My practical side looks with disdain upon the thousands of dollars spent on a typical funeral: meticulous embalming the deceased including makeup and hair styling, an elaborate casket that requires a concrete grave liner, large ornate flower arrangements often including dozens of roses, and finally a majestic grave marker; most of which will only be seen for a few days. My practical side wants to tell my family: “When my time comes, put my body out with the trash and spend the money on a grand trip, making new memories, or spend the money supporting those who would lack a place to sleep or food for their bellies.
Judas would approve of my practical side. After Mary had poured an expensive bottle of perfume over Jesus’ feet Judas had complained: “Why was this perfume not sold for a year’s wages and the money given to the poor?” (John 12:5)
Yet my pastoral side reminds me of the need for people to see their beloved friend as they knew him or her one more time, often kissing the deceased farewell. An elaborate service, funeral procession, and decorations become one final and formal thank you for all that was good in her or his life. These grand rituals and expensive decorations attest that those who are left behind will deeply treasure memories of those who have gone on before us into heaven. Thus my pastoral side encourages me to place my hand on the casket or, if the casket is open, on the deceased, while offering the final prayer of committal; a final blessing upon one who has already received their ultimate blessing in heaven.
Thus my pastoral side wins, adding to the ritual centered around one who is no longer among us, and thereby enriching and blessing those who are left to guard and further priorities initiated by the deceased.
Each and every person deserves time to experience the riches of this world, to savor the beauty of each day, and to marvel in a ray of sunlight. And thereby marvel in the sweet smell of forgiveness and resurrection. Thus we the living merit savoring the scent of flowers at the tombs of those whom we love.
I will have more to say about John 12:1-8 on Sunday, March 13th, at Temple Terrace Presbyterian Church.