Summary: We prepare to live by preparing for death.

“Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart, since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God; for

‘All flesh is like grass

and all its glory like the flower of grass.

The grass withers,

and the flower falls,

but the word of the Lord remains forever.’

And this word is the good news that was preached to you.” [1]

“The grass withers, and the flower falls…” Wow! Talk about a downer! Don’t we come to church to hear inspiring sermons? Isn’t the preacher supposed to make us feel good about ourselves? Talk about a dark message! From the viewpoint of this dying world, Peter confronts readers with a stunning reminder of the impermanence of everything associated with this life. Most of our contemporaries find such realistic talk disturbing and shove such considerations far from their thoughts. And yet, the words of the old hymn stand true: “Death is coming, hell is moving.” [2]

During the days of my childhood, my dad would often say, “There is nothing sure but death and taxes.” I suppose he was correct, at least concerning the matter of death (though taxes do seem rather constant). The song writer has expressed what we all know to be true when he wrote the words to an old hymn:

“Swift to its close ebbs out life’s little day;

earth’s joys grow dim; its glories pass away;

change and decay in all around I see—

O Thou who changest not, abide with me!” [3]

Whether we allow ourselves to think of the reality of this transient existence or whether we attempt to shove the thought far from our conscious mind, we are each moving inexorably toward this final date with death.

It is truly a downer to come to the service of worship of the Risen Lord of Glory and hear a sermon about death. We don’t worship death; rather, we worship the Saviour Who conquered death. Jesus our Lord took the sting of death, forever removing the fear of death for those who walk with Him. And yet, death comes to all whether we talk about death or try to ignore it. The minister of God who will faithfully serve the welfare of the people to whom he ministers will speak of death, preparing those over whom he is appointed as an elder by speaking of that which is inevitable in this fallen world.

Long years past I arrived at the understanding that the work of the preacher consists of preparing men to die by equipping them to live. Everything within us as mortals occupying this terrestrial sphere attempts to shove far from our consciousness every thought of death. Multiple sources assist in this futile attempt to shield us from the inevitable—friends will shush us and minimise our concerns that are raised in the course of our conversation; newscasts blur the images of dead people and preface any story telling of death by warning viewers, “This report shows graphic images that may be disturbing to some viewers.” The knowledge of our mortality continues to intrude into our consciousness, disturbing the tranquility of our self-imposed ignorance.

It is often said that death is the last thing we talk about, and I suppose that is true. Personally, I have often said that I am prepared to quit speaking about death when people quit dying. However, as long as the statistic on death reveals that one out of one dies, I’m constrained to warn that each of us has a meeting with the death angel. I don’t exult in the need to speak about death, but reality intrudes upon my comfortable efforts to ignore what each of us must face—I am constrained to remind you of what is coming!

After a victory had been gained on the field of battle, the victorious Roman Army would parade through the streets of Rome. The vanquished and humiliated enemies would be exhibited while the powerful legions would be honoured. Following the proud legions would be slaves carrying the treasures that had been seized from the conquered enemies of the Empire. The treasures would be paraded through the streets of Rome so that the citizens would witness the value of legions and the prowess of the leaders of the Empire. Captives from the unfortunate foes would be compelled to follow the legions. Those captive warriors would be chained though the more notable captives would also be caged so those watching the parade could witness with their own eyes the futility of opposing the Roman legions.

At last, in the climax of the spectacle of state power, the victorious general would be carried through the streets in his chariot. Anyone watching this spectacle would notice a slave riding in the chariot with the great general. That slave would be holding a garland wreath over the head of the general. That wreath was the symbol of victory held above the general’s head so that all could see the might and prowess of the general. And as the chariot bearing the conquering general was drawn through the streets of the capital of the Empire, the slave would repeatedly whisper in the ear of the victorious general, “Memento mori,” “Remember death.” The conquering hero, the powerful general who had commanded the vast armies, knew the cheering crowds would one day cease to shout their praise for the victorious general. Powerful and praised as he was at that moment, that great man needed to remember that he must one day die. And we, also, must not forget that we must one day die. Memento mori. Indeed, “Memento mori.”

Copy Sermon to Clipboard with PRO Download Sermon with PRO
Talk about it...

Nobody has commented yet. Be the first!

Join the discussion