Monday, April 13, 2009

They keep coming...

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?

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!


Zach said...

Good meditation, Tony. Interestingly, that passage from 1 Corinthians was the focus of this year's "Urbi et Orbi", delivered yesterday.

Frontier Forest said...

Now I remember! Praise His Holy Name Forever and Ever! It wasn’t in Matthew 28! I turned in my SWORD and thar she be! “April 8, 2007, Our 3rd Easter service at Redeemer. Pastor Tony, “They Keep Coming!” My notes said, “One thing that never changes, death and more keep dying. Those who die in Christ receive His glory and will reign with Him forever. And those who die without Christ will go to eternal damnation! Our eternal purpose is to NEVER FORGET CHRSTI IS RISEN!”

Rick Calohan said...

From For Kirk and Covenant The Stalwart Courage of John Knox by Douglas Wilson, page 203.

John Knox last day on the earth

He asked his wife to read the fifteenth chapter of 1 Corinthians. When she was done, he said, “Is not that a comfortable chapter?” Later that afternoon he said again to his wife, “Go, read where I cast my first anchor,” upon which she turned to the seventeenth chapter of John, the place which had apparently been influential in his conversion.

As Dr. David Calhoun would end so many a class with: "And what more shall I say? I do not have time to tell about...” "Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked for us. (Hebrews 12:1) "The grass withers, the flower fades, but the Word of our God shall stand forever. (Isaiah 40:8) because "For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain (Philippians 1:21)

Christ has died,
Christ is risen,
Christ will come again!

Anonymous said...

This scripture puts death in its proper perspective, at least for me:

2 Corinthians 5

6Therefore we are always confident and know that as long as we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord. 7We live by faith, not by sight. 8We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord. 9So we make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it. 10For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.

Ray and Janell said...

Among the thousands of cemeteries in Kansas there is another one I'm sure you've driven past often. Located on the Whitewater road just north of town is one that is to me a lot like your "Pleasant Valley." The difference is that I know the names of those who keep coming. They are my ancestors from the 1880's, my family members ... and as of last month, both of my parents earthly remains are there. My name is on the Sexton's master plot, too. It's a little strange to look at a tiny piece of ground and know that it's gonna be ... well, mine one day. Comforting truth though that it is not my final resting place. As believers in Christ we look forward to new life, eternal life, in Glory with our God.

Frontier Forest said...

Tony, when Cheri and I were at COR, we purchased a crematory "nitch" inside COR's prayer garden. We will donate our empty “space” back to the church. As the years have passed, now thinking things through, not sure if cremation is what the Lord would will for believers? What are your thoughts on cremation verses traditional burial.

Reepicheep said...

I tend to think burial is the better option. Cremation isn't condemned in Scripture, however it's the practice of paganism (Greeks and Romans, for instance...modern Hinduism also)more often than Christianity. The references to cremation in Scripture are never positive (Saul, for instance). The Patriarchs were buried, Moses and co. were buried, and most importantly, our Lord was buried bodily.

I think burial is the ideal practice for Christians.

I would suggest that burial shows better respect for the body, which belongs to the Lord, than cremation. Further, I think burial confesses our belief about eventual resurrection (the redemption of our bodies).

Obviously cremation doesn't thwart God's hand in resurrecting us, I just think burial is a better, even more biblical choice.

Frontier Forest said...

Thanks Brother, great words of wisdom that maybe other readers might be strugling with.