Death may seem like a heavy topic for Lent but it is, after all, what Ash Wednesday is all about. When the worshipers come, they have a little bit of ash (usually taken from the burning of the palm crosses used in the previous year’s Palm Sunday) smudged on their forehead, sometimes in the sign of the cross. The pastor then says, “Remember that you are from the dust, and to dust you will return.”
It is a good thing to contemplate our own mortality from time to time because we live in a world that prefers not to think about death. No one ever says, “Thank God it’s Friday. Let’s get together tonight, have some pizza, and talk about death.”
But consider these words of Scripture. “What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes” (James 4:14). Other translations use phrases like “wisp of fog” or “a bit of smoke.” The NLT says, “Your life is like the morning fog—it’s here a little while, then it’s gone."
Like hot breath on cold glass.
That’s what we’re like.
Do you remember when you were a child, how on a cold morning you would blow on the glass and try to write your name in the mist that covered the glass before it disappeared? Short names (like Ray) were easy. Long names (like Nebuchadnezzar) were almost impossible because the mist would vanish from the glass. You would get to N-E-B-U-C-H and then you ran out of mist.
That’s what the ash in Ash Wednesday is all about. Here today, gone tomorrow.
Martin Luther said we should live each day with the day of our death placarded before our eyes. Live with the end in view. Lent reminds us that in this present age, death reigns on planet earth. “It is appointed unto man once to die” (Hebrews 9:27).
Should this be a Friday downer? Not at all. Live while you are alive. Have a blast while you last. Take every opportunity to show kindness. Show kindness to a stranger. Hug your children. Pray for the sick. And then go see them. Don’t sweat the small stuff. Smile. Enjoy life. Be quick to forgive. Serve the Lord with gladness.
This is a great day to be alive–any day you are alive is a great day.
What is your life? Just a wisp of fog.
Enjoy it, and remember that you won’t be here forever. Let not your heart be troubled for our Lord has conquered death. We will die–that’s one of the Lenten messages–but it’s not the end of the story.
Lord, teach us to number our days so that we may gain a heart of
wisdom. Free us from the delusion of thinking that we will never die.
Grant us holy joy so that if this is our last day, we may spend it
wisely and be glad to see your face before the sun goes down. Amen.