We are preparing for the Sunday Easter Sunrise service our farm has hosted for most of the last 30 years. Ordinarily, this gathering of neighborhood families takes place on our hilltop open field overlooking the Canadian mountains to the north, the valley reaching out to Puget Sound to the west and to Mt. Baker and the Twin Sisters peaks to the east. However, every few years, the weather is foul enough to drive us into the hay barn to worship, so we need to always plan for that contingency and have the barn ready if we wake up to rain Sunday morning.
There still is considerable summer hay stored in our large red barn, so it takes some organizing of the bales to create a seating arrangement for 70+ people. Once we started moving bales around this week, it became quite apparent that we had a visitor who had decided to make the barn home and ended up not leaving. Something had definitely died in there. The smell hung thick and pervasive, clinging to us and refusing to be ignored.
We eventually found the source: a dead opossum. Not just pretending either–no ‘playing possum’. Truly, utterly, completely, and sincerely dead. Tucking himself between hay bales, he must have gone to sleep and forgotten to wake up. Having lost his hiding place and his life, we needed badly to find him a final resting place so the air could clear between now and Easter, in case our worship is in the barn. Somehow the stench of death is just not fitting in the celebration of life on Easter morning.
Yet overcoming death is what it is all about.
Mr. Opossum is now resting in the ground and our noses are no longer assaulted by his untimely death. Instead we now must prepare for an all-out spiritual assault on our souls this week. Being reminded of rotting flesh is rather helpful right before Easter. Death is an overwhelming reality to each of us; how can we begin to imagine its defeat? Death cannot be faked like some startled opossum temporarily gone floppy.
Where is death’s victory, where is its sting/stink? No longer in our barn and no longer for us !
We are renewed instead of being unceremoniously disposed of–not buried in the deep pit we deserve.
We are saved, preserved and graciously restored.