Only if we disregard baptism can death terrorize and paralyze us. Whatever of ourselves we hold back or keep out of Christ's death, that’s what death will seize upon to keep us up at night and wake us up. But, why live in uncertainty? We know what's coming. We know the death we've died in baptism and the new life we have in Christ Jesus, and knowing this is our comfort.
There's nothing mysterious about death, nothing unknown. Death doesn't need to be feared. We just trace it back to our baptism and we'll see that death has already come to us, and been drowned in God's baptismal grace.
What is death? It’s unnatural. It’s not the way things are meant to be (Rom 6:23). But in Christ Jesus, it's freedom from sin, sinners, and Satan. No more shame, guilt, or blame. No more worry about whether we're good enough, too much of this or too little of that.
In Christ, we don’t have to say, “I'm going to die.” Instead say, “I'm going to lunch.” That is, “I'm going to the wedding feast of the Lamb without end.” Why concern ourselves with what's already happened? So long as we entrust death to Jesus, new life is ours. He has lunch ready and he is waiting for us in the power of his resurrection.
To we who are baptized, death isn't harsh or ominous. We’ve already died in baptism. But that doesn't mean it won't scare us. Just like masks scare children because they haven’t seen them before, we react to death in much the same way and for much the same reason. What is a child? Ignorance and inexperience. But are we really any different? What is death? A scary mask. Take it off and what do we see? It's just a mask. It doesn’t bite.
So long as we entrust death to Jesus, new life is ours. He has lunch ready and he is waiting for us in the power of his resurrection.
Every day, Jesus' baptismal grace uncovers death, takes off the mask, and what do we see? Baptism. New life. Lunch ready and waiting for us. The wedding feast of the Lamb without end.
Concentrate on this. Focus on living now. Then we can spend the time we have left living simply, quietly, kindly, at peace with death. That’s what we are all after, isn’t it? Meaningful lives that are free of the stress and anxiety produced by the fear of death. Fear that too often terrorizes and paralyzes us.
Doctors can diagnose and treat death. Astrologers can predict our death. Philosophers can argue about the meaning of death. Heroes and tyrants can immortalize their achievements, but they’ll die the same death. One after another, one man's funeral then another, all in a short amount of time. Whole cities and countries, despite their power, wealth, and influence have died.
But, Jesus sends his preacher to tell us that despite the shortness of life: “Remember, you too are baptized. Remember, you too will live."
So death's no great thing for us who are baptized. Whether we die tomorrow or the day after tomorrow, it's not important. There is no difference between the baptized life at two years old and life for us tomorrow. Or, to repeat the apostle’s baptismal confession of the truth: “don't you know that all of you who are baptized into Christ Jesus are baptized into his death? You are buried with him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ is raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, you too may walk in a new life” (Rom 6:3-4).