There are a few things I would like to happen when I die. The first is that I'd like to preach my own funeral. At the time of writing, this won't happen because I haven't recorded it yet. I think I should get on that. The second thing that I would like is to be buried with a shovel in my casket.
I know. Let me explain.
I'm not a miner or a gardener. I don't dig ditches or graves for a living. Shovels don't factor heavily into my life, but there will come a day when I may need it.
We talk an awful lot, as believers, about the life to come. About the New Heavens and the New Earth. We talk a great deal about what that all means and how everything will be perfect and awesome in those days. "When we've been there ten thousand years [...] We've no less days to sing God's praise than when we'd first begun." goes the song.
That's the thing; we talk about the reality of the resurrection, but not the practicalities of going through a resurrection. Someday, I'm going to wake up in a dark box six feet underground. I'm going to want a way out to the surface. I'm going to need to dig my way out. The last thing I'm going to want to do with my brand-new resurrection body is waste time digging with my hands like some shovel-less Luddite. I've got places to be and people to meet!
Most notably, the Lord Jesus. He's top of the list. I imagine there will be a line though.
Ok, enough kidding around. I can hear all my theologian friends calling me out for all this nonsense already. Clearly, and obviously, the Lord has a plan for the resurrection that won't require us digging ourselves out of holes en masse. The same God who will be raising everyone who ever lived from the grave has certainly not been flummoxed by the logistics of such a task. He's not going to be stopped by trivial things like:
- Thousands of years of decay.
- Cremated remains scattered all over the globe and recycled into other things like trees and dirt, and God-knows-what else. (See what I did there?)
- Alkaline Hydrolysis
- People buried in space or on other celestial bodies.
- The utter confusion at the Parisian Catacombs.
I have wanted to be buried with a shovel since my time in Bible College. It started as a fun in-joke. Conceived at around 2 am, probably at the coffee shop across the street from campus. My intent, of course, isn't to actually dig out with the shovel, but rather to remind whoever might be in attendance at my funeral that it's not over. I'm coming back. The same power that raised Christ from the dead will raise me, and everyone else who has ever lived. Either to glory or to judgement.
Now that's heavy stuff, heavier than anything that could cover your casket.
I'm just old enough now to get away with saying I've been around the block a few times. I've seen some things and been to my share of funerals. I've seen old saints and infants being laid to rest; I've stood in the hospital with the families of both. I've lost friends my own age and I'm certain my days of attending funerals has only just begun. I have, however, notices a small but significant difference between the funerals of my brothers and sisters in Christ and the secular funerals I've attended.
No, it's not the air of celebration that you might be expecting me to reference. The belief that as Christians, we have a glorious afterlife to look forward to, therefore our funerals are happy, and secular funerals are a miserable affair. Quite the contrary actually, most secular funerals I have been to have had more of a celebratory air than the average Christian funeral. In fact, Even though King Lemuel's mother totally gave us permission (Prov 31:6-7), secular funerals don't tend to have the same moral, let's say, hang-ups that Christians have. They're usually more fun in fact.
No, the difference is subtle, but present if you look really closely. Both secular and Christian funerals can be celebratory, both can be tragic and miserable. We each recognize that death is just wrong somehow. "They were so young", "I wish we'd had more time.", "They didn't deserve to go out like that.", "I didn't get the chance to say goodbye." We agree on that. Death sucks. The difference is that we have hope. This isn't the simplistic, childish hope of an afterlife spent frolicking with Jesus among the clouds. This is the hope of redemption, of the re-making of all things, the heavens, the earth and all who ever have or ever will inhabit it. We hope for the death of death itself.
We hope for not only the second coming of Jesus but the second coming of the garden. If the gospel you follow is one whose purpose is to get you a "golden ticket" into heaven, your gospel is woefully incomplete.
So bury me with a shovel when I die, but remember that whether I need to use it or not, I have hope, and I'm coming back.