Lessons From A Graveyard

For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself? (Luke 9:25, ESV)

I know the title of today’s blog seems depressing, even macabre. 

When we live to die, we live a better life; when we live ignoring death, then we’re in trouble – both now and in eternity.

Speaking of macabre, I take a walk almost daily in a graveyard.  

I’ve noticed what I call The Lesson of the Flowers. In the older sections of the graveyard no flowers show up at tombstones on Mother’s Day, but in the newer sections, hundreds of flowers! 

Disturbing that all of us, someday, will no longer be remembered by someone living on the earth.

As Jesus said, “What does it profit us to gain the whole world and forfeit our souls?”

I walk from the older sections of the graveyard to the newer. 

In the older sections, you see Scripture verses and statements of faith on tombstones. My favorite grave marker in the cemetery is a lamb laying in front of a tree, illustrating that we are the sheep and Jesus is the Tree of Life! There are also crosses, Bibles, and statements of faith of Jesus – all in marble and granite.

In the newer sections, the gravestones change to a motorcycle, two intertwined hearts, and inscriptions symbolizing more of what the person was in this life rather than hope for eternity. A person has a right to anything on their headstone, but I hope we remember …

Jesus said, “What does it profit us to gain the entire world and then lose our soul for eternity?”

In 49 years of being a local pastor in our community, and since my walking cemetery is the largest in our community, I estimate that I officiated one to two burial internments a year in this graveyard. As I walk, I see the graves of 50 to 1oo people that I knew and was involved with their memorial service.

Sobering for me.  

At age 70, I often think, “Why live the last 20 to 50 years of my life (always optimistic) in retirement mode?” As Jesus said, “What does it profit you, Grant, to live the last years of your life for yourself?”

Ferncliff Cemetery has about 48,000 burial sites. In recent years, there have been more cremations happening, and entire sections are focused on resting sites for cremation urns. The tallest monument is for an industrialist. I hadn’t heard of him until I recently looked up his name. There is a famous boxer and a musician, but also mechanics, politicians, professionals, teachers, factory workers, inventors, nurses, and business leaders.

There are lots of stories told by the gravestones, markings, and inscriptions, but all have one future event in common, where the question of Jesus will be answered … 

On this earth, did you gain eternity?

Sorry for being gloomy this morning. Tomorrow, I will write about the most exciting event in the history of the world.

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