I am sitting in my office on this Saturday morning. I have a wedding in an hour or so, there are men putting in new floors on the other side of the building. I am making lists because I’m about to leave for two and a half weeks, I need to do all the things and then some. On the list I write that I finish a funeral bulletin for a woman who hasn’t yet died. Then I turn to tomorrow’s sermon.
I am writing a sermon based on James 2:14-26. I open the text and read it through again. And I get to the last verse.
For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is also dead.
For just as the body without the spirit is dead… I begin to cry. I want to throw things. There are many complicated reasons, but I am also enraged by this line. I have sat at many a bedside, and currently one in particular, where the spirit is gone, the person is ready to go but the body keeps pumping blood through their veins and air keeps entering their lungs. The other day I sat at a bedside and wept. She is a shell of her former self, although always petite no grown woman should weigh 80 pounds.
This is not the first time I have sat at a bedside and they look at me and ask, beg to die.
“Why does God hate me” one woman asked me, she stared into my eyes. She had not eaten or drank in two weeks. She was not in pain but she was suffering. I will never forget the look on her face. Ever.
I actually blame Jesus. I really do, or at least the gospel writers.
Then Jesus, crying with a loud voice, said, ‘Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.’ Having said this, he breathed his last. – Luke 23:46
I am not Jesus. Yes, this is actually a lesson I have to learn over and over again in my life. We are not Jesus, and death does not work this way. But Jesus did it and we think we will too. That the moment we are ready to die we will be able to give up our spirit and breathe our last.
It’s complicated, right? It’s messy. Because it is possible to live with no spirit. It should be hard to die, we should not be allowed to control when our last breath is taken because if we died every time we commended our spirit we would all die “before our time”. But it is also cruel.
It is a strange thing to pray for death, but it is not strange to pray for a peaceful end. So today I will weep, I will cry and weep and beg God for a peaceful end.