We have been doing a sermon series on grief this month and my partner just preached an excellent sermon on “Dying Well.” The title might suggest that part of dying well is being ready, with wills finalized, funeral arrangements thought out (if you love your pastor, do this), end-of-life decisions made and in writing, etc. Truly these practical matters are important. I remember being startled once at a graveside burial to look across and see a headstone engraved with “Marge and Rad.” Marge and Rad were very much alive and had been in church the day before. Talk about being ready! But what about the spiritual matters? What does it mean to die well when it comes to the preparations you make to your soul?
A clue comes from this prayer, which is part of the United Methodist Church memorial service:
O God, who gave us birth,
you are ever more ready to hear
than we are to pray.
You know our needs before we ask,
and our ignorance in asking.
Give to us now your grace,
that as we shrink before the mystery of death,
we may see the light of eternity.
Speak to us once more
your solemn message of life and of death.
Help us to live as those who are prepared to die.
And when our days here are accomplished,
enable us to die as those who go forth to live,
so that living or dying, our life may be in you,
and that nothing in life or in death will be able to separate us
from your great love in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.
“Help us to live as those who are prepared to die. Enable us to die as those who go forth to live, so that living or dying, our life is in you.” This beautiful prayer invites us to realize that all of daily life is a chance to prepare ourselves to die well. Every day we have an opportunity to center our lives in Christ, and when those Christ-centered days are accomplished, we can be like Paul, as he describes dying well in the Second Epistle to Timothy:
2 Timothy 4 (Common English Bible)
6 I’m already being poured out like a sacrifice to God, and the time of my death is near. 7 I have fought the good fight, finished the race, and kept the faith. 8 At last the champion’s wreath that is awarded for righteousness is waiting for me. The Lord, who is the righteous judge, is going to give it to me on that day. He’s giving it not only to me but also to all those who have set their heart on waiting for his appearance.
Don’t you long for the assurance that in your last days, you might know that the champion’s wreath of righteousness is waiting for you? If so, what changes do you need to make in your life today to ensure that? Paul reminds us to have our hearts set on waiting for Jesus.
16 No one took my side at my first court hearing. Everyone deserted me. I hope that God doesn’t hold it against them! 17 But the Lord stood by me and gave me strength, so that the entire message would be preached through me and so all the nations could hear it. I was also rescued from the lion’s mouth! 18 The Lord will rescue me from every evil action and will save me for his heavenly kingdom. To him be the glory forever and always. Amen
Paul’s dying thoughts were that God had stood by him all of his life and through all of his many trials. God was the source of Paul’s strength. Paul’s work in proclaiming Christ crucified and risen was the basis of his confidence. How about you? Have you shared your faith with anyone lately?
As you think about these things today, remember that you, too, are being saved for God’s heavenly kingdom. Thanks be to God!