My father was a mortician. For those that know the HBO television show,“Six Feet Under”,I am a Six Feet Under kid. I worked at the mortuary in high school, which is not the normal fast food job that my friends had.I learned to drive the limousines and hearses, and this makes me an excellent parallel parker to this day, even on the hills of San Francisco.
As little kids we had clear boundaries of where we could and could not go inside the mortuary.Casket Room was OK.The Chapel was OK.My dad’s office was OK; however, there were two distinct doors that were off limits.Fear and curiosity kept me on the other side of them.
Until one night when I was five years old, my curiosity won out over fear, and I turned the knob, which came up to my eyeballs.I took a deep breath.My heart raced. I pushed open the door and there I was, in the embalming room.
My dad snapped his fingers at me to get out!Now that I was finally in, I wanted to look around a bit.I turned to my left, and saw what my dad was making all the fuss over.Inches away, and staring me in the face was a dead body.My eyes bulged and I got scarred! I looked to my dad for help and he threw his hands up in the air as if to say, “the cat is out of the bag”.
I was very upset during our ride home.People really do die. It seemed so final. I wanted my dad to explain to me, what happens after people die.
This is what Easter is all about.Easter is the heart of Christian faith.What happens after people die? Was Christ really raised from the dead? Or is the resurrection symbolic or metaphorical? Somehow if you were not there in the graveyard, if you didn't see it on a video download or on YouTube, then maybe it didn't really happen.
Seeing death for the first time, and every time afterwards is final.Dead, means dead. Not as Billy Crystal says in the movie The Princes Bride, “mostly dead”.
Understanding the Easter message is not easy, nor is it arrived at by common sense.It is trust against the evidence, risk in the face of the odds that your life, this world, no matter how desperate it is at times, can be made anew by God. Easter is trust that God can bring new life into the darkest and most unimaginable places of our life and world. Easter is the audacious belief that we are not just what the world makes of us.
The Easter message confronts our deepest fear.We want our lives to have mattered for something and someone. We all want to be remembered when we die. That day driving home with my dad from the mortuary I wanted to know about the man on the embalming table. I wanted to know about his life. I wanted to know if his life mattered. I wanted to know how old he was.“Nineteen”, my dad said.I wanted to know how he died. “On a motorcycle” my dad said.Which is a good thing to tell any 5 year old boy, and I will certainly tell this to my daughter when she is old enough to ask. I then asked him if his job makes him sad. “Sometimes”, he said.
So there I was driving home asking some profound theological questions about life after death.
Easter invites us to live into the mystery,that God is able to create anew and bring life, where otherwise life is not possible.
Easter isn’t a day. It doesn’t stop after brunch.It doesn’t stop when the Easter hat goes back in the hat box, and your pink, purple, lavender, or heliotrope blouse is put away.
Easter is a life.We are Easter People 365 days a year!Trusting the Easter message is an audacious belief that death does not have the final word. God does.