Dying is an astonishing thing.
And, as far as I know or can tell, the only living creatures on this planet who “know” they are going to die are human beings, like you and me. My dog, God bless him, has no idea he is going to die someday.
But you do know, don’t you…I know you do…somewhere in the back of your mind…that you’re going to die? You do know that, don’t you? Sooner or later, in one way or another, you will say your last words, take your last breath and shuffle off this mortal coil….
Just like that….Here today, gone tomorrow.
Each of us will, some day or another, ‘kick the bucket’, ‘buy the farm’, ‘pass away’, ‘exit the stage’, die.
I’m sixty years old—older than I ever imagined being, by the way—and it was just a few months ago when I finally admitted to myself that I am mortal, that I will die.
When I turned onto exit 3 of Interstate 91, going to the Episcopal Church at Yale to celebrate a Eucharist and realized that the rain back up on the Interstate was black ice on the exit, I knew, in my heart, I was about to die. It was a moment I will never forget. The car started sliding out of control as soon as I hit the ice, and as I was spinning around in a 360 degree arc, I had two thoughts:
The first thought was, much more calmly than I ever imagined it would be, simply this: I AM ABOUT TO DIE.
The second thought followed hard on the first one, because things were happening very quickly…that thought was this: I’M ABOUT TO MESS UP CHRISTMAS FOR A LOT OF PEOPLE THIS YEAR….
Obviously, I didn’t die. And, beyond the two plates in my left arm that gave me some impressive scars, I’m pretty much back to ‘normal’—though more people that you might think have commented that what is ‘normal’ to me is up for grabs….
Herbert Hoover, the only president we’ve ever had who was known for not ‘saying much’, was stopped as he came out of church one Sunday by a reporter who asked, “Mr. President, what did the preacher talk about today?”
Hoover said, simply, “Sin.”
The reporter asked what the preacher said about sin and the President replied, “He’s agin’ it….”
That’s what I have to say about dying. “I’m agin’ it.”
I’ve lost some dear, lovely friends in the past year because they died. And “I’m agin’ it.”
But there it is, waiting for us somewhere down the road—death.
He died a horrible death—suffocation is what killed people who were crucified. The loss of blood and the nails and even the beating before that wasn’t what killed him. He died because, hanging on a cross, his diaphragm could no longer push air out of his lungs and he suffocated to death. Sometimes the executioners would break the legs of those being crucified to make sure death would come more quickly since the victim couldn’t hold himself up and make his diaphragm work.
This is obviously not the Easter Sermon you came to hear. I’ve said nothing cheery yet.
But there is this—after Jesus died…died as all of us will…--after that and after he was sealed in a tomb, he simply wasn’t dead anymore. In an instant that must have rocked the universe, he was alive again…and forever.
That’s the Easter message: Life conquers Death.
That’s what we should all carry in our hearts—today and always.
LIFE CONQUERS DEATH.
No matter what befalls us—life conquers death.
No matter how dark the day is—life conquers death.
No matter how things fall apart—life conquers death.
Now and forever and forever—life conquers death.
That is my Easter message: Life Conquers Death.
Alleluia, he is risen! He is risen indeed, Alleluia.
Amen and Amen.
Joyful Easter to you all.