Sunday, October 14, 2012
A Place Called Home
Today I was the Homecoming preacher at the Zoar United Methodist Church. It, along with a couple of other churches on the Stapleton Charge, was my first appointment. The Zoar Church has something not too common to churches these days. A well kept, manicured cemetery wraps around the holy space where people sit in pews each Sunday. Those who come to worship do so in a place where Mothers, Fathers, husbands, wives, and even children have been laid to rest. The ground is made sacred not just by the sanctuary, but also by the landscape dotted with stone memorials to family and friends who are gone but not forgotten.
People who worship in the Zoar Church and churches like it never have to make any plans to visit the graves of loved ones. Every Sunday's trip to the place of worship is a trip to the place where family members are buried. To some it may sound like a morbid thing, but the reality of it is far different. Even as worship takes place in the sanctuary, there is a visible reminder of the communion of the saints, the great crowd of witnesses in heavenly places on the outside. The cemetery reminds those who come that way that death is indeed a reality to be experienced by all, but there is also that reminder that the eternal reward spoken of in scripture is an ever present reality as well.
The church and the cemetery together create a powerful center for the spiritual lives of the community of people who share in a life of faith together. Large churches are often more like stops on the road for the urban travellers who go from one place to another. For those small country churches with their church yard burial grounds, the church becomes a center of life in a way not really understood by their urban counterparts. Those places like Zoar never get out of people's hearts. They truly do become like home which is what we are looking for as we travel the pathways of this earth.