“Within a few years (five, 10, 20 or 30) I will no longer be on this earth. The thought of this does not frighten me but fills me with a quiet peace. I am a small part of life, a human being in the midst of thousands of other human beings. It is good to be young, to grow old and to die. It is good to live with others and to die with others. God became flesh to share with us in this simple living and dying, and thus made it good.” So writes Henri Nouwen, one of my spiritual mentors in one of his many books.
I have encountered many people over the years who have great fears about dying, even though we all know that we are going to do it eventually. People have made jokes about not planning to die. Others may simply refuse to talk about death at all. My mentor Nouwen had such a Christ-like attitude toward dying that I have thought back to his words and the sense of community that was important to him many times. He goes on to say, “I can feel today that it is good to be and especially good to be one of many. What counts are not the special and unique accomplishments in life that make me different from others, but the basic experiences of sadness and joy, pain and healing, which make me a part of humanity. The time is indeed growing short for me, but that knowledge sets me free to prevent mourning from depressing me and joy from (over) exciting me. Mourning and joy can now both deepen my quiet desire for the day when I realize that the many kisses and embraces I received today were simple incarnation of the eternal embrace of the Lord Himself.”
We are taught by so many voices in this world to try and distinguish ourselves from others, but I found something very comforting from Nouwen’s ‘back-to-human-basics’ approach. As Christians, one of the main things we have received from Jesus Christ is a replacement of the fear of death with the hope of life everlasting with God. Jesus came into this world to face death so that we can face it without fear. We can look forward to the Kingdom of Heaven as forgiven sinners because Jesus has given Himself as the one, full, perfect and sufficient sacrifice for us and for our sins. It was all so that we can face the transition from this earthly life to a more wonderful heavenly life without worry or fear. This Christian season of Lent, which begins with Ash Wednesday on March 5, is to help us to prepare to accept the wonderful resurrection gift that Jesus gives us. Be sure and join us here at the church house on the Lord’s Day (Sundays) as we make the Lenten journey from fear to hope as a community of faith.
Grace and Peace,
Pastor Jeff Symonds