Death is a question we often don't like confronting or talking about. What do we make of death? Is there anything after? Hear how the death of someone close to him prompted him to confront some of life's biggest questions. A conversation with humour and wisdom.
Our guest: Mark Conner is a gifted leader, speaker, and author who has been involved in church leadership for over three decades. In early 2017, Mark transitioned out of being Senior Minister at CityLife Church in Melbourne where he was on staff for 32 years and he now focuses on training, writing, and coaching others.
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Bigger Questions asked in the conversation
Mark, a few years back you stepped down from running a large church. So are you finding it hard to fill your time these days?
Today we’re talking about death - which is a fairly serious topic. It’s not often the topic of conversation in workplaces or parties. Do you think we talk about death enough?
Without trying to trivialise death at all, I thought I’d test you on “what happened after these people died?’
Human uniqueness in relation to death
Mark, these are beautiful and special stories of what happened after these people died. Now anthropologists say that one of the things that makes humans special is by burying our dead. So what do you think these stories say about the human spirit?
Anthropologist Paige Madison claims that burying the dead demonstrates a capacity to think symbolically - which she suggests is a pointer of human uniqueness. She also says that burials provide a hard, material record of a behavior that is deeply spiritual and meaningful. Do you agree with Paige?
Reality of death
So in one respect, one thing that happens after we die is that we get buried, and burials and cremations are significant. Now whilst being meaningful and significant, isn’t there a sting in these stories, that the bride couldn’t actually hold her father’s hand, and the dead serviceman couldn’t enjoy his own jokes. So does death rob us of something?
You experienced death as a young person in quite a dramatic way, I suppose not personally, but you encountered death one time - can you tell us what happened?
How did it impact you?
Is there anything after death?
Is it possible to know if there is anything after death?
Bible - Something about death?
The question of death is confronted by the Bible. Psalm 49, an ancient song offers some wisdom and reflections on death and says in verse 10,
For all can see that the wise die,
that the foolish and the senseless also perish,
leaving their wealth to others.
Their tombs will remain their houses forever,
their dwellings for endless generations,
though they had named lands after themselves.
People, despite their wealth, do not endure;
they are like the beasts that perish.
Now it sounds like a bit of a depressing song - the tombs of the dead remaining their houses forever, people not enduring, is the Bible too negative here?
The Bible passage also makes an interesting comparison to animals, saying that people, no matter how wise or wealthy, still die, ‘like the beasts that perish’. So what do you think he’s getting at here?
Hope after the grave - God will redeem
It’s still a depressing picture, but perhaps some good news is found in verse 15,
But God will redeem me from the realm of the dead;
he will surely take me to himself.
He talks about being redeemed here - what does that mean?
How does this relate to Jesus? He’s sometimes described as a redeemer.
But doesn’t the evidence point the opposite way? For example, Kerry Packer, once Australia’s richest man, suffered a heart attack in 1990 and was clinically dead for six minutes before being revived. Packer then said: “I’ve been to the other side and let me tell you, son, there’s [...] nothing there… There’s no one waiting there for you, there’s no one to judge you so you can do what you [...] like.”
According to Packer nothing happens when I die. So how can you believe that there is something there?
So what? The difference this makes in Mark’s story
It’s something that’s been close to you recently - can you tell us about your recent experiences?
The Big Question
So Mark, what happens when I die?