In this third sermon in our Non-Perishable series, guest speaker Osheta Moore shares how anxiety and fear surrounding death can be overcome through looking to Christ, who shared in our death.
Osheta shared that when she was first asked to come speak on death she had a visceral reaction to preaching about death. The end of our life on earth is something we all know we will face, but something that causes tremendous anxiety and fear. American culture encourages this mindset, with phrases like “cheated death.” Many of us think of death as a failure or something to be avoided at all costs. Some try to avoid it through plastic surgery, or the pursuit of money, others through pouring themselves into meaningful work. At the bottom of much of our anxiety and striving is a fear of death. Ultimately, we are afraid because it is unknown to us.
So, how should Christians approach death? We look to Jesus to understand how we are to act towards death. On the cross Jesus accepted death to save us. He loved us more than He hated death. In His work on the cross Jesus was saying to us, “you are not alone. I will go with you. I went before you.”
In Matthew 16:13-26 Jesus tells the disciples about His coming death only to be rebuked by Peter who can’t accept the scandalous idea that the Messiah would be killed. The message is scandalous on two fronts. First, it turns the idea of Kingship on its head. Secondly, Jesus calls us to participate in His death.
We participate in the death of Christ by letting go daily of anything we cling to: comfort, material possessions, power, etc. Death anxiety is at its core a cling to things of this world. As we walk with Christ we learn to release these things and practice the work of dying.
There are two spiritual practices that can help us with this:
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- Fasting: Fasting doesn’t have to be of food, but can be of anything that we sense we are clinging to. We fast when our heart is to let go of something in a healthy way to experience more dependence on God, our source of life.
- Prayer: We can use imaginative prayer to begin experiencing as real our death and our hope in Christ. Osheta recommended three ways to do this. Try turning on some soft music or lighting some candles- whatever helps you feel comfortable. Then ask the Holy Spirit to lead your imagination. It might take some practice and that is ok.
- Imagine entering a cemetery. Jesus is waiting there for you. He leads you to your tombstone. As you are walking together Jesus tells you everything He is proud of in your life. End with Him saying to you, “Well done good and faithful one.”
- Imagine acknowledging to Jesus all things that you are ashamed of in your life. Imagine Him hearing you and proclaiming forgiveness over every aspect of you and your life that you bring to Him.
- Practice releasing everything to Jesus. You can imagine this in many different ways. One way is to imagine releasing everything in your life one by one onto hot air balloons. As you release these things thank them for what they have meant to you. Imagine Jesus saying to you, “I am enough. You don’t need that anymore.” Then imagine everyone you love. Practice releasing each person to the care of Jesus as He tells you that He is holding each one of them.