From Jessica Bratt
As we enter into Holy Week, I'd like to share a piece I wrote two years ago for the Faith and Leadership program at Duke Divinity: "Journeying with Jesus' Body." It's a bit long for The Twelve, but perhaps even portions of it can be edifying for you as you reflect on the unfolding events of this week.
April 19, 2011
I looked around the room. I was in the company of a few hundred other clergy, chaplains, hospice workers, funeral directors and mortuary school students -- all gathered to hear Tom Long and Thomas Lynch speak on "The Good Death, Good Grief, Good Funerals."
Long, a theologian, and Lynch, a writer and undertaker, invited us to reflect with them on the shifts taking place in how Americans handle their dead. Not death -- the dead. Because, as they explained, the human species deals with the idea of death by dealing with the thing itself: the dead person. What we do with one who has died speaks volumes about how we understand death in our culture.
Throughout history, humans have recognized that the body of one who dies can no longer remain among the living. It must be moved in some way and to some resting place. This basic reality is a constant across all societies, and how it unfolds in any particular place or time is never perfunctory.
The basic metaphor, Lynch and Long suggested, is that a community accompanies a sacred person on a journey from the land of the living to the great mystery. We process the death by processing with the body from one place to another; in moving it, we are moved. (Picture, for instance, the processional of a presidential casket in Washington, D.C.)
This metaphor is in jeopardy, they contend, for a number of reasons: the breakdown of community, at least as it was understood in past centuries; the transience of our lives and scattered nature of our roots; the gradual erosion of our culture’s adherence to larger narratives, religious or otherwise sacred.