Listening to Death’s Message

March 30, 2023

Listening to Death’s Message

This week, our nation once again was rocked by another school shooting. For those of us in the PCA, it hit close to home. At Covenant Presbyterian Church in Nashville six people from Covenant School, three workers and three children, were gunned down by a shooter, who also lost her life. One of the children who died was the nine-year-old daughter of the Senior Pastor and his wife. There is no question we need to weep with the family and friends of those who were killed (Rom. 12:15). Prayers should be uttered. Comfort and help must be given. And it is reassuring that even when we don’t know what to say in response to something like this, the Spirit intercedes for us. There are times when language is not enough to express our groanings (Rom. 8:26).  

And yet, when we are ready to hear it, atrocities like this serve to teach us. Jesus said as much in Luke 13:1-7. Pilate murdered people and a tower in Siloam fell on others. Those horrible events should have encouraged humility and hope in Christ. However, in Ecclesiastes 7:2, we get added instruction.“It is better to go to the house of mourning than to go to the house of feasting, for this is the end of all mankind, and the living will lay it to heart.”

It’s easy to read this verse and ask, “How in the world is a funeral home better than a birthing center? The former is focused on life. The latter is aimed at dealing with death.” It’s because the lessons learned from the end of a life can be more impactful than those from the start. The fact is, due to sin, death is a looming specter we all must face, unless Christ returns. Paul says, “the wages of sin is death” (Rom. 6:23). It is the last enemy (1 Cor. 15:26).

But as we face it, death can teach us something. In fact, it can press things to our souls, merriment can’t. That’s why, at times, it is better for us to sit at a graveside service than to visit a maternity hospital. As hard as it may be, there are moments when we need to place ourselves under ‘death’s preaching.’ As it ascends its pulpit, the tomb proclaims to us that one day we will be placed in a coffin. We are finite. Our turn will come. And when it does, what will be true of us?  

Will it be commented, “She lived for pleasure and play? It was all about money and work for him? She was an unforgiving and angry person? He was selfish and harsh?” Or will Peter’s words to Jesus be said in our eulogies*? “Lord you know everything, you know that I love you”* (John 21:17). Death leans over its lectern to instruct us.

And as we listen, we must recognize our lives are brief, sometimes shorter than we might expect. Which is why, we must also hear death tell us of our need for a Savior, who has conquered the sepulcher. Death, as a defeated foe, is meant to direct us to Christ, who is the champion that planted his flag in the grave, declaring, “Victory!” As one writer put it, “Death is a helping hand … [inviting you] to be a person who realizes that living a good life means preparing to die a good death.”[[1]]( And that’s a death that is in Christ and is living for Christ, right now.

Our brothers and sisters, at Covenant Presbyterian and in the wider Nashville community, need our petitions, comfort, and support. They need us to love them, care for them, and hold them up as they grieve. However, we must not forget to give attention to death, because through it we learn, we are weak and heavy laden. Our only recourse is Christ. He is the one who gives rest to our sorrow filled hearts. Let death, as awful as it may be, teach us how to die in Christ and how to live for Christ.

 —Pastor Clif  

[[1]]( David Gibson, Living Life Backwards (Wheaton: Crossway, 2017), p. 95, 98