One of the joys of Lent, (if we can say we are looking for joy in a season of repentance), is the focus upon the death of Christ that becomes our life. Even in the season that focuses on our sin, and God’s answer for our sin, there is joy in the belief that death is swallowed up in victory and that the Christian has passed from death to life. It is Jesus himself who says in John chapter 5 “I tell you the truth whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life.”
The sad reality of Lent is that many people don’t want to think about the death of Jesus because it makes them think about their own death, as well as making them think about their own sin. Preachers endlessly comment upon the fact the very few people will come to Ash Wednesday services, while Easter services are relatively packed.
I came across a funeral sermon presented by Dean Wenthe, President of Concordia Theological Seminary delivered in 1999 at the death of Dr. Heino O. Kadai. There is a paragraph in the sermon that is stunning. “Look about in our day. The plot and the paradigm are transparently evident – from the elderly to the unborn, from the gradeschool to the grad school. You can feel the fear, you can see the flight – the rush to play; the need to purchase; the push to squeeze the most from every moment and never to mention the end, the finale. For we live in a time that is robbed of richness and wholeness and holiness, all because it embraces and assumes that life is followed by death. Dark, deep, and forever – death swallows up all hope in a culture where the intellect is clouded and people are reduced to mere moments before endless silence.” Wenthe then goes on with marvelous gospel proclamation that it is not to be that way with Christians. That we who trust and believe in Christ celebrate at funerals the great reversal. That because of Jesus death is followed by life.