March heralds the one year anniversary of the Government’s order to “stay at home: protect the NHS: save lives”. On one hand it doesn’t feel like a year has passed, and yet on the other it certainly does. So much has changed. So many people have been infected and affected. Our statistics are brutal and sobering, and behind each number is a name, a person, and a grieving family.
In the early days of the pandemic, I recall hearing the daily death toll – rising – and being both concerned and anxious. I recall when we topped 1000 people dying in a single day, and when we reached the grim landmark of over 100,000 people dying because of Covid-19. It has been a dark and painful year.
One thing Covid-19 has done to our society is open a conversation about death and dying. It has been something we cannot ignore no matter how much we might like to. Across the generations we have started to think about our mortality rather than treating the subject as taboo and brushing it under the carpet. That’s not to say we have come to terms with dying but rather that we are more prepared to address the often-ever-present elephant in the room!
The Christian faith never shies away from dying. How can it? when at the heart of our faith is the death of the Son of God upon the Cross and his mightily and glorious resurrection, and the promise that he is the resurrection and the life. Jesus never shied away from death – in fact, he actively ‘set his face towards Jerusalem’ knowing all that was to befall him and his own death.
The Letters to the early Church are riddled with references to both Christ’s death and our own dying – actual and metaphorical dying. But although death is at the heart of our faith it is not the final word. Death and dying are the vehicles by which new life is possible: new experiences, new perspectives, new relationships. Death is not the end – as we often think – but rather a moment of transformation or a gateway into a new reality with God. Only by dying can we be resurrected with Christ and take our places more fully in his eternal Kingdom.
This is the Good News of our faith: that “neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8: 38. Death is not the final word – Life is the final word… life in all its fullness.
As we approach this Easter and prepare to celebrate afresh Christ’s victory over sin and death may we be encouraged and strengthened to witness to this Good News within our wider community.
As we start to be able to have face-to-face conversations again may we be ready to offer the Christian hope of the resurrected life in Christ Jesus to all. May we gently, but unashamedly, offer Christ and his victory over the grave.
As ever, stay well and safe.
With my love and prayers.