall spring forth; shall you not know it? I will even make a road in the wilderness and rivers in the desert”


May we individually and corporately not be too proud to surrender, too unwilling to yield, too arrogant to change, too scared to let go. May we be true living examples of this verse. The old has gone, THE NEW HAS COME!








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