Pastor Shawn Hannon
Hope Lutheran Church Arcade, NY
In the past week, I’ve gotten word that two men who I admire and look up to have decided to cease cancer treatment and begin the end of life care. I hear news like this often, and it always hits me. But this time, in particular, the news has hit me too close to home. Both of these men are pastors. One is a part of a community of pastors that shepherded me through my discernment and formation process and has been a means of support for the last 12 years. The other has been a partner in ministry with me at Hope for the last five years. Since we started working together this man has been a cheerleader, a confidant, a sounding board, and a well of support. Both of these men are friends.
My first thought when I heard their respective news was denial. “Don’t be silly,” I thought, “There must be something we can still do.” They’re too young. They’ve got too much left to do—too much life left to live. It doesn’t make sense.
When I met with one of them in the days after they broke the news to me, he must have read my mind. With a few brief words, he totally reoriented my entire perspective on his journey. He said, “Pastor, it probably looks like I’m choosing death, but trust me. I’m choosing life.”
“The message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” Paul wrote that to the church in Corinth. Paul wrote that to the faithful. Paul wrote that for us.
AND SOMETIMES IT DOESN’T MAKE A BIT OF SENSE!!! How can a cross—an instrument of Roman power and death—represent God’s power?
We think we know everything. We think this life is all there is to live. We think death is losing. But we forget what Rome used to claim its own victory, Jesus made his. No, Jesus made ours. That the cross is the shape of winning.
Sometimes in our grief, we forget that. We forget that death—the original unintended consequence of creation—isn’t a part of God’s plan. But that we have a God who will get his way. And his way is to claim his children forever; whatever the cost. So God sent his son to lay down his life so that when we lay down ours, like him, we find it again and this time forever.
We don’t choose death. We choose life. Because the cross is the shape of victory.
It won’t be easy to say goodbye to my friends. I trust you know the feeling. But I pray for the faith and hope that these men embody, and I pray you may have it too.