“Ash Wednesday rituals tweaked for Coronavirus as Christians are reminded of death,” read a February 16th headline in the religious section of the Washington Post.
Apparently one of the changes involved people not drinking from the same cup when communion was served. (Personally, I like that idea all the time.)
COVID-19 seems to have highlighted the possibility of death. Every day our national news media reminds us of how many people in the United States and around the world have died from the virus. Our local TV stations report on the number of deaths statewide on a daily basis.
When a person of some notoriety contracts COVID-19 and dies, it makes the news. In fact, death for any reason of a famous individual seems to invoke surprise. When Rush Limbaugh died the other day, some seemed shocked. Yet, Rush knew he was going to die and publically said so. Everyone else knew it, too. Yet, the news of someone’s death seems to elicit astonishment and dismay as if some unusual event has occurred.
Not to minimize the seriousness of the pandemic, but people were dying every day before COVID-19.
The Bible reminds us of the brevity of life. And the fact that we are all going to die.
““O Lord, make me know my end and what is the measure of my days; let me know how fleeting I am!,” penned King David. (Ps. 39:4)
In Psalm 90 Moses wrote, “The days of our lives are seventy years; And if by reason of strength they are eighty years, Yet their boast is only labor and sorrow; For it is soon cut off, and we fly away.”
In his pain and suffering, Job often spoke of living in the “shadow of death” (16:16). He said our days are few. And compared life to a fading flower. Or a fleeting shadow. (14:1-2)
The Hebrews stripped away the flowery imagery and bluntly said, “And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment” (9:27).
Death is indeed an appointment we will all keep. Sooner or later.
The issue that ought to occupy our attention is not a reminder of death itself, but the reminder to prepare for death. And I’m not talking about funeral arraignments. Making a will. Or buying a sizable insurance policy.
Jesus’ parable of the wealthy farmer portrayed a man who was prepared to live a life of ease, but not prepared to die. In his selfish obsession with material concerns, he forgot the most important thing. His spiritual relationship with the Lord. “God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’” (LK. 12:20).
Preparing for death should challenge us to ask these important questions.
Have I obeyed the gospel of Christ? (Rom. 1:16; 6:1-5)
Am I a faithful Christian? (Rev. 2:10)
Do trust God’s promises? (2 Pet. 1:3-4)
Am I daily walking by faith and not by sight? (2 Cor 5:17)
Does my behavior correspond to my beliefs? (1 Pet. 2:12)
Do I confess my sins and seek to walk in the light of Christ? (I Jn. 1:7-10)
Do I realize I can never earn heaven but must rely on God’s grace and mercy? (Eph. 2:1-10).
Death is certain. And judgment day is coming.
In the 1990’s “Touched By An Angel” series, one episode had the angel of death saying, “Death is nothing to fear. But it is something to prepare for.”
Being daily reminded of death by our news media is not enough. The real question is: “Are you prepared?”
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman