Death is one of those topics everybody is interested in, even if nobody wants to think about it much.
As a Pastor, I come face to face with death often. I have done roughly 100 funerals, and assisted, spoken at or simply attended maybe a hundred more. I have been blessed to sit with families as a loved one lay dying, and I have been there as someone took their final breath. I have counseled the grieving, and I have sat beside them as they made final arrangements for their loved ones. I have helped people plan their own funeral services in advance, and I have listened to their fears about what might happen to the ones they leave behind.
Apart from that, I have planned my own son‘s funeral; made his final arrangements; stumbled through the valley of the shadow of death personally, one excruciating step at a time.
So, as you’d expect, I have thought, studied, prayed about and talked about the topic of death a lot. That might sound morbid, but death is a part of our reality – but in spite of what we may try and tell ourselves, death is not just a natural part of life. Death is wholly unnatural – it tears apart what is good and right, and a whole lot of chaotic thoughts and feelings roil and churn in its wake, because death is the thing that should not be.
I have thought for some time about writing on this topic, but there is just so much to say for one post. Ultimately, I have decided to do a series of posts about death, covering the questions I get asked the most as a pastor – or the questions that never get asked, but which always come up after the fact. Difficult questions people struggle with, like:
- What happens when we die?
- Are our loved ones “looking down on us”?
- Can a Christian choose to be cremated (or have a loved one cremated)?
- What do I say to someone who is grieving?
- Can someone who commits suicide go to heaven?
- What actions are okay to take at the end of life (questions of euthanasia)?
- How should Christians view death/Should a Christian mourn?
In some cases, my church body (the LCMS) has an official stance, in other cases, an unofficial one. In some cases, the Bible speaks, in others, we have to glean from what the Scriptures say collectively. I will do my best to parse out all of these answers, including my own opinion – which is informed, but still an opinion – and make it clear which is which.
I hope this series is helpful to you, and I hope you find comfort, rather than fear or confusion. My hope, beginning on Ash Wednesday (2/17), is to tackle a new question each Wednesday during the seven weeks leading up to Easter, during the season of Lent, a time for reflection on our own mortality.
In doing so, it is my hope that we may head into Easter more prepared to appreciate and celebrate Jesus’ own death and resurrection, promising eternal life to all of us who believe – that God sent Jesus to conquer once and for all the power of sin, death and the devil, so that the power of death would not last.
So prepare your hearts and minds, and I’ll see you right back here in a week.