I am about to write something very impolite.
You are going to die. I am going to die. We are all going to die.
I know this is one of those things we are not supposed to say in polite company. It is depressing…it is morbid…and let’s face it: it is unsettling to hear. But, it is true: we are all going to die. We are all mortal. The days we have are not limitless. One day we will find that it is our last day.
I am of the opinion that all good theology begins with truth-telling, and so as we look toward the beginning of Lent (that great season that leads up to Easter) and as we prepare ourselves to try to say something about resurrection on Easter morning, we begin with the truth-telling of Ash Wednesday: a day when we come together and mark ourselves with ashes, and remind ourselves that we are mortal: we come from the dust and we will return to the dust. We remind ourselves that life is limited.
Recently I saw a video that explains this very succinctly. Give it a watch.
Now, many say that this kind of thing is depressing. Perhaps it is. Many of us (and I include myself in that category) would often prefer to ignore this truth. It is easier to ignore it and allow ourselves to pretend that we are immortal. It is easier to allow ourselves to believe that we will live forever, and many have asked “what is so wrong with that?”
Perhaps nothing is wrong with that. Perhaps it would be better to go on living as if we will live forever. Certainly I don’t want to live my life terrified of my death! But, for myself I find that I need to be reminded of this truth not so that I will focus on death, but rather so that I can focus on life. I need to be reminded of my mortality so that I don’t forget to live.
I need to be reminded of my own mortality so that I will remember what is important to do with this life. When I think I am immortal I can convince myself that so many things matter. I can convince myself that my money, my house, my car, the weather, the big game, the new big screen TV or any number of other things matter. But, when I remember that I am mortal I am reminded of what really matters: Love, life, the fullness of life, the people with whom I have the rare opportunity to be in relationship with. That is what is important, and that is what I risk forgetting if I let myself believe I am immortal.
So, here is my invitation to you.
On February 18th come and join us. We will begin at 6 PM to share a common meal, then at 7 we will head up to the sanctuary for worship. We will mark ourselves with ashes, we will face our own mortality, and we will prepare ourselves for the season of Lent where we allow ourselves the space to question our lives, to dare to ask if we are really living them or not, and perhaps even to find new ways to live them.
That question is what this morbid discussion is really all about. When we admit that we are mortal, that our time is limited, that we only get so many days: are we happy with how we are spending them? Are we content with how we are living them? Are we loving and living and laughing and caring as much as we would like? Or might there be something more?
I hope you’ll join us.