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Appearance of Death

11.12.17 | Bulletin Article | by J.M. Scott

    He would want me to remind you…

    Daily News reports:

    After a graveside eulogy and a few prayers, the scene morphed quickly from silence to Stephen King with the appearance of the foot. We all looked down and we were looking at what apparently was a human foot and leg wrapped in plastic, with cloth wrapped around it, sticking out on top of my father’s casket, said Alonzo Butler, 53.

    One of the mourners snapped a cellphone photo of what looks like an outtake from The Walking Dead. Relatives later noted the cemetery workers ignored the dangling foot and quickly filled in the grave.

    Mount Holiness owner James Shmergel felt that the attention to the ghoulish grave mishap was overblown. “Is it newsworthy? In a cemetery?” asked Shmergel. “Not really.” The Butlers may hire a lawyer and file a lawsuit seeking compensation for pain and suffering.

    But cemetery caretaker Bill Plog, who started at Mount Holiness in 1983, said he was surprised such incidents were so rare. “There was a casket,” he said. “It deteriorated. You can purchase a concrete vault, but people don’t. That grave there is from 1969 . . . It’s unfortunate that this happened, but this is a graveyard.”

    Death is disturbing, so we do our best to literally bury it.  We don’t want to see it, not even at a graveside! But is denial really the best way to deal with this reality?  King David, in the 23rd Psalm, suggested that we all “walk through the valley of the shadow of death.” [v. 4] This may seem like a pretty negative outlook on life.  But although David was a realist, he was not a fatalist.  He recognized the presence of death, but he did not live in fear. Rather, he found comfort knowing that God was always with him. He also possessed the assurance that one day he would, “dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” [v. 6]

    Death is meant to be disturbing; it is designed to get our attention.  But most importantly it’s intended to draw us closer to God, the only place where comfort and assurance can be found. Perhaps living in denial of the reality of the immanence of death isn't the positive thing that some of us have assumed it to be.  

    Jim Elliot was an evangelical Christian who was one of five missionaries killed while participating in Operation Auca, an attempt to evangelize the Huaorani people of Ecuador. Jim Elliot said, When it comes time to die, be very sure the only thing you have to do is die.

    Remember, this is a graveyard! But according to King David, comfort and assurance exist, even in a graveyard! “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death is your sting?" [1 Corinthians 15:55]

    He would want me to remind you. Think about it. Amen.