Death is an interesting part of life.
The one thing that is guaranteed in life is that at some point we will die.
I was chatting with a woman I know who is in her 90’s. She tells me that she is ready to die. She is tired, she has had a good life, she has experienced a lot, she is not unhappy, but she is ready to die.
I have been involved in a variety of conversations recently about the purpose and mission of the church. One question that has been explored is about whether God would call local churches to close or in other words, to die. The response has been fascinating, some people have reflected that they realise that if the church were to close it would not be significant to them because it does not mean as much to them as they thought it did. Others have expressed the opposite view, the church means more than they realised and the thought of it closing is painful and so they are willing to do anything and everything within their power to keep it going.
In the approach towards Easter I have been reading again the life and ministry of Jesus. Initially there is much excitement about him, he attracts followers and they will go anywhere with him. His nearest and dearest friends (the 12 disciples) witness all kinds of miraculous events and hear his teaching. They believe he will be their saviour. However; they have a particular view of what a saviour will look like and what he will do. They expect him to become a king and to make the nation of Israel as great as it was under the rule of King David.
Jesus, however begins to talk about death (e.g. John 2:20-33 & Mark 8:31-38). He tells his friends he is going to die and it is for a food reason and for their benefit. The friends however, don’t like this; They are not ready for him to die.
As Christian’s we claim to no longer need to fear death because of the occurrences of what we refer to Good Friday and Easter Sunday, when Jesus died on a cross, overcome death and was resurrected. I realise more and more that often we do not really believe this. We cling to the things we like, we cling to the ways we know, we avoid change and we dare not speak of death, especially the death of local churches. Yet throughout the UK and other parts of the western world local churches are closing down. The buildings are being turned into houses, apartments, pubs, supermarkets and restaurants. Often this occurs because the members of the church are too afraid to speak about and address the issues leading to death.
Yet, we should be a resurrection people, a people who are not afraid of dying. A people who recognise that perhaps our churches become old and have had a good life but it is time to pass on. Perhaps because it is time to move out of the way and enable younger churches to thrive. Or perhaps we need to die with Christ so that we can be resurrected with him. Too often our churches do not choose to die but do so because of the attempt to cling to life. If our churches were willing to choose to lay down their lives and to take up our crosses we may appear broken but through the brokenness Christ will bring life.
Only then does life become an interesting part of death.