April 11, 2020 - Holy Saturday
When you die, someone will make a phone call. That's how it works these days. Whether you die at home or in the hospital or in a nursing home or in a hospice house, when you die, someone--a nurse, a hospice employee, a family member, or a friend--will pick up the phone and call a funeral home. They will make arrangements to come and collect your body and take it to their facility, where they will hold it and prepare it either for burial in a casket or for cremation. So removed are we from the physical processes that precede burial that I once made that call on behalf of a widower who, because couldn't stand the thought of seeing his beloved's dead body, refused to come back up to the hospital and make it himself. Of course, it hasn't always been that way.
Joseph of Arimathea, a respected and influential man, who loved Jesus from a distance, out of secret because of fear, came to the Roman Governor and asked for the body of the crucified Jesus. He and Nicodemus, who was a leader of his people and who had also come to Jesus in secret, carried the lifeless body to a place nearby where they could wash it and anoint it and wrap it with linen cloths before laying it in the tomb.
Their love for Jesus had been hidden, but now, in his hour of need, it shone forth in this ritual action. The weight of their devotion was felt physically in their hands and arms and backs as they carried the corpse away from the cross. The strange mixture of fragrant spices and sun-baked death hung in the air. Although not revealed during his life, their faith was clear in this labor of devotion. And, when it was finished, they placed his body in the tomb and rolled the stone into its place. There was nothing else to do.
Today, we live in that place of nothing else to do. We have done what we can, and now there is nothing. Some of us have followed Jesus with the kind of faith and action that people notice. Others have been quiet, perhaps even secret disciples. But, in the end, all of us reach that point at which what we can do is finished. All we can do is wait and hope.
How will you love Jesus in that place of doing nothing except waiting? Whenever we lose someone we love, part of what helps us get through the first few weeks is all the stuff that has to be done--funeral arrangements, family affairs, financial issues, insurance claims, returning medical equipment, paying bills. But then what? The quiet emptiness is hard. It's easier to have something in our hands--to express our love as an act of devotion. But what do we do when everything is finished? How do we love someone when there is nothing left to do?