Your Death

Death is a natural human fear. A terror of the unknown and we all must face it. None of us chose to be born and none of us can choose whether we die, but die we must.

Terror is the right word too. Terror Management Theory reveals some important insights. From a 2015 book entitled ‘The Worm at the Core: On the Role of Death in Life‘ the authors suggest that this theory: “… proposes that a basic psychological conflict results from having a self-preservation instinct while realizing that death is inevitable and to some extent unpredictable. This conflict produces terror, which is managed through a combination of escapism and cultural beliefs that act to counter biological reality with more significant and enduring forms of meaning and value.”

This feeds into a “death anxiety” that literally affects such factors as self-esteem at the personal level, and ideas of immortality at the existential level of life that informs whether or not human beings have meaning. The fact of this anxiety is, I think, good evidence that humans intuitively know that we do have meaning.

The PsychCentral webiste writes,

“We make dozens of decisions every day, some that require thought and some that we make without giving our decisions much thought.

The awareness of death can influence our choices and shape how we interact with others. It can also create a lot of anxiety and fear. Global crises and personal stressors or traumatic events can also bring to awareness our mortality.

The terror management theory is one explanation for what we do — consciously or subconsciously — with that awareness.”

Many people live ignoring this fact, and I have enormous sympathy with that! It’s a morbid business moping about the place permently reminding yourself of your own mortality.

Some of us are faced with the reality of death more than others. If not through our own failing bodies, then by those around us. Some people do seem to be surrounded by death more than most. Incidentally, this applies to morticians and Funeral servcies too, who still wrestle with the human dilemma in the same way, maybe even being around death may take the edge of it for them. I don’t know!

Some people think it unnatural to think or talk about death.

Life happens, thoughts come, and go.  And we live our lives.

Recently, the famous astrologer Mystic Meg died (I bet she didn’t see that coming)!

And that’s the point.  Do we see our own death coming?

One of the most important yet equally underrated aspects of being a pastor is this:

Showing people how to die well:  “Christianity is ongoing training in dying.”  

This is not because I have personal experience of it, but because the Scriptures point to it, and that death is an aspect of the Fall that has been defeated by the resurrection of Jesus Christ.  It’s not that I want to talk about death, it’s just that the fullness of the Gospel compel all pastor’s to speak of it.

St Paul writes that in this life we are to “die to self” – to live for God I have to die to me.

There’s an element of life that requires our selfishness and sin to be daily crucified.

No wonder our churches are emptier than previous years with a sales pitch like that!!

We live in a culture that is quite uncomfortable around the subject of death.

Not so much now, but it has been taboo for some time.

But as Woody Allen says, not one single person ever got out of life alive.

We all do indeed die.

The question is:  Does the thought torment and dement you?

Or does it fill you will joy in the resurrection promise of Jesus?

Or do you not think about it at all?

It is a major responsibility of ordained ministry to bring these questions to bear.

For some, it’s as easy as 1, 2, 3.

For others, you’d probably like to go back home.

But we can say, there are three known facts about life:  1. Death.  2. Taxes.  And…. 3. God’s love.

1 Peter 1:24 says, “All people are like grass, 

and all their glory is like the flowers of the field;

the grass withers and the flowers fall”

And so, hearing what God our Creator and Redeemer says about death is pivotal.

There was a tombstone in a Yorkshire churchyard with the following inscription:

‘Remember, friend, when passing by. As you are now, so once was I.  As I am now, soon you will be. Prepare for death and follow me.  

Underneath someone had written:  ‘To follow you I’m not content. Until I know which way you went.’

The Bible is an utterly realistic guide for us.

Hebrews 9:27  reminds us, we are “appointed to die and after that, judgement.”

We are told about Jesus, the God-Man, born to die.

And die he did, in a way that bore the judgement of God on a world of sin.

I remember in Torquay, holding a tiny, deformed dead baby in my hands.

Born prematurely at 5 months, I was anointing her head with oil and committing her to Father God.

I wasn’t pleading,  and I didn’t do this heartbreaking thing in vain hope.

But I commended the baby girl to her Father in Heaven, where she is right now.

And if any one here has lost a baby, child, infant, I assure you in the name of Jesus Christ;

They are with our Father in heaven, hallowed be His name.

But the Christian Gospel bears down on us who’ve made it through a few years.

The Christian is obligated by God’s love to believe that death is not the end.

The unbeliever is obligated by doubt that God is not waiting on the other side.

Why?  Because Jesus Christ has been raised from the dead.  

I hope to bring to mind that we all hope someone says nice things about us at our funeral.

What wouldn’t work is if someone read out our CV.

The CV is the Self:  promoting and announcing itself and achievements.  

The obituary is the heart of it; the personality; the character; 

the meaningful nature of the deceased.

As a pastor, and for some, I love talking to people about their funeral.

Seriously.  And in that meeting, I need to hear about your CV for sure.  It’s important.

But share with me that you know you will die and meet your Maker.

If you are “In Christ” the destiny is assured for certain.  No doubt.

But if you’re not “In Christ” or if you don’t know – give your life to Jesus this very day.

Talking about your life and death really is more important than life and death.

Because the death and judgement we truly do deserve, Jesus has borne for us and taken away

Hence Philippians 1:21 “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.”

And all those who have died with Him, will be raised with him.  Glory to Jesus Christ.

This is Easter Week, and Easter is all about life and death, and life from death, and life after death. It is the promise of Jesus coming true again and again, to any and all who repent and believe.

The last word goes to Mark Twain, and may it never be said of us:

“I didn’t attend the funeral, but I sent a nice letter saying I approved of it.”

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