Presently I am reading one of the strangest books I have ever read – “The Midnight Library” (Matt Haig).  As the book suggests, “Between life and death there is a library.  And within that library, the shelves go on forever.  Every book provides a chance to try another life you could have lived.  To see how things would be if you had made other choices … Would you have done anything different, if you had a chance to undo your regrets?”`

Each of the short chapters at the beginning of the book begin with “… (years/hours) before she decided to die, Nora …”  These lead up to Nora’s final note: “I had all the chances to make something of my life, and I blew every one of them.  Through my own carelessness and misfortune, the world has retreated from me, and so now it makes perfect sense that I should retreat from the world.  If I felt it was possible to stay, I would.  But I don’t.  And so I can’t.  I make life worse for people.  I have nothing to give.  I’m sorry.  Be kind to each other.”  It is then that she enters the midnight library … where time stands still … where she is all alone, except for the librarian who assists her during this timeless time … between life and death … and opens a huge tome entitled “The Book of Regrets”.

I am about halfway through the book, and thus far every book Nora has opened to see what her life would have been like if, at some previous time in her life, she had made a different choice (changed a regret), has revealed a similar sad and sour ending.  Depressing is the only word that comes to my mind when describing the picture of life and death … and the so called “timeless time between life and death … that the author paints.  Of course, it might change in the second half, but I have yet to see any indicators that it will.

How different this picture of the timeless time between life and death is from the one in last Sunday’s All Saints Day reading from the Revelation of John!  Instead of stepping all alone into a huge library revealing countless regrets and painful scenarios, John in simplicity writes, “After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, ‘Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!’  And all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshipped God, saying, ‘Amen!  Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever!  Amen.’

“Then one of the elders addressed me, saying, ‘Who are these, clothed in white robes, and from where have they come?’  I said to him, ‘Sir, you know.’  And he said to me, ‘These are the ones coming out of the great tribulation.  They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.  Therefore they are before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple; and he who sits on the throne will shelter them with his presence.  They shall hunger no more, neither thirst anymore; the sun shall not strike them, nor any scorching heat.  For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of living water, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.’” (Revelation 7.9-17) No re-do’s necessary.  No regrets remaining.  Everything taken care of by the Lamb who sits on the throne … the same one who died so that all who receive him in faith might live forever with him in that timeless time we call eternity.

I am wondering if the Midnight Library is just a divergent form of reincarnation … another pagan attempt to avoid the hopelessness of death without Christ.  Life on earth is challenging enough even for believers.  I can only imagine how much more difficult it would be without “the sure and certain hope of eternal life with Christ.”  As one of Sunday’s hymns reminded me, “Oh, blest communion, fellowship divine!  We feebly struggle, they in glory shine; Yet all are one in Thee, for all are Thine.”  (LSB 677, v.4)

The world (at the deceiver’s direction) vainly struggles through a complicated labyrinth attempting to create hope and avoid death.  Our God simply takes death upon himself, defeats it, and transforms it into a passage of peace leading to an eternity without loneliness, regrets, or pain.  And then he serves his solution to us on a silver platter we know as God’s Word and Sacraments.

Talk about simplicity!  We just read a little from the Bible as we can … listen as it is explained … meditate upon its Gospel message … and God (almighty and all merciful is he) creates and nurtures time-and-eternity-transforming faith as his free gift to us … and that blest communion, fellowship divine is ours!  We connect that same Word with a splash of water, and we are “buried with Christ into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.” (Romans 6.4)  And what could be simpler than a wafer of bread and a sip of wine giving us full forgiveness of all our sins (regrets resolved) through Christ himself being present in, with, and under these simple elements!

All of our human efforts to simplify these issues produce results exactly opposite of our desired outcomes.  God’s promises – which freely offer those exact outcomes – are so simple they are beyond human reason.  Thus, for all those “who receive him, to those who believe in his name” (John 1.12) through all of our ups and downs, triumphs and failures, we know “the golden evening brightens in the west; Soon, soon to faithful warriors cometh rest; Sweet is the calm of paradise the blest.” (LSB 677 v.6) Oh, the simplicity of it all!