My wife and I have a late night ritual. It seems that lately, every night after our boys are off in bed, we’ve pulled out some old TV shows on DVD and rewatching them. We recently finished aiming to misbehave with Captain Tight-pants and his motley crew. That was my choice. Now we’re working our way through my wife’s choice (one that I’m happy to revisit), namely Pushing Daisies. Both of these shows were well-written, sparkling in their wit, with memorable characters, only to be cut down in their prime.
I’m sensing a theme here.
For those of you unfamiliar, the premise of Pushing Daisies is this: a man named Ned, also known as the Piemaker, has a special gift. He is able to bring the dead back to life by touching them. The thing is, there are limitations to this ability. If the recently revived stays that way longer than a minute, someone else of commensurate “worth” (for lack of a better term) will die in his or her place. Also, if the Piemaker touches that individual a second time, they die again and stay dead forever.
A P.I. named Emerson Cod (who loves to knit in his off-time) learns about the Piemaker’s ability and uses him to help solve murders. After all, what’s easier than bringing a murder victim back to life so you can ask him or her who did the deed? They just have to learn the information in less than a minute. So the Piemaker runs a pie shoppe and solves murder on the side. Things become complicated when the Piemaker learns that his childhood friend/sweetheart Charlotte (or Chuck, as her friends call her) has been murdered. He brings her back to solve her case, only when the time comes to “re-dead” her, he doesn’t do it. He keeps Chuck alive, creating a complicated romance. I mean, even the lightest touch from the Piemaker will kill the girl named Chuck once again.
All of this, plus Kristin Chenoweth. And Chi McBride. It’s a toss up which of those two I enjoy more.
So why do I bring it up? I find it interesting that at the heart of this whimsical modern-day fairy tale is the concept of resurrection.
Now this show plays this up for laughs. I mean, week-to-week, the Piemaker resuscitates people who have been murdered in creative (and disfiguring) ways and/or those who are in various states of decomposition. And nobody’s return to life is in any way permanent (with the exception of the aforementioned Girl Named Chuck and the Piemaker’s childhood pet, Digby). Hence why, in this article so far, I’ve been using as many near-synonyms for “resurrection” as I could think of.
More importantly, though, Pushing Daisies premise resonates with me because it touches on a fundamental truth, one that I think every human being has understood at a visceral level since the dawn of time, and that’s this:
Death is not natural.
That’s how a lot of people talk about death. Death is seen as a natural part of life. It’s just what happens. Maybe it doesn’t happen when or how we want it to, but it will happen eventually to every one of us. So don’t fear the Reaper, man. Embrace it. Be ready for it. Christians have even gussied death up, trying to make it our new best friend. After all, death is what ushers us into heaven, and that’s a good thing, right? That’s what we hope for as Christians, right?
See, that’s the funny thing about death. Death is not natural. When God created our world, death wasn’t a part of His equation. That snuck in on the coattails of sin. One of my seminary professors put it this way in class once: “Death is as much a natural part of life as a knife is a natural part of your leg. A knife to the leg hurts because it doesn’t belong there. And that’s why death hurts so much too.”
And really, when you take a close look at what the New Testament says about death and the life thereafter, very little is said about heaven. Yes, Jesus did promise the repentant thief that “today, you will be with me in paradise.” But when He was comforting Martha after her brother died, He didn’t point to heaven. He pointed to the resurrection and how that unwinding of death’s power was at hand. Paul does the same thing when he comforts the grieving Thessalonians. He doesn’t tell them, “Hey, yeah, your friends died, but at least they’re in heaven, right?” No, he says, “Yes, your friends died, but death will not be able to keep them. They will rise when Jesus returns.”
Maybe that’s why I like Pushing Daisies so much. The Piemaker’s touch is just a glimmer of a greater reality to come.