Friday, June 30, 2017


          As strange as it may sound, or maybe I should say, morbid, I find cemeteries interesting places to visit. As I walk through one, I think of the lives that must have been lived by those buried beneath the six feet of soil and grass. At times I stop and pause as I read one where the dates show a life short lived and wonder why this young boy or girl passed too soon.
          I pass graves with flowers, freshly placed in vases and again by others with empty vases from years gone by without a visit. On one there is a cross leaning against the cold stone, and on another, there lay several smooth river rocks. Sometimes I pass a teddy bear or a toy, and my heart melts for the parents who must have placed it upon the grave with heavy grief.
          Most of the tombstones have dates, although a few are worn and hard to read anymore. The double headstones often have three dates, two for birth and one for death with a blank space waiting to be filled by someone’s loss yet to come. I’ve read where the dash in the date represents the life they lived, but it’s just a dash. As I stand before the granite memorial, I see nothing of the life they lived. Very few headstones tell you the story of the person it honors. They lived, and they died, and that is all I know about most of them.
          I stand before the memorial, having no idea of the color of the skin of the person buried below. I have no idea of how strong their faith may have been or if they served the Lord valiantly. In the majority of cases, I do not know if they were loved or hated or if they died with family or alone and cold. I do not know if they went to worship on a Sunday or read their Bible or if they played a sport or had a hobby. Walking through the row upon row of people who have left this earth I for the most part only see names and dates. It is a cemetery, and a cemetery is a place for dead people’s bodies.
          I was not at the majority of services held for those in the caskets buried below. I did not hear the accolades of a preacher or the family memories shared by those that loved them. I did not see the tears or hear the weeping as the families said their goodbyes. I’m sure for most there were many shed, but for me strolling through the rows of granite there are no tears, no stories, only knowledge about who they were and how they lived.
          I believe it is unfortunate that many people walk through life like it is a cemetery. They see people but never take the time to know them and their stories. They pass by them daily and know little except what they look like and their name. To those that treat the world as a cemetery, it is a dreary place.
          It’s easy for a congregation to become a cemetery if one is not careful. When “church” is simply a place to come to worship, it can become cold and empty. When people don’t take the time to know each other and care for each other a “church” can be as cold as the graveyards I walk through.
          When is the last time you have gone through the directory? Try it sometime. Go to the beginning and go through the list, look at the pictures and view the names. Now, are they only names and numbers to you or do you know their story? Do you know their struggles, hopes, dreams and ambitions?
          It’s, of course, impossible in a congregation to know everyone. However, as we go through the names and pictures we want to remember that they are not just names and dates, but part of the flock we lead, people with those struggles, hopes, dreams and ambitions. Their names are not carved in granite, and there is only one date by their name. We are walking through the rows of the living, those who have a life ahead of them. To know “the flock” is to have knowledge of them and what they are going through. The aisle’s we walk, the hallways we pace and the rooms we visit are full of the living, and the living have need of a shepherd.
          We should all take time as we walk through the painted hallways to notice the living and talk with them. We should take the time to hear their needs and encourage them when they are down. We should always let them know that we love and care for them. They are alive, and their lives are not yet over. We should never be in such a hurry that we cannot take the time to invest in the living.
          When a congregation fails to invest in the living, it runs the danger of turning a “church” into a graveyard. Graveyards, as we are reminded, are full of dead men’s bones. They are okay to visit, but you wouldn’t want to live there.
“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean.”
Matthew 23:27

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