When I came to Redeemer in 1997 the congregation had just moved to this property and worshiped in the converted residential home of the retired couple that sold the initial 10 acres to the founding members of the church. In 1997 there was almost no development around us, we were essentially in the "boonies". Since that time, our "neighborhood" has been in constant change and flux.
Now, in 2009, Redeemer is located in the midst of the quintessential American Suburb. Somewhat isolated & insulated, clean, new, fresh, manicured, smooth roads, trees finally growing past sapling stage, fenced yards, "Johnson County beige" colored homes, nice cars in the driveways, kids toys in the lawn, mountain bikes on the trails, fishing polls in the ponds, fountains, lamp-posts, pools, soccer and baseball fields…it’s all so “poster like”.
It can be so easy to be lulled in to a never-ending motion that involves so many ever changing things that we don’t stop for a moment to contemplate what has never changed in our locale. There is one thing that has not changed in our area for over 150 years and it will always serve as a reminder to us about something else that never changes.
Immediately to our West is the Pleasant Valley Cemetery. Where they keep coming….
Who keeps coming? Well, I don’t know their names, but on a regular basis, the gravediggers come to dig another grave. God planned Redeemer to be here and Pleasant Valley Cemetery to be right next door. I think it is a gracious thing to have that cemetery as our neighbors to the West.
Let me take you back 152 years when the land was owned by a Shawnee Indian named Toe-noy-Say-Say. This man owned a total of 160 acres which was patented to him in 1854. The first time the gravediggers came was well before any significant homesteads were in the immediate proximity and may have been without the landowner’s permission.
They started to come in 1865, that’s when the first person was interred in what is now called the Pleasant Valley Cemetery. Back then it was Shawnee Mission, later Stanley, then Oxford Township, and now, Overland Park.
No one knows how the transaction played out, however, by the time the land was sold to John Divelbiss in 1880, the gravediggers had come 40 times already and it wasn’t even an established cemetery. Divelbiss bought the land for $15 per acre in 1880, there is a touch over 10 acres there, making the land purchase just over $150. Yep, that's 10 acres for $150!! Today an acre in our neighborhood is worth $500-700,000 dollars!
Divelbiss had the land designated for a cemetery and the name “Pleasant Valley” was given in 1881. The grave diggers have been officially coming ever since. I’m sure in the old days the grave diggers were the families of the deceased with little more than shovels. Later, I’ll bet farmers helped dig the holes with their tractors, but be assured, they kept coming. Soon enough, ownership of the land changed hands, now you will see very modern digging equipment come in and make a grave and set up for a funeral in less than 30 minutes.
Much has changed- but one thing remains the same- They keep coming.
When they come, they dig holes of various sizes, they don’t discriminate, they just come. When they come, they are all business, very matter of fact, impersonal, they just dig another hole. Pleasant Valley isn’t a big cemetery and it is relatively unknown by most people. Still, They come regularly. The Pleasant Valley Cemetery has over 2400 bodies interred there with room for several thousand more.
With approximately 2400 graves in the cemetery, this means, since 1881, the grave diggers come approximately every other week. However, in the last 10 years, I am sure they come far more frequently. It seems that I see them come every week now. I know this for sure, they keep coming.
As I drive in and out of the property, multiple times each day, the Lord has providentially ordered that cemetery to be just where it is so I never lose perspective of what is most important in the midst of this busyness, change, flux, “progress”, and this ever-rolling thing called time.
How many young churches have an old cemetery next to it? What a blessing. What a way to keep us focused on the basics! My dear friends take a moment to contemplate this thought regarding the gravediggers- They keep coming.
We do all sorts of things to stem the march of time but the grave diggers keep coming anyway.
We do our best to take many age-defying actions: skin care, vitamins, organic foods, surgery, pills, oxygen chambers, clothes we wear, company we keep keep, activities we engage in (some guys keep playing soccer way beyond their time) things new, fresh, etc. Still though- 5417 people die every hour on this planet, so the grave diggers keep coming.
Get this interesting personal reality I am now contemplating as I stare over at the cemetery- Some day they will come and dig a hole over there in the Pleasant Valley Cemetery that my earthly remains will be laid in. They will come. I cannot stop this fact.
Why do I not despair? Why shouldn’t you despair?
Why do I not despair? Why shouldn’t you despair?
1 Corinthians 15:12-28 Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied. But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death. For “God has put all things in subjection under his feet.” But when it says, “all things are put in subjection,” it is plain that he is excepted who put all things in subjection under him. When all things are subjected to him, then the Son himself will also be subjected to him who put all things in subjection under him, that God may be all in all.
So it is a fact of this life- they keep coming. I reply, with my confidence resting squarely upon Christ, by His grace- Let them Come!