1. a lament for the dead, esp. one forming part of a funeral rite.
2. a mournful song, piece of music, or poem
When a funeral procession comes down the road, it’s customary and honorable to pull your car over and show respect as they pass. This tradition is not new. For centuries, funeral processions have been given the right-a-away and in ancient times it was even customary to join in the mourning and walk with the family. Many times, dirge signers would also join the procession and contribute to the lamenting over the dead. Mourning would continue for seven to thirty days, as the family and community participated with dirges, weeping, fasting, and wearing ashes.
As the dead are being carried out to be buried, it’s normal to have grief and sorrow for those who are mourning the death of a loved one. This is why we stop and show respect as they pass by, and no one would dare interfere with a funeral procession, except Jesus.
There is a story in the book of Luke where life and death collide in the small gate of the town of Nain. Jesus, his disciples, and a large crowd were headed into town through the gate, while at the exact same time, the funeral procession of a mother’s only son was headed out of town for the burial with a large crowd following behind. Picture these two processions colliding here at the gate, a gate small enough that one crowd would have had to step aside to let the other pass. Yet, Jesus doesn’t step aside. It’s an evocative image of life colliding with death.
Jesus grabs the coffin, stopping the pallbearers in their tracks, and tells death to step aside. He doesn’t show respect to death, he doesn’t join in the death march, he says, “No, this isn’t happening today.” Jesus raises the son back to life and hands him over to his mother. The funeral procession can’t go any farther. They have no need to continue the march out of town, so they join Jesus’ compelling parade headed back into town.
There might not be a better picture of what Jesus wants to do in your life.
He wants to stop the dirge singers dead in their tracks and invite you into a compelling and joyful life with him. His desire for you is to “get up” and dance full of life.
This is a message for us all as we often wake up each day and join the death march. Full of despair in our jobs, hopeless in our marriages, lost in our parenting, at a dead-end with our dreams, joining the culture around us marching out with dead to be buried in the dust.
Jesus has a message for this way of living: “No, this isn’t happening today. Stop the dirge and start dancing for I have come to bring life and meaning and purpose and hope.“
You have a choice, dirge or dance, what will it be today?