Maybe it's because I'm firmly in mid-life now. Maybe it's because I serve as a pastor of a large church and am more in tune with reports of illness and death in the congregation. Maybe I'm just more sensitive to it all now. I'm not sure. But all that seems to strike me of late is the frailty of our human flesh. Positive diagnoses for cancer have abounded recently; life seems to be flying by (my wife has now known me longer than I was alive when I first met her!). My 30th anniversary of my high school graduation is only two years away. My oldest son is my size and he's only 14. Wherever I turn there are reminders of time passing by, the body aging, life moving along--and the frailty of our mortal flesh. Heck, even the indomitable Lance Armstrong just had a major crash racing in Spain and will be off the bike with broken bones for the next six weeks or so. I'll bet that being 37 will make it harder for him to recover. Aging does that.
So what does one do with the inevitable onslaught of mortality? Some would say "eat and drink for tomorrow we die" (that's a biblical quote, by the way, but of the pagan world at the time of the early Church). Others might throw themselves into their work or family or other activities to either attempt to leave their mark or simply to distract themselves from the inevitable. As for me, I want to realistically face my mortality and acknowledge that this is indeed the human condition. And as I affirm these things, I'm aware...that we are in Lent. Lent, the season of the church year where on Ash Wednesday we mark worshipers with ash in the shape of the cross and intone over them, "You are dust and to dust you shall return." Mortality. Frail flesh. Very clear! And then we add something extremely important: "But thanks be to God for the resurrection of Jesus Christ!"
So let's go back to that pagan quote from the Bible. It's preceded by the apostle Paul's very important condition. Hear it again in its entirety: "If the dead are not raised, 'Let us eat and drink for tomorrow we die'" (1Corinthians 15:32). With Paul and the early Christians and, indeed, with biblical Christians everywhere who affirm that Christ is risen from the dead, I choose to celebrate the resurrection amidst the mortality of my flesh. Yes, I'm aging and I will die--and so are you and so will you who read this. "But thanks be to God for the resurrection of Jesus Christ." Lent leads us to Easter. We know how the story will end--and it ends very well indeed.