I don’t know if you’ve seen the old Reality T.V. show Best Funeral Ever, if you haven’t, then please don’t let me get you started. But the show is kind of a fascinating glimpse into the human condition.
It’s about a funeral home in Dallas that does Themed Funerals. Like, for the woman who loved Christmas they buried in a sleigh and had it come down a Holiday themed, snow-covered aisle.
For the guy who sang the Chili’s “Baby-back-Ribs” jingle, they threw together a “Party Barn” funeral. Complete with a BBQ sauce fountain, live pigs, and a preacher who wore a chef’s hat and preached from a smoker/podium.
And remember this is called Reality Television.
But the reason I think this is so fascinating is that it’s now assumed the emphasis behind most funerals should be something other than death.
Passion for Life
It’s interesting to me that Jesus wept and cried in Gethsemane. If we were there I think we would have said something like, “There, there, it’s okay. You’re going to be raised from the dead in three days. It’s really just a kind of tough weekend if you think about it.”
Now for most of us, we are unmoved by Jesus weeping. We’ve heard this story way too many times to be surprised, but in the ancient world, there were other stories of men who died better than Jesus. Socrates drinks the hemlock poison and cooly drifts off into death, while his disciples weep. That’s how you die like a man!
Heck, there are even lots of stories of Christians who died better than Jesus.
But Jesus doesn’t just grit his teeth and detach emotionally. He’s not some Spock like machine here. He weeps and cries and begs for his life. Because he thinks that this life matters.
That’s what is behind Gethsemane. Jesus doesn’t want to die, but more than that, I think this is the product of loving people around you well. Jesus wants to live.
It’s interesting to me that in certain Christian circles, Passion has gotten a bad name. We don’t like emotion because we’ve seen people use it to manipulate. But to this day, in many dictionaries, the Number one definition of Passion is this:
The last 24 hours of the trial and death of Jesus.
I like that.
Jesus is the definition of passion. He’s the definition of what it means to be fully alive…and we get that definition from the time that he was preparing for death.
Heaven is Overrated
A couple of years ago, right around Easter, the controversial L.A. Times Journalist, Joel Stein started campaigning for Starbucks to quote him on one of their cups. Eventually Starbucks agreed, and they put a quote by him that said this:
I think he’s kind of right. Not about classic Christian Theology, but about what most people think of when they think of Heaven. What most Western Christians think of for Heaven is over-rated, because it doesn’t deal much with this world.
“Heaven is totally overrated. It seems boring. Clouds, listening to people play the harp. It should be somewhere you can’t wait to go, like a luxury hotel. Maybe blue skies and soft music were enough to keep people in line in the 17th century, but heaven has to step it up a bit. They’re basically getting by because they only have to be better than hell.”
But did you ever wonder why every one of the Gospels make sure and tell us that Jesus raised someone from the dead? It would seem, according to popular Christian theology that raising someone from the dead is the last thing that God would want to do.
If what God is really up to is about escaping this current reality to a place with pearly gates guarded by a picky St. Peter, than why would Jesus care at all about bringing people back to this place? If the point of the gospel to just escape this life than why does Jesus bother to raise the dead at all?
It’s like Jesus doesn’t know the point of his own story.
If Jesus would have talked like how many Christians today talk about death, he would have simply eulogized the dead, he might of stood in front of the tomb and talked about a “better place” or some distant day when we rejoined them in the sweet by and by.
But he didn’t. He called them back to this place.
Because this place matters.
So I’ve spent much of this past week in Arkansas. My dad’s brother died unexpectedly, and we had his funeral on Friday..on Good Friday. It’s hard watching your dad say goodbye to his best friend and brother, it’s even harder watching people you love slowly get older.
Because in our bones we know that there is something very good about this life.
That’s why Jesus weeps. He doesn’t just believe in the Resurrection, He is the Resurrection! But he still cries, because this world and time and space and life matter. And yes, God will give it back, yes Easter is when we celebrate death pays back what it owes, and every sad thing comes untrue.
But that doesn’t mean we can’t call it a sad thing now.
In fact, it might help us live better, and with greater joy, now if we can.
So today is Saturday, it’s the day between the death of Jesus and Easter. It’s the day between the days of great loss and great joy.
In that sense, all of our days are Saturdays.
So it’s okay to cry. It’s okay to dance. It’s okay to live fully and with Passion. And it’s okay to talk about death.
And It’s okay to die.
Easter is Coming.