Teach us to number our days April 25, 2016
Remember when church buildings had a cemetery right outside? It’s not so common these days, but many churches from a generation or two ago still have an old graveyard out back. When I was in college, I remember visiting an old church in New England one Sunday morning and meeting a wonderful elderly lady after the service. I almost jumped out of my skin a few minutes later when I spotted her name on a headstone in the church graveyard as we were leaving. (Mercifully for my sanity, the marker was still blank on her date of death!)
Church buildings tend to reveal our values, sometimes even our worldview. Architecture always tells a story. The building we’re meeting in today originally had no pastoral office, reflecting our original congregation’s strong emphasis on raising up elders from within as opposed to hiring a paid professional to do the job—a priority we try to maintain still today.
Maybe a graveyard would be a good addition to our modern church landscape. There’s nothing like a tombstone in your peripheral vision to remind you of the eternal realities at stake in how we deal with God. What better reminder could there be that all our earthly hopes and dreams will someday come to dust? “Only one life, ’twill soon be past / Only what’s done for Christ will last.”
I wonder how much more diligent we’d be during the week about spreading the seed of the gospel if every Sunday we drove slowly by a whole garden planted with the worn husks of people waiting for the Harvest?
I wonder how it would affect our appreciation for the church as being something more than merely a weekend event or a social club if our deceased brothers and sisters were interred right here among us? A heavenly bride, an eternal kingdom, a mighty army, a holy temple, a loving family—this is what the Bible tells us we are, whether young or old, alive or dead.
I wonder how much more carefully we’d use our time if here on (better “under”) our own church grounds were the dusty bones of folks whose schedules were once just as hectic, whose roles were once just as demanding, and whose fleeting moments were once just as precious as our own?
In one word, I wonder how much wiser we’d be if our church had a graveyard? “So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.” (Ps 90:12)