Sunday night, I was answering questions posed to me by members of our Youth Group when I was asked this question: “Why are we having a sermon series on death anyway?” It is a good and fair question that I have been waiting for someone to ask me. Here is why:
I was tempted to give the Tyler Durden answer from Chuck Palahniuk’s novel Fight Club, (First you have to give up. First you have to know, not fear, know that someday you’re gonna die.”).
But I believe I can do better.
Starting Sunday, May 1, 2016, we will begin a sermon series called “On Death: The Farewell Discourse of Jesus and What it Means to Truly Live.” As it turns out, this series represents our return to the Revised Common Lectionary readings for awhile, and these readings just happen to include passages from the Farewell Discourse of Jesus, found in the Gospel of John, where Jesus prepares his disciples for his impending death and resurrection.
Honestly, I got the idea for this series from the book The Undertaking: Life Studies From the Dismal Trade by the poet and novelist Thomas Lynch. In it, he writes about death from the perspective of his other vocation, that of a small-town undertaker.
He brings a unique perspective to his reflections upon death and dying, mainly because he has done something so few people do anymore: prepare people and bodies for death.
We know from John 20 that this was not always the case. The first Easter begins with Mary on her way to the tomb to finish burial preparations for the body of Jesus, and it is there that she encounters the risen Lord.
All of this made me think about the preachers here at Reveille, because again, so few people have the experience of ministering to the dying and then retelling the story of the dead at their services of death and resurrection.
Therefore it is my prayer that this sermon series will enable us to think about death within the context of the eternal life that we as Christians profess, and that we will benefit from the perspectives of those who have seen death while preaching life and hope as your clergy have for so long. I hope you will join us.