When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory. Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” – 1 Corinthians 15:54-5
I was at the hospital with the family when their elderly mother died. They were on a budget, so they gathered in the solarium and very pragmatically picked out a casket online.
That was how I found out Costco sells coffins. Very popular: the “In God’s Care” casket, $1299.99, with expedited shipping.
They don’t stock them in the store. Probably it would send the wrong message to have them next to, say, the outsized pepperoni pizzas or the case of brownie bites.
Christians pay a lot of lip service at Easter-time to “putting death to death.” In other words, affirming that: we love to be alive! Aren’t tulips and lilies and second chances the bomb! We sure dodged that bullet! Christ is risen! So are we!
But are we, really? My spiritual director says we love our satin-lined coffins. It’s cozy and predictable in here. Death, as it turns out, does not actually have much of a sting. It’s life that hurts, with all its uncertainty, intense feelings, learning curves throwing us for a loop.
In the coffin, we know exactly where the boundaries are. We are In Control. In a thousand little ways we have made absolutely certain that our lives will be deliciously safe and homeostatic, even though, in the natural world, the only things that don’t change are dead.
Social scientists agree: people who try new things are happier. Marriages that last introduce novelty from time to time. But for those of us who love the coffins of our predictable lives, any change might prompt us to say, like Dorothy Parker, “What fresh hell is this?”
What changes are you afraid of, so afraid you stay in, redecorating the coffin? Don’t you know Good Friday was the other day, that now we are Easter people?
God, make me fully alive, even if it hurts and is scary. Stay with me through the changes and uncertainty, and ignore me when I scrabble to stay in the safe confines of the coffin, because in my heart, I want what You want: Easter everywhere. Amen.
Molly Baskette is Senior Minister of the First Church of Berkeley, California, and the author of the best-selling Real Good Church and Standing Naked Before God.