We Find It Everywhere

The last enemy to be destroyed is death. 1 Corinthians 15:26

A Cemetery in Alesund Norway

One of my more macabre pastimes is to visit cemeteries. They are a fount of history and stories. We can learn much about places and people from headstones.

But the point is, they are everywhere. There is no escaping them. Towns, villages, cities and rural areas all have them. They can be found on the outskirts of town, next to churches, in churches and even in prisons. I have found these sober reminders of our mortality in all sorts of places. Simply put, millions have gone before us.

Why is it that so many of us live as though death doesn’t exist, or that it doesn’t matter?

A Pilgrims’ Cemetery on the Camino to Santiago

1 Corinthians 15 is the Apostle Paul’s wonderful exploration and apologetic for the reality of the resurrection. He declares that for the believer “death has lost its sting”. Sadly, for many, the sting hasn’t been removed from death because they refuse to rely on Christ – the sting remover.

Cemeteries are a constant reminder for me of what Christ has done but also a challenge to seek and find the lost before it is too late.

Burial Mounds at Gamla Uppsala Sweden

Categories: Cemetery, christian, Christianity, Devotional, Faith, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments

Community Around A Meal

Time Chester explores Christian community in his book A Meal with Jesus:

“We think we’re enacting grace if we provide for the poor. But we’re only halfway there. We’ve missed the social dynamics. What we communicate is that we’re able and you’re unable. “I can do something for you, but you can do nothing for me. I’m superior to you.” We cloak our superiority in compassion, but superiority cloaked in compassion is patronizing.

Think how different the dynamic is when we sit and eat with someone. We meet as equals. We share together. We affirm one another and enjoy one another. A woman once told me: “I know people do a lot to help me. But what I want is for someone to be my friend.” People don’t want to be projects. The poor need a welcome to replace their marginalization, inclusion to replace their exclusion, a place where they matter to replace their powerlessness. They need community. They need the Christian community.”

Chester, Tim (2011-04-05). A Meal with Jesus: Discovering Grace, Community, and Mission around the Table (RE: Lit) (pp. 82-83). Good News Publishers/Crossway Books. Kindle Edition.
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Reflections on Walhalla Cemetery

Walhalla is an old and remote C19th gold mining town north of Moe in Victoria. This is not the majestic hall of the slain at Asgard in Norse mythology. However, many, many people have died here – young and old. More precisely, the very young and middle aged. In, what is now, a collection of a few houses and tourist stores, there was once a mad scrabbling, digging and tunnelling for gold in a busy narrow valley that would have rung with voices and machines. The valley is silent. Now the forlorn cemetery on a hill overlooking the valley, attests that for many of the people who arrived from a variety of countries to find their fortune, ultimately, only placed loved ones in the ground.

Now that is not exactly true. Technically the graves are more like filing cabinet drawers slid into the steep hillside. There are about about 1300 burials here. Many extant graves are dug into the hillside at one end and 1 or 2 metres out of the ground at the other as the hillside side is very steep – quite an unusual arrangement. Visiting the cemetery is an arduous climb!

Reading the headstones is a very sobering exercise:

There is one poignant grave where it seems that a whole young family has died within a little more than a year. However at the bottom of the headstone the inscription reads that it was erected by a surviving son.

The two over represented groups are young children and young men. The first succumbing to the many diseases in this pre penicillin era and the second were often victims of mining disasters.

It is impossible to walk through this cemetery and not be deeply moved. One wonders of the hopes and dreams the people had. One wonders how they coped with this very present spectre of death. And the survivors, the successful and unsuccessful, one wonders whether they thought, in the end, it was worth the toil and heartache.

Here we see a headstone of a dad and three children aged 3 years to 5 years.

The verse reads: Nothing In My Hand I Bring, Simply to the Cross I Cling

Overall, there is one striking truth that resounds from many of the headstones and that is, there is a merciful God, who loves His children, not just for a moment but into eternity. Beyond this life there is a better life where the streets are paved with gold.

One final observation: Sometimes in our desire to do good, we wreak havoc. When the cemetery was first established a well meaning person planted cypress pines. Over the years these have grown into giants, destroying everything around them. Graves have been pushed aside and in one or two places the pines grow directly out of a grave. In recent years many the trees have been cut down, but the consequences survive.

Categories: Cemetery, Death, Life | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

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