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April 20 -- "Death Doesn't Get the Last Word"

A number of years ago, I was walking to Erickson’s funeral home, to have a devotion with a family prior to the start of a visitation. As I made my way up the hill, a young boy, playing in his front lawn saw me. When I got near him, he said ‘hi,’ and I said hi back.

Then he asked me, “Where are you going?”

“To the funeral home,” I replied.

“Why?” this inquisitive one asked.

“Because someone died,” I told him.

The boy turned his mouth to one side, deep in thought. Then he looked at me and said, “That sucks.”

I guess that’s a good way of summing the moment up, but that wasn’t the entire story. I didn’t have time to tell the boy that I was going there not just because someone died, I was going there to tell the family that the one who died, will not stay dead. I was going to share some really good news about the resurrection of Jesus with a family that found themselves in a very dark and mournful place. I was going there to engage in a battle: the battle between death and Easter, for you see Easter really is a battle ground. It is not about bunny’s hiding eggs, it’s about a life and death struggle in which Jesus, bloodied, battered, even killed, rises victorious.

No, Easter is not a day of sloppy sentimentality. Bishop William Willimon put it this way: “Easter is not about the return of the robin in spring or blooming crocuses or a butterfly coming out of the cocoon or any of that other drivel. It’s about a Body that somehow got loose...We’re talking about a dead Jew, crucified, who came back...with a power that goes against the grain of our usual vision of life and our world.”

Easter isn’t about sloppy sentimentality. Easter is not a day we say death can’t hurt us. It isn’t a day we think about the one’s we’ve lost, or loved one’s we might lose before next Easter and flippantly say, “Death doesn’t matter, because Jesus wins.” Their death does matter and death does hurt us. Death is real, and as the boy said, it “sucks.”

But, the realization of death’s power doesn’t diminish Easter, it actually enhances it. If you read the Easter accounts in the Gospel, you will find that none of the Gospel writers deny the power, nor the pain of death. In fact, it demands it. Easter demands we look at death’s power and pain in the most vivid way imaginable. It’s a scary journey to be sure, but once we make our way past the cross and to the empty tomb, we find the one new reality that entered our world and it’s this: Death doesn’t get the last word, Jesus does, and his word to us is LIFE!

God bless us all, and may we never allow death to have the last word in our lives, or in the life of anyone around us.

Christ is risen! Alleluia!

~ Dan

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