Tomorrow is Easter when Christians will celebrate the resurrection of Jesus. Churches across America will celebrate Easter. Although many ministers who don’t believe it happened will stand in museum pulpits in what were once churches and try to think of something else to say as chaplains to their museum membership, many others will zealously assert and even argue for the fact that it did happen.
At a young age perhaps nothing seems so distant to you as the resurrection of the dead, and thus of seeming little relevance. But as a minister I have stood by the open grave in the presence of the grieving living, with the smell of fresh dirt overshadowing the lovely funeral home flowers which had only recently masked reality within the confines of the Muzak-filled funeral home. That hole in the ground is an interrogator who will get the truth out of us one way or the other.
Contemporary people – religious and nons alike – have entered into collective denial through the doctrine of the ubiquity of the dead. People speak of the dead as “with us.” The dead become omniscient, looking down upon us every day. This is why we shape up, at least for a little while, after our grandparents die. But the ubiquity of the dead is not a reality, it is a cultural opioid to medicate us against stark reality of death. It is the sedative of the executioner administered to take the edge off in order to make us insensible of our immanent end. Believing it is the first step of self-euthanization.
No wonder we hide the bodies in ashes and urns. Death, like the life of Abel, becomes only a vapor – especially if we send our loved ones away on the wind. But like the end of The Big Lebowski death blows those ashes back in our faces. Holding our breath, scrunching our eyes, covering our mouths and noses, will not wipe the ashes off our faces. If Christ is not raised, our faith is in vain, and the whole funeral-industrial complex is a sham.
But Christ was raised; and he was raised as the first fruits of a harvest that is ripening in the field so that what is sown perishable, will be raised imperishable. Our bodies will be laid in the ground and they will become the bones of Ezekiel’s valley of vision. How will our dry bones live? Through him who died for our sake and was raised for our sake.
Flannery O’Connor’s character The Misfit understood the implications – if Jesus was raised from the dead, there’s nothing to do but throw away everything and follow him. If he wasn’t raised from the dead, then there’s nothing but meanness. But he was raised from the dead. So…