“Whenever the journey to Easter begins, it must always begin right here: at the contemplation of my death, in the cold conviction that I shall die.” (Walter Wangerin, Reliving the Passion, p 21)
Sobering words for the beginning of Lent. Even more sobering as I consider the deaths of two people, one whom I’ve never met and one who has played a considerable influence in my life. The one I’ve never met is the 26-year-old nephew of a friend. Newly married, he collapsed recently and is near death. My heart breaks for this family I’ve never met; for the bride at the beginning of their married life, with so much to look forward to, who now may feel like her plans are crumbling into dust. Where tears will replace a warm embrace. I cry out to the God of hope.
The other person near death is Leanne Payne, an amazing woman who was active in healing prayer, and for whom I edited Listening Prayer and her spiritual autobiography, Heaven’s Calling. She poured love and care into my life, calling forth in me a language to communicate with God as she helped me to find the vocabulary in which to speak and listen to my Creator, my Friend. Our early morning phone calls (she would routinely wake at 4 am for her time of prayer, and my 7 am phone call would be well into her day) would fill me with laughter and hope as we would talk through not only her writing but my hopes, dreams, and relationships. She helped me grow up in Christ, and the debt I owe her is massive.
So I ponder with Walt Wangerin death at the start of Lent. The coming death of two people; the death of our Lord for us; my own death. As this gifted writer says at the end of today’s reading, “When we genuinely remember the death we deserve to die, we will be moved to remember the death the Lord in fact did die…. We will yearn to hear the Gospel story again and again, ever seeing therein our death in his, and rejoicing that we will therefore know a rising like his as well.” (p 22)