My grandfather was a retired navy officer when he died, so we held his funeral at Arlington National Cemetery. We were greeted at the gates by armed guards. Taps played while my grandfather’s ashes were put into a horse-drawn casket. An American flag was folded and presented to my grandmother. At the funeral we saw how the military gives meaning even to death, shape even to destruction, and an idealistic aura to aggression.
When I was in kindergarten, one of my favorite activities was “What’s in the box?” The teacher cut a hand-sized hole in a box and placed a mystery object inside. You could reach in the box, smell the box, shake the box—everything but open it. Each one of us would take a turn guessing the right answer. “It’s kind of fuzzy.” “Is it a teddy bear?”
Resurrection has always been a novel, revolutionary doctrine,” N. T. Wright reminds us. His article on the resurrection (p. 32) is must reading, particularly for those who must stand up in a pulpit and make some kind of sense of it all.
Despite confusion about the ending of this Gospel, Mark's Easter account is full of Good News. To disciples who had abandoned him and to Peter who had denied him, Jesus' word was, "I will meet you in Galilee. There we began together; there we will begin anew."
A person’s final words are important. When they are out of character or trivial, we remember them with some embarrassment. Elvis Presley, for example, supposedly said, “I’m going to the bathroom to read.” Well-spoken words, on the other hand, provide a fitting conclusion to a life and encouragement for those who remain.
About a year and a half ago my wife and I bought our first house. Before we moved in there was a lot to do: hang new curtains, paint, pull up old carpet, install new counter tops and purchase a microwave. Although we are now settled in, I have not been able to kick the habit of perusing the real estate pages of the Sunday paper.
Who would have thought that being a waiter could be so dangerous? One might expect impatient customers, lousy tips and long hours—these come with the territory. But more dire consequences? Surely not. Yet in the sixth chapter of Acts Stephen is chosen as one of seven who will “wait on tables,” an occupation and a witness that will lead to his death.
Easter is almost here and I know I should be glad. The whole Christian year leans toward this Sunday of all Sundays, when God raised Jesus from the dead and made the whole creation new. During the great 50 days that follow, the trajectory of the Easter hymns will be up.
The storyteller weaves it all together—an unknown traveler named Cleopas and his companion; the resurrected Jesus, who is present but in an unrecognized, mysterious fashion; the travelers’ sudden recognition of Jesus; and his sudden disappearance.