Monday, May 15, 2017
When the Bishop sent me to my first pastoral appointment back in 1971, it was to the Stapleton Charge. One small town church, Stapleton, and two rural churches, Bethel and Zoar, made up this assignment. Both the rural churches had sprawling cemeteries. Today church planners build new churches with parking space in mind. A long time ago cemetery space must have also been an important consideration. I must confess to being partial to church cemeteries instead of the carefully manicured memorial gardens to which the dead are more likely to be carried these days.
When you look out the windows of the church and see the tombstones as we did in those early preaching appointments, it affects your view of the world as well as your own life. It is not just on Ash Wednesday that those who worship in such places are reminded. "Remember you are dust and to dust you shall return." There is something about a cemetery which puts life and faith in perspective. But, the cemetery serves the church not just as a solemn reminder that life is fragile, but it also speaks of the communion of the saints. As we worshipped in those holy places, we saw not only the saints who shared with us inside the sanctuary, but we also saw reminders of the saints who had gone on before us to become a part of the great crowd of heavenly witnesses.
These church yard cemeteries have a way of reminding us that it is only a short step between earth and eternity. And while some may want to avoid those grounds littered with tombstones, to see them is to remember that the crucified body of Jesus was laid in such a place. But, it was only for a moment. The grave could not hold Him. The one who was placed among the tombstones came forth in resurrected life giving to each of us the assurance that those graveyards are not the speakers of the last word. The last word belongs to Jesus.