Burying the Body


Today’s readings (click below to open in new tab/window):

Psalms 143; 147:12-20; Judges 4:4-23; Acts 1:15-26; Matthew 27:55-66

Jesus was dead. His disciples, not understanding he would return, were scattered and gutted because their revolution had ended in crucifixion. The Messiah had been killed by enemies among the occupier and the occupied. The evidence of failure was his own lifeless body, hanging on a cross as the Sabbath drew near.

“What now?” they whispered. “What do we do now?”

Joseph of Arimathea and the Marys knew the simple yet devastating answer: bury the body.

Life can go so drastically wrong that we literally don’t know what to do. At these times, the best thing is often to attend to the practical. When life smashes our expectations beyond recovery, the loss can be too overwhelming to process all at once. When this is true, the momentum of responsibilities like a job, cooking dinner, and showering can keep us moving like a bicycle that will topple if it stops. Such distractions help us swallow grief in bite-sized chunks rather than a choking whole. Though we don’t want to turn these responsibilities into a form of denial, engaging in them can help us throttle the grieving process to a manageable pace. Funeral arrangements, for instance, while not routine, serve an important psychological purpose of engaging the grieving parties in activity. They draw us back into the decisions and actions of the living. While it is inevitable that we will have moments when breaking down is the right and necessary thing to do, we need a purpose to rise back up.

Short of clinical issues like depression, we all have the capacity to move on. Parents who care for children with severe disabilities are often asked, “How do you do it?” When the disability is unexpected, a parent may, in a sense, have to bury the body of hopes once held for that child. The future may hold resurrection, or an altered set of expectations, or further disappointment; in any case, these parents pull the extraordinary from the ordinary. Like Joseph and the Marys, they know the enormous healing power of being able to honestly say, “We did what we had to.”

Comfort:  In our greatest losses, God grieves with us.

Challenge: Make a list of the tasks you perform each day. Turn this into a litany of thanks: “God, thank you for the opportunity to …”

Prayer: Merciful and loving God, give me the strength to do what needs doing. Amen.

Discussion: Have you ever been immobilized by grief? What got you moving again?

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