Why dwell upon death?
One of the biggest differences between my homeland, the UK, and the US is where people are buried. In the UK, graves are primarily located around the exterior of churches, rather than exclusively in designated cemeteries, like in the US.
On our recent trip, our kids were fascinated with these church graveyards. They loved to walk around them trying to spot which one was the oldest and asking me to google the names on the biggest graves to see why they were deemed to be so important. Both my wife, Rachel, and I thought this to be a little bit funny, until we realized that our kids had probably never even seen a grave before.
“Where have you seen graves in America?” I asked my son.
His response: “I’ve seen a sign for a graveyard on the bus!”
Graves in the US are tucked away in cemeteries that people only visit if they have a particular intention to do so. These cemeteries are often on the outskirts of a town, removed from the main thoroughfares. But not in the UK. Church graveyards are always right in the center of the town, and serve as a constant reminder of our own mortality.
Not only that, but the positioning of graves around the church building serves as a weekly reminder to those worshippers that, “you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” (Genesis 3:19) Death is our end, as a result of the curse of sin, and this weekly reminder for UK churchgoers of their own mortality is an opportunity to reflect upon that reality.
This weekend, we are going to host our annual St Andrews Sunday worship services. A key part of these services is a moment when we honor those members of Chapel Hill who have passed before us. In the same way that UK church graveyards remind churchgoers of their own mortality, St Andrews Sunday is an opportunity to remind us of our own mortality.
Yet, death is not the end for those who are in Christ Jesus. He took that curse of sin upon himself on the cross, dying, being buried, and then three days later rising again to new life. And Jesus promises the same new life to those who follow him.
Those saints that we remember this weekend in our service are now with the Lord, and we will one day be reunited with them. And when Christ returns, we will reign together with him upon a new earth, in new bodies, where sin and sickness and disease and death will be no more.
But until that day comes, he has invited us to participate with him in his mission to share the good news that death has been defeated. And tomorrow, as we look together at Luke 5:27-39, we will discover that this mission was Jesus’ highest priority, and that he invites us to make it his, too.
One way you might engage in that mission is to invite a family you know to come to our Candy Door Dash this Monday night from 4:00-6:00 pm. Our previous events have resulted in people who don’t currently attend church making a decision to attend Chapel Hill on Sundays, and it may just be that a family you know would do the same. Whom could you invite? How can you participate with Christ in his mission to seek and save the lost?
See you tomorrow.