We make the best of funerals. We do what we can to take an ugly situation and make it beautiful. At least I think that explains all the flowers.
But, all the flowers in the world still don’t cover over the fact that death has occurred. As “natural” as death is supposed to be you would think we would be used to it. But, everyone who loses someone knows how unnatural death really is, how wrong and foreign it feels to let go. And I believe that explains why so many people avoid funerals.
So, it is incredibly odd that God would pick such an ugly event as death to represent the most beautiful opportunity He can offer us: new life.
This oddly amazing connection is detailed in Romans chapter six:
Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.
Here is a wonderfully encouraging promise of life paired with the morbid requirement of death. Paul’s point, of course, is not to convince his audience that they must die, but to remind them that they had already done so, and so they must live as if they are dead to sin. But, here Paul gives us some insight into the creativity and wisdom of God: baptism, that is, immersion in water, looks like a burial.
Baptism is a funeral.
But, in this deep and significant symbolism, God shows us who He is, how much He loves us, and just how powerful He can be. God takes what is ugly, macabre, sorrowful, and unnatural, and He turns it into hope, cleansing, beauty, and the supernatural. God takes death and turns it into life. More than that, God takes Satan’s most powerful weapon, the one that is 99.999% effective, the one that has plagued humanity for our entire history, and He uses it for His purposes. Because Paul’s other point is that if we first die then God will turn our death into resurrected, eternal life.
And that is what baptism is all about. It is one person letting another person “drown” him in water in order that the one being baptized can show his commitment to Christ, who died for him. It is our initial connection to Christ, our initiation into the lifestyle of godly dying–which is the same thing as godly living–of sacrificing for God and others, of giving up sin and time and money and energy to make serving our Lord our one sole purpose in life.
But, most encouragingly, baptism is our connection with resurrection. A lifestyle of death is not all that inviting, unless it is God’s idea of death. In that case, it is not an event or lifestyle characterized by loss and sorrow, but by the promise that we have new life. If we are immersed into Christ through the faithful commitment of baptism we will still die, but we will not stay dead. And that is one happy funeral.