I am actually surprised at how few times I’ve been asked why I wanted to preach on death. I’ll admit, it’s not really the kind of topic that packs the house, but it has generated a lot of interest and some great responses.
I forewarned the congregation about a month in advance that the sermons in October would focus on death. “Not heaven, not hell, not eternity, but the very real and inevitable fact of our own deaths.” I wanted to take a practical and honest look at what we need to know before we die.
I do a lot of funerals. It’s not uncommon for me to encounter families who are totally unprepared for death. They haven’t talked about arrangements, wishes, what they don’t want, or anything else. When I meet with them they’re usually in too much shock to give me many details. I determined that I was going to do my best to make sure my people were better prepared.
The goal was to give them more than sermons, though. They needed hands-on and easy to understand details. The first week in the series a nurse from our church spoke about the need for a Power of Attorney for Health Care and a Living Will. The second week a funeral home director who attends spoke on pre-planning. Before the month’s over we’ll have a short presentation about hospice care.
The response has been amazing. People have taken home the brochures and information provided through these presentations. Others, having recently gone through losses of their own, have volunteered to help with any additional questions people might have.
I feel like one of the gifts this series has given my crowd is the ability to minister out of their own losses. It’s been far more participatory than I ever could have imagined. I think it’s brought some significance and blessing to their hurts.
The first Sunday was a very basic overview of “The Problem with Death.” I took them to Genesis and focused on the curse and the new reality that we live with. Death changes who we are, what we focus on and how we view our lives.
We try to find meaning in life. We try to find purpose. We try to see God’s activity and a legacy. Why would we not want to see those things in our deaths as well?
I felt that for the first sermon in this series I needed to take a fairly serious approach. My second sermon would introduce some levity.
However, I have to admit to one quirky moment in the sermon that I was fairly sure no one would notice—and they didn’t.
At 22:12 into the recording I said, “How we deal with death is at least as important as how we deal with life.” It was an important point. Really, it’s the focus of this whole series. To say that our lives are devoted to God and it’s important to devote them to his work and yet to avoid the topics of our death is a horrible mistake on our part. It’s true. How we deal with death is at least as important as how we deal with life.
It’s also a quote from Star Trek 2: The Wrath of Khan.