Living as Those Who Are Prepared to Die: A Reflection for Lent
posted on March 02
Living as Those Who Are Prepared to Die:
A Reflection for Lent
“Help us to live as those who are prepared to die…”
There is a line in one of our funeral prayers in the United Methodist Book of Worship that always gives me pause: “Help us to live as those who are prepared to die.” When I lead that prayer, it is usually in a service where persons are grieving, and the last thing any of us want to think about is more death. But the words are provocative and prophetic – especially during the Lenten season.
I have had the opportunity to speak three times in the past week, once to give my testimony before a large group of United Methodist Men, then to preach at an Ash Wednesday Service, and lastly to officiate at Holy Communion for the closing worship service of our District Lay Servant Training. Each time, death has been a part of the conversation. I cannot give my personal testimony without talking about the death of my parents’ marriage or my younger brother taking his own life at the age of 31. I cannot talk about Ash Wednesday without mentioning the cross imposed on our foreheads, and the death that Jesus will experience by setting “his face to go to Jerusalem.” (Luke 9:51) I cannot preside at the Table without observing that Jesus made himself vulnerable enough at that meal to ask simply to be remembered. He knew what was ahead.
I suggest that at the deepest level, we know what is ahead, too. Even if we pretend we are immortal, deep inside we know it is not true. In my life as a pastor in the local church, some of my most meaningful conversations have been with people who have received a diagnosis and said, “I now know how I am going to die.” That is a profound moment for a person. In that moment, many begin to live for the first time. They begin to love, to embrace people they have refrained from embracing, and to cast off the many things that are not of ultimate concern. As I stated in my testimony, some life events “make the non-essentials seem more non-essential.”
Hopefully, death is far out there for all of us, but it is inevitable. What is still up for grabs is HOW WE WILL LIVE in the meantime. We might all take a more sensitive approach to our world, nation, and to each other if we were to behave “as those who are prepared to die.” When I meet Jesus, I want to say that I did everything I could to live lovingly and with a humble awareness of my own mortality.
I invite you to “live as those who are prepared to die” during this season, and actually … I invite you to live like that always.
Love and Peace to All,