Drop Those Spices, You Don't Need 'Em

The women with their handful of spices, seen from this point of view, are a rather sad, pitifully ineffective response to the reality of death….

And in the face of death, nearly all of our human gestures seem equally pitiful and futile.

Look at what friends say to us at the time of death of a loved one.

They are attempting to console and to comfort us.  They say things like, “Well, he has gone on to a better place,” or “He will live on in our memories.” But when we love someone, we don’t want them to leave us, to be absent from us, to go anywhere, no matter how wonderful the place they are going is alleged to be.  And though we have some wonderful memories, we don’t want memories.  We want them as they were; here, with us. We don’t love our memories about them; we love them.

One of the cruelest things about death and grieving, that I have found, is the falsity of that well-meaning statement, “He will live on in our memories.” After death, we try very hard to remember everything we can about the person who has died.  We make a concerted effort.  We gather some of their possessions, keeping them and cherishing them as mementos of the person’s presence with us. But eventually, they become painful reminders that the person is not with us.  And that’s why we grieve….

All of us tend to confront death by bringing spices to the tomb.

“Meg died this morning,” says the early morning telephone call. And what do you do?  You get busy, you pull out your recipe for chocolate pie – the one that Meg enjoyed so much at the church supper only a few months ago – and you begin making a pie.  A chocolate pie.

That is all you’ve got to say in the face of death?  How is that going to change anything?....

The women go out to the tomb with their pitiful array of sweetsmelling spices.  They are coming out to pay their last respects, to do what they can to slow the processes of bodily disintegration and decay, to tidy up the body of Jesus.  But they arrive and to their amazement they are told that the body is not here.  “He is risen!” says the young man dressed in white.

And what does that mean?  No one had ever been raised from the dead, bodily raised, set loose again in the world.  What does that mean: “He is raised”?
Just for this morning, let me say to you that it means this: although we are frail, mortal, finite human beings and we are totally inadequate in our words and our deeds in the face of death, God – the one who creates life and gives life – is determined to be the creator and giver of life even in death.  Because Jesus is raised, we are bold to believe that we also shall be raised.

- William Willimon, Pulpit Resource for 4/8/2012