Fifth Sunday in Lent: Facing our death

When it comes to the list of the most unanswered questions of life, I would submit that death – or what happens after death – is on the top of the list. Some ask the question “what is the meaning of life”, but for me the answer to that question can be at least pursued while we still have breath in our lungs.

However the question about death is much less sure. Of course we have scriptures that lead us towards that answer, but ultimately we do not know. Yes, we have the hope and assurance that Jesus will take care of us after death. But, if we are really honest we are terrified of death.

The thing is, all other experiences in life we can find someone to help us understand what is to come. For instance, when we were pregnant with our son we could go to our parents or friends who had babies recently that would help us know what was to come.

But, death is different. We don’t really have anyone to tell us what is to come.

There is a scene in one of my favorite TV shows of all time, Scrubs, that deals with this issue. Two of the main characters, JD and Turk, forego a long held tradition to sit with a dying patient who has no family. The subtext of this episode is the five stages of grief and these guys are helping the old man through the stages of dying.

This is a powerful scene where JD and Turk help the man face his death. This scene is so powerful because it doesn’t really answer the questions about what is beyond. It just gives peace.

As we approach Easter in this journey through Lent, we have to look death straight in the face. We can’t get around it. But, we do so knowing that Jesus defeated death. We know that through his resurrection, we have the hope that death will not have the final word.

Join us this week in the Liturgy and our daily reflections as we approach Holy Week.

John 12:1-8

1 Six days before the Passover Jesus came to Bethany, the home of Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. 2 There they gave a dinner for him. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those at the table with him. 3 Mary took a pound of costly perfume made of pure nard, anointed Jesus’ feet, and wiped them with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. 4 But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (the one who was about to betray him), said, 5 “Why was this perfume not sold for three hundred denarii and the money given to the poor?” 6 (He said this not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief; he kept the common purse and used to steal what was put into it.) 7 Jesus said, “Leave her alone. She bought it so that she might keep it for the day of my burial. 8 You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me.”

Isaiah 43:16-21

16 Thus says the Lord, who makes a way in the sea, a path in the mighty waters, 17 who brings out chariot and horse, army and warrior; they lie down, they cannot rise, they are extinguished, quenched like a wick: 18 Do not remember the former things, or consider the things of old. 19 I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert. 20 The wild animals will honor me, the jackals and the ostriches; for I give water in the wilderness, rivers in the desert, to give drink to my chosen people, 21 the people whom I formed for myself so that they might declare my praise.

Psalm 126

1 When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion, we were like those who dream. 2 Then our mouth was filled with laughter, and our tongue with shouts of joy; then it was said among the nations, “The Lord has done great things for them.” 3 The Lord has done great things for us, and we rejoiced. 4 Restore our fortunes, O Lord, like the watercourses in the Negeb. 5 May those who sow in tears reap with shouts of joy. 6 Those who go out weeping, bearing the seed for sowing, shall come home with shouts of joy, carrying their sheaves.

Philippians 3:4b-14

4 If anyone else has reason to be confident in the flesh, I have more: 5 circumcised on the eighth day, a member of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew born of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; 6 as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless. 7 Yet whatever gains I had, these I have come to regard as loss because of Christ. 8 More than that, I regard everything as loss because of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and I regard them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but one that comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God based on faith. 10 I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the sharing of his sufferings by becoming like him in his death, 11 if somehow I may attain the resurrection from the dead. 12 Not that I have already obtained this or have already reached the goal; but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. 13 Beloved, I do not consider that I have made it my own; but this one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus.

Prayer

Lord, I am a broken person wasting away
Each breath I take, I come that much closer
Closer to breathing no more, closer to death
God, help me to face the unknown
Help me to trust in the power of your Son
Death will not have the final word.
Let your words be life in my dead bones
Raise me up as I face my own brokenness today

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