Pastor’s Email Devotion
The Week of Lent 5
March 13, 2016
May I never boast of anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which* the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. (Galatians 6:14, RSV)
We had an interesting class in Crosspoints today. The topic was “Living Through Dying: Bedside Experiences.” Our two lay leaders did a great job stimulating conversation on the topic from what I understand. I only got into the class for the last fifteen minutes. But even in those few minutes, it was obvious that the topic touched a deep well of emotion and faith among the participants. The class shared stories of companioning loved ones into the next life and the emotional impact of that; some spoke about loved ones who seemed to be connected to and in communication with deceased loved ones who had already died, and the way those experiences seem to make the Kingdom of Heaven seem more real and present; and we talked about the communion of saints, and the creedal affirmation we proclaim every Sunday, and how that informed our sense of connectivity to those that we have entrusted into God’s hands. It is a popular topic, in that death is something most of us have faced numerous times in our lives, as we have sat with dying loved ones, buried those who stood by our side in life, and occasionally wondered about our own deaths.
The Christian, of course should never be fearful of death. We worship a God who submitted to a human death, and conquered it. We worship a God who accepted a gruesome instrument of torture – crucifixion – as the instrument that accomplished that death. And we worship a God who weaves death and life together into a seamless tapestry that wraps our earthly life into God’s promise of heavenly life, in a way that intimately connects them in this world and the next. A healthy understanding of death is an intimate partner in our Christian walk.
But the million dollar question is … do you believe that? What have been your encounters with death? Have you had any experiences like those spoken of in this morning’s class, that offer you some assurances about the resurrection to new life? Have you been with many people in the final days of their lives? Are you comfortable talking about death with those close to you? Have you made your wishes clear regarding the choices you would want your family to make for your funeral? Have you thought what you would want your funeral marker to read? Have you ever thought to write your own obituary? With God at your side, do you have the courage to stare death in the face and remain firm in your faith?
Maybe one of two of these questions could shape your devotional reflection this week. Maybe you can pick one question each day. The objective is to examine your perspective on an earthly obstacle that should not be a heavenly obstacle. We only have one additional Sunday in Lent. Then it will be all glory all the time, and talk of empty tombs and eatin’ fish at the lakeside with the wandering Messiah. Make sure you have engaged the one human experience that most regularly stands in the way of the faith lives of Christians … ironically. Let Jesus not have died in vain. Take death seriously, so that you can take life and life again seriously.
O God of the Cross, open my heart and mind to what our forebears have often called the “glory” of the cross. Give me courage to wrestle with my own death, so that through your power and grace I can find comfort in the promises of life everlasting … and thus be able to live this life I have now more richly and deeply and faithfully. Amen.