This article was originally written for the August 9, 2017 edition of the Pastor’s Corner in the Leoti Standard paper in Wichita County, Kansas.
Death is a part of life. There is no doubt that all things have their season. Each year we plant and harvest. Each year we celebrate birth with spring and see the death of things in winter. Yet we have an uncomfortable relationship with death.
Remembering our own mortality is not a topic of frequent conversation. Most of us will remember the first real loss in our lives that brought us to the reality that we will someday die too. Death leaves us feeling great loss, pain, struggle, and the difficult path to grasping a new reality without a loved one.
As a pastor I have grown accustomed to the topic of death through funerals, grief, and my connection with others that I provide comfort, care, and, I pray, help. Death is not easy for pastors either. We too struggle with our own mortality. We also grieve the loss of loved ones, especially those saints in the church who we have grown to love as brothers and sisters in Christ. I have cried with families. I have struggled to find words to share when leading a service celebrating a life. Death is a difficult topic nonetheless.
The Bible constantly talks about death. It does so from the very beginning. After all, God did not create humanity to die. Due to Adam and Eve’s sin we have been cursed with death. In Genesis 3:19 God tells Adam, “By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return.” Death is a consequence of sin. Jesus is the forgiveness for our sin and thus the way to eternal life.
I know very well that our bodies return to dust. All that is left after someone is cremated is the dust of their ashes. The reality is that our bodies are temporary. They are mortal. They are not eternal. They are not forever.
Dust is such a constant problem for us. In our home my wife Diana swears I cannot see dust. Honestly, I do not look for it and in the 3 years I was a bachelor living on my own I did not care about it. Yet living in western Kansas I know that we have plenty of dust. Dust storms come through occasionally in the dry months. Dust is everywhere in our dry climate.
So much that we do results in more dust. Not only in farming practices and driving on roads, but in our everyday lives we create more dust. We work so hard to get a nicer vehicle. What will happen to it? It will rust. What about that home you bought? It will rot. What about the large storage containers we have of stuff that American culture tells us is necessary for our lives? Moths will come and destroy it.
Jesus said, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 3:19-21). We should not be chasing dust and ashes.
In our dusty lives we must make a choice. Are we going to chase ashes? Will we spend our days and years building up something that can be destroyed so easily? We all will die, but if we have put our treasure in Christ then we will have the gift of eternal life to enjoy that treasure. If we want to build a true legacy that will outlast us on earth and go to every generation then build the Kingdom of God. Sow the fruit of the Spirit. Faith in Jesus Christ is the greatest gift we can give anyone. It is also a part of the church that will never be overcome by hell.
I’m done chasing ashes. I am committing myself to follow Jesus with greater focus and faithfulness. I will no longer put other things or people ahead of my Lord and God. Jesus is #1. If you set your priorities and follow them then you will put your faith first. Seek first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness and all these things will be added as well!