There is one thing that has always puzzled me about us Christians. We
worship a crucified and RISEN God who has not only lifted the burden of our sinful nature but who has also destroyed the power of death itself… and yet… we still seem terrified by the specter of death. When a loved one is under threat by life threatening disease or when an older friend or parent is walking that last few miles of their life’s journey we are terrified to allow them or anyone else to speak of death. Even when that is the thing that the patient most longs to discuss with someone they trust. We grasp at the most tentative hopes for a cure that might avert death. We often even hesitate to use the words, “death” and “dying”, choosing instead euphemisms like “passing away”.
If we are, as we claim, a “people of the resurrection” why do we cower so in the presence of death? Why do we avoid talking about the absolute unavoidability of death? At the very heart of this Christian faith of ours is the conviction that dying is an integral part of the transformation that we are promised in Christ. In John’s Gospel, Jesus claims that “unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” When Jesus is crucified, the Holy Spirit doesn’t come at the last minute and do CPR on him and “Resuscitate” him! Jesus actually dies and the power of God RESURRECTS him in order to re-create the world and we who inhabit it!
Dying is about more than just having our hearts, lungs, and brains cease functioning. Though “Capital D – Death” is part of the promise, it is JUST a part of it. Before we get to that chapter of our life story we will be called upon to “die” to all manner of other things as well. Some of those things may be dear to us or central to our feeling of safety and well-being. Being willing to let them die may be sad, or scary, or difficult. And yet it is necessary to let them die in order to claim the promise of the resurrection that we have been offered in Jesus Christ.
This time that we Christians call “Lent” is a time to pause and reflect on what God is asking us to die to – in order that we might be alive to what God is doing in and among us. It is a time to explore the ways that we are already dead and in need of God’s resurrection power. It’s a time to confront the forces that threaten us with spiritual death (diseases, addictions, aging, distractions, attitudes) and to look for the resurrections that God is at work creating for us.
My prayers are with you as you continue your Lenten Journey. I look forward to celebrating with you at the empty tomb on Easter Morning!