Union Ridge Church

Thursday, October 22, 2020

by Reverend Dan on October 22, 2020

“You have made my days like a handbreadth; the span of my years is as nothing before you. Everyone is but a breath, even those who seem secure.”

Psalm 39:5


Without consciously admitting it, many people assume God owes them a long, prosperous life. Carefree days of youth, the fun of young adulthood, time to pursue a career and family, to live long enough to see their children grow up. Then to become a grandparent and retire and travel.


This concept of life changed for me when, at 42, I was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer. The story of my life was going to change, and the final chapter looked like it was going to be written far sooner than I expected or wanted. As I went through surgery and radiation, my expectations of life – and death - began to change. Instead of healthy and strong, there was daily pain and chronic fatigue. I could not talk, and then I could not eat. It took years to settle in to a new normal, and even that continues to change to this day and always will.


Over the last fifty years the emergence of the “Prosperity Gospel” – that the more faith we have, the more “health and wealth” God will give us – has turned the Christian understanding of life and death upside down. Christ came to die for us so that the pain and sting of death would be forever defeated. But this new theology, while exhorting us to “live well”, has robbed the church of something even more important: teaching us how to “die well”.


Whether we live only a few years or several decades, scripture reminds us that our lives are “fleeting” and our days like a “handbreadth in relation to God’s eternity. Eventually, every one of us will be struck down by death, a wound that no medicine can heal. So, maybe it is time as Christians to realize that being reminded of our mortality is what can give us a fresh perspective on living.


The COVID-19 crisis has been a great reminder of the fragility and tenuousness of our lives here on earth. The fact that refrigerated trucks were required to gather the bodies of the dead in cities like New York and Detroit is jarring testimony that no matter how highly developed we may become as a society; we are not immune to death.


The true value of life is best understood when it is realized as finite. Our faith should not be used to shield us from the sobering reality of our own mortality. As a Christian denying death is unnecessary because of our hope in God for the resurrection of the dead. You see, a faith unable to cope with mortality is of little value.  The apostle Paul admits this openly: “If Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith.” (1 Cor. 15).


Strangely enough, admitting our powerlessness over death in this way can free us from the fear of death for it enables us to live in sure and certain hope of the resurrection. We can admit that we cannot defeat death and instead live in trust that on the final day, “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.”  (1 Cor. 15).


Live well. God wants that for each of us. “I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jer. 29:11) But as a Christian, keep in mind that with God’s assurance we can also die well, “for if we die with Christ, we shall also live with him.” (2 Tim. 2)


“Father, Help us to honor you with our lives and our death which shows the world that there is hope beyond this life. In Jesus’ name, AMEN.”