This week I have had two funerals and will have, by Sunday had five burials. This is time of the year when the ground finally gives up the frost and burials of the folks that died during the winter can be interred. Even though the funeral was months ago it is still important for many to be at the burial. The words of Jesus about the kernel of wheat falling into the ground and dying (John 12) have always come into my mind when we participate in a burial. Jesus is talking about His death and burial and the fact that in His death he will bring in a harvest of righteous and bear much fruit, He becomes the first fruits of those that sleep and calls Himself the resurrection and the life. The promise is that those who believe in Him will have everlasting life. So the image of a burial as the planting of Christ’s righteousness is a comforting one. Comforting as well is the image of the burial ground as being a dormitory, or a society of those that sleep. The early church called the burial ground a koimeteria which is a sleeping place or dormitory, a place set apart for groups of people to sleep.
So there alot of thoughts going on when I walk over that cemetery ground. This is the planting of the Lord. This is the resting place of a society, a dormitory of those who knew in whom they had believed and were persuaded that he is able to guard that which they committed unto him. I think of the great mystery that Paul reveals – we shall not all sleep , but we shall all be changed. The twinkling of an eye speed change that will bring us to life that never ends happens at the last judgement. Here we are trudging on holy ground year after year visiting the “plots” just like farmers take plot tours to see how the kernels of wheat that went into the plot to die are generating new life. The problem with us is we don’t see the tangible results of a farm plot tour. We see the same park like area that might have a few more monuments and stones than the last time we were here but unless it is late spring there is not a lot of life. On the last day new life will be popping up all over.
I remembered this morning a blog I wrote 8 years ago –
It is going to be a long day today. I have a funeral this morning and a wedding this evening. I have to admit that most of the time I appreciate the funerals more than the weddings. Funeral goers have a more receptive mind than wedding attenders. Something about death focuses the mind wonderfully.
This blog site is about our connections up here in the North country. Another of the connections we have is the acquaintances of Pastors and teachers. I had a gentlemen come and preach for me many years ago from Ada, Minnesota by the name of Dean Bell. He was particularly impressed with the services at the Developmental Center. Later he became a Pastor and serves Fosston and another congregation I believe in Hendrum Minnesota. We have had some adventures together. I remember vividly a discussion that he and I had in Boston as we discussed funerals. Dean called the graveyard the “dormitory of the faithful departed”. I like that and have searched for that quote long and hard. The closest I have come is a statement that the graveyard was considered in the early church the “dormitory of the dead and the bosum of the church”, it is a “sweet station, for there the bones of the departed rest sweetly and await the advent of their Savior”. This comes from a book called
Blessing the world: ritual and lay piety in medieval religion
By Derek A. Rivard
The book is a delightful read that is really about the little blessings of life, the benedictions that come to us sometimes unexpectedly but in the early days became integral to how one lived from day to day. Funerals for me are like that. They are a chance to think of the little benedictions that come to us every day through the lives of the saints that we are privileged to serve and work among. A funeral that focuses on Christ and His doing and dying is also a final benediction for the dead and a formal benediction for the living.