In his days Pharaoh Neco king of Egypt went up to the king of Assyria to the river Euphrates. King Josiah went to meet him; but when Pharaoh Neco met him at Megiddo, he killed him. 2 Kings 23:29.Most biblical scholars agree that King Josiah was one of the finest of Israel's kings. He is credited with Temple Reform with a resurgence of the book of Deuteronomy, part of Israel's sacred scriptures. However, he died very quickly and unexpectedly in a battle with the Pharaoh of Egypt. Today, had he gotten wounded, he might have had access to top notch medical care that might have saved his life as he would be life-flighted to the finest military hospitals. We often see on the news that certain politicians and movie stars do have access to costly medical treatments that the average working person could not easily afford. But in Josiah's time, death and mortality was immediate and real.
A couple weeks ago, I was up at night awaiting the telephone repairman, and I got to re-read a book I had in seminary. It was E. Clifford Nelson's "Lutherans in North America" (Philadelphia, PA: Fortress Press, 1980). Nelson reports that throughout American history, Lutherans had similar controversies as other American denominations. Examples include: lodge membership, views on the second coming of Christ, biblical authority disagreements and shall any immigrant church go to the English language or stay with their native tongue during worship? These controversies took years to debate and resolve. Finally, quite often the long meetings ceased when one or more of the vocal voices of a given position simply died!
Now I am not at all advocating that one way to cut red-tape behind long meetings, debates or discussions is to have the committee members simply drop dead! But the idea of mortality revisited reminds us that we only have so many hours, days and years in our lives. While modern medicine's miracles could extend our lives, nobody knows how much money and for how long we will be able to pay for the best medical care available. So in Easter season, it might be advised to be focused on the mission that God has for us without delay while being the disciples Christ has modeled for us to become. Morality and death is still an open question.
In my church denomination, there are a number of clergy retirements from churches that have provided stability for their congregations. But these very same pastors continue to work as interims, do weekly supply preaching, and work in the church in other capacities. Why? Because though "retired," they do not have enough money to cover medical care. Some retiree health plans leave a sizable "donut hole" where the clients to find other money to fund. Alas, mortality is revisited again. King Josiah did not have worry about his retirement health insurance. Death came unexpectedly. In our community of small churches and businesses, I think we can learn a lesson from Kings like Josiah. We simply do not know how much time we have on this earth. We may or may not be able to afford to retire. But we are part of the Kingdom of Heaven (St. Matthew's term) today, tomorrow and eternity. Jesus Christ has pointed us to new life-regardless of whether we have a good retirement medical benefits plan or not. Amen.