Thought for the week
In 1519, Martin Luther was asked by a friend to share his thoughts about death. Luther's questioner was feeling distressed about his death which lay ahead of him. As the old, well-worn joke says, there are only two certainties in life: death and taxes. As Christians, we need to be able to talk about death well (probably need to talk well about taxes too!). In western society, we are more likely to hide from death or try to find a way around it. For some, death is just a technical problem that needs to be solved. Immortality. they say, is possible through science and technology. But I think that rather than shy away from death, we need to be able to talk about it, to consider what God says about it. I tend to think that if we cannot talk well about death, then how can we talk well about life? How can we understand the beauty and importance of life without exploring the reality of death?
In Luther's response to his friend, he wrote these surprising words, 'Since everyone must depart, we must turn our eyes to God, to whom the path of death leads us and directs us. Here we find the beginning of the narrow gate and of the straight path to life (Matthew 7:14). All must joyfully venture forth on this path, for though the gate is quite narrow, the path is not long.'
Did you hear that? All must joyfully venture forth on the path toward death. Joyfully?!
Death is a sacred and special moment for Christians. It's the moment where we finally fall into the arms of the God of our lives. Life is sacred and special because we live alongside the ones we love in the presence of our God. But in death, we find ourselves graciously caught up in the arms of our loving God, and we are clothed in the resurrecting life of Jesus Christ. What a wonderful gift! No wonder Paul exclaims so eloquently in 1 Corinthians 15:54-57, 'When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: "Death has been swallowed up in victory. Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?" The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.'
Death is on the radar for all of us. It feels closer to some than to others. It's more worrying to some than others. Some may try to flee from it. Others embrace death because, in Christ, death has been subverted by Christ into even more life-life in abundance! Let us enjoy the richness of life. But let us joyfully venture forth on the path toward death, because that path leads us toward our God, toward Christ who is the goal of our lives (Philippians 3:7-14). And maybe, in courageously talking well about death, we might learn to live today in new, powerful and hopeful ways.
Weekly Prayer Points
· Pray that we might be able to talk well about death. Pray that those we know who might be distressed or worried by the reality of their death might find the hope and beauty of what Christ's death and resurrection has brought for us. Pray that in talking well about death, we might be able to live even more faithfully, lovingly and filled with hope.
· Pray for our Micro-churches, that they may continue to be spaces of life and growth. Pray that as groups explore where God is present in their daily lives that those conversations will shape us to share more courageously our faith with those around us.
· Pray for Session as they head away on a Retreat this weekend. Pray that the Spirit might guide them and continue teaching them how to love this congregation that God has called them to serve.