From Death to Life
Pastor's Monthly Newsletter Article for March, 2015
Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.
Death and taxes, they say, are the two unavoidable realities of life. We’ll save the conversation about taxes for another time, but one can’t venture far into Lent without coming to terms with the reality and the unavoidability of death.
We live in a culture that is determined to avoid death at all costs – or at least put it off as long as possible. Health care costs in the U.S. for 2014 are estimated to be nearly $3 trillion; that is more than $9,000 per person per year, and 17.6% of the country’s GDP. What’s more, studies reveal that Medicare spends 28% of its budget on patients’ last six months of life.
These numbers don’t surprise my family. During a recent stay at Swedish Hospital I ran up a tab of more than $175,000. I can honesty say that as my doctors presented treatment options to me I wasn’t thinking about how much they would cost, or whether those funds could make a greater impact in a different setting for other people. I had only one question in mind: “What will give me the best chance for a long, healthy life?”
Yet even though we are immersed in this avoid-death culture, we hold to a faith that reminds us of this reality: death is the natural consequence of living. We will all die.
During the season of Lent, we face this truth head on. We consider those little deaths that take life away from us, a bit at a time, day after day. We consider the day when we will take our final breath. There is no escaping it, and so we begin each season of Lent with the sign of ashes, and these haunting words: “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”
Yet just as the story of Jesus’ life doesn’t end on Good Friday, neither does our journey of Lent end with ashes. We are reminded that we have a God who knows death intimately; who has endured the pain of an agonizing death. This God promises to accompany us through death and beyond death. The journey through those little daily deaths is promised in the words of the Maundy Thursday absolution: “In obedience to the command of our Lord Jesus Christ I forgive you all your sins.” For every sin committed by us or against us, God promises the possibility of forgiveness and a new beginning. The journey beyond our final death is promised in the Easter Sunday proclamation: “Christ is risen! Christ is risen indeed!” For every believer who lives, a life beyond death, in the mystery of God’s presence, is promised.
Far from avoiding death, our faith embraces the reality of death, and celebrates a God who has overcome it; who has promised to lead us through it. This is the good news which gives us hope, even in the midst of the most difficult of times.
Join us this season, as we journey from death to life. In this journey is the fullness of the promise of our faith. Christ is risen, indeed. For us and for all. Thanks be to God!
God’s Peace to You All, Pastor Dave