The Creep of Mortality
Old Testament: Joel 2:1-2, 12-17 or Isaiah 58:1-12
Psalter: Psalm 51:1-17
Epistle: 2 Corinthians 5:20b—6:10
Gospel: Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21
Righteous God, in humility and repentance we bring our failures in caring, helping, and loving, we bring the pain we have caused other, we bring the injustice in society of which we are a part, to the transforming power of your grace. Grant us the courage to accept the healing you offer and to turn again toward the sunrise of your reign, that we may walk with you in the promise of peace you have willed for all the children of the earth, and have made known to us in Christ Jesus. Amen.
A couple of weeks ago I celebrated my sixty-first birthday, or as I like to refer to it, my half way to a hundred and twenty-two. I am still relatively young (although my children think I’m done for) and I feel good and I am generally healthy, but there is not a week that goes by that something happens that reminds me I am in my seventh decade of life. The weight does not come off as easily as it used to. When I get a good workout in at the gym, I feel it in my joints the next day. When I am working with my tools in the garage, I have to wear my reading glasses in order to use a screwdriver or a hammer. My hair is not as brown as it used to be. The gray is creeping in slowly but surely. And I find myself to be generally more cautious in my life; and anyone who knows me knows that is quite a change—I, who have been described as one who rushes in where angels fear to tread.
I don’t spend much time thinking about my own death, though I know it will come sooner or later. I am well aware of the aging process going on within me and being noticed by me (and others) on the outside. Such aging is a reminder of my own mortality, which I pray will come later than sooner, only because there is much more in life I want to experience, and because I believe God has not yet finished with me. Yet I know that there is no guarantee of anything, and in the big picture of things, that’s OK.
In one sense my creeping mortality is a blessing. It serves to remind me of what’s important. The older I get the things that seemed so trivial when I was younger are more important. I have a sense of urgency to accomplish things I did have not when I was thirty. I am more impatient when it comes to some matters and more patient with others. My aging reminds me of my mortality, and in so doing it also serves as a teacher. There is no age when one is too old to learn. Sadly, there are too many persons who die before they get to experience their creeping mortality; taken away much too early. So, I must remember to be thankful for the experience of aging. Not all get to journey with their mortality into old age.
As the ashes are placed on our foreheads this day, we are reminded that we are dust and yet Christ has redeemed us. I am doubly blessed this day: to know that Christ has redeemed me, and to journey with Jesus and my mortality toward the end God has in mind for me. Moreover, in this sixty-first season of Lent for me, I know that while I am hopefully going on to perfection, I have definitely not yet arrived. There is more of God’s re-creation in store for me, and I must pray and study and serve and submit while the dust that I am lives and breathes.
One this day, let us take to heart the words we hear as the ashes are imposed on our foreheads: “Remember that you are dust and Christ has redeemed you.”
PRAYER: O God, you delight not in pomp and show, but in a humble and contrite heart. Overturn our love of worldly possessions and fix our hearts more firmly on you, that, having nothing, we may yet possess everything, a treasure stored up for us in heaven. Amen.
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