Objecting to Death

Greetings in Christ Jesus:

We are now making our way through Holy Week and reliving robustly the life-giving ministry of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. We stand on the edge of a new Easter. Thanks be to God.

I recall hearing the Rev. Dr. James Forbes sharing a story about himself that was rather defining of his view and practice of ministry. The story has been told and retold many times by Dr. Forbes and others in both the oral and written tradition.

Forbes recounts, in a dream, having a powerful image of death – his own. In the dream, he was watching his funeral about to begin. He saw himself laid out in a coffin at the front of the church. When the undertaker came forward to pull the cloth over his face prior to closing the casket, Forbes found himself immediately transported from his seat in the pew to the prone position in the casket. Opening his eyes, he sat straight up in the casket and shouted at the top of his voice, "I object! I object! I object!" When Dr. Forbes, former pastor of The Riverside Church, told the story he added, "I believe it is the job of every preacher of the gospel to declare ‘I object! I object! I object to death everywhere I see it!’"

We continue to witness the daily assaults on our common humanity in word and deed. From Syria to San Bernardino, and everywhere in between, there is death. Our calling as Church is to object to death everywhere we see it. Everything we do and say as God’s people in Christ should be a counter narrative to the death-dealing ways of this world. God needs us to be a sign of life in the midst of death, hope in the face of fear.

Without a single doubt, all that you are pouring into Holy Week and Easter services are a huge opportunity to announce in every possible way your objection to death. My prayer for us all is that this Easter we will renew our commitment to and practice of objecting to death. People are dying on the inside because they feel distanced from God and the church. Please object. The opioid crisis is killing people at an alarming rate. Will the ministries of your church be a visible and viable objection? Gun violence populates the news feeds on a daily basis. Shout, “We object!” Despots in many nations are killing and maiming their own citizens. We must object. The proverbial sabers of war are rattling. If we don’t object, who will? People are dying slowly in food deserts. Let us object by saying there is enough for all.

When you rise next to sing Christ the Lord is Risen Today, sing with militant defiance against death wherever you see it and as a manifesto that empowers your ministry from this day forward. Alleluia, Christ is Risen. He is Risen Indeed. Amen.