“Everyone wants to go to heaven but no one wants to die…”

The last sentence of the portion of the Gospel of Mark’s description of the women at the tomb reads “So they fled from the tomb for terror and amazement had seized them; and they said nothing to anyone for they were afraid.” This puts to rest any of sense that after the resurrection Jesus friends and followers went racing madly through the streets shouting out the good news.  They didn’t. They said nothing to anyone. Because they were afraid.

Throughout the Gospel the disciples don’t get what Jesus is saying. After his arrest the men had run away and deserted him – the women, given their secondary status were largely ignored by the authorities, so they faithfully continued to be with him through death and to the tomb. Yet after they were given the news that Jesus was raised – they are told to share the news with the disciples and Peter – but they don’t do it. They run away in fear and say nothing.

Resurrection is a fearful thing. And why is it fearful? Because it is associated with death. Where this is no death there can be no resurrection. As a contemporary humorist observed “Everybody wants to get to heaven but no one wants to die.”

We talk about the only two things that are inevitable are death and taxes. Yet we are part of a death denying culture. We try to hold death at arms length, and pretend it will never happen to us. We don’t like to talk about it deal with it or be around it. Yet every one of us faces many kinds of death – not just physical death – but other deaths as well. Beyond death of a loved one, we face the death of a dream, a hope, an idea or a relationship.  We usually would rather struggle to deny the possibility of a death than to face it or accept it.

Jesus accepted his death as inevitable. While in the garden of Gethsemane he prayed it might not happen he knew it as a real possibility. And he prayed “thy will be done.” He understood that the power of love is longer lasting and greater than the power of death.

It seems to me that one of the most significant questions we have to ask ourselves as individual Christians and as a faith community is “Are we willing to die?” Not do we want to die, but are we able to risk death as a possibility. If we answer “No” it indicates we are not ready or able to risk failure and death. If we cannot risk death we are not ready for, nor can we expect any possibility of resurrection.

Jesus said that those who try to save their life will lose it.  He understood that we only fully live when we can risk of the possibility of failure and death. Through death come the limitless possibilities of resurrection – and new life.  Resurrection is a given not just to Jesus and not just after our physical death – it is God’s gift that we can experience new life many times in our life if we are willing to risk death in order to live abundantly.   Alleluia.

About don

The Rev Don Hill is an Episcopal priest, rail fan and writer. He and his wife the Rev. Dr. Nancy Woodworth-Hill are currently Co-Pastors of St Paul's Episcopal Church, Jeffersonville IN, in the Diocese of Indianapolis. They also work as parish consultants in Appreciative Inquiry, strategic planning and spirituality development for parishes and vestries.
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