Awaiting the resurrection in western Kentucky

by | April 13, 2017 7:09 am

Last Updated: April 13, 2017 at 7:28 am

Playl’s Ponderings – By Steve Playl (former pastor of Sparta First Baptist Church)

Most of us drive by them every day. Some days we pass many of them without paying much attention to their significance. They come in various sizes and shapes. Some are beautifully manicured, while others are overgrown with grass and weeds. They may be located on a hillside near an interstate highway or at the end of a practically inaccessible dirt road. Famous people are found in some, others are populated with those whose names have been long forgotten.

If you have failed to identify the subject of my discourse, I am referring to cemeteries – those grounds or mausoleums where earthly remains of those who died before we did are laid to rest.

East Hill Cemetery straddles the Tennessee – Virginia border, next to State Street and just up the hill from the “Bristol Sign.” Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, it contains the graves of several pioneers of this area, as well as veterans of the American Civil War and slaves. Ordway Cemetery, hidden by a car dealership on the Parkway, like East Hill, is the final resting place for some of the founding fathers of Bristol.

The little farm where I grew up in Madisonville, Kentucky, was sandwiched between Odd Fellows Cemetery and a tiny family cemetery behind our neighbor’s barn. Odd Fellows continues to expand with close to 10,000 bodies buried there, while the cemetery next door has, maybe, a dozen graves. Sadly, nearly all the markers are gone now.

On a recent trip to another part of Kentucky, my wife and I drove past dozens of tiny burial grounds that we had forgotten existed, and we drove past Horse Cave Cemetery, where Anna Mary Carter’s cremains had been buried a couple of days earlier, near her family and close to 5,000 others. That’s more than double the population of those living in the little town of Horse Cave. We passed those cemeteries on our way to Zion Baptist Church, where we celebrated Anna Mary’s life.

My parents are entombed at Forest Lawn Memorial Gardens in my hometown. For the past two centuries most of my ancestors have been laid to rest in cemeteries throughout western Kentucky. Several of our friends are buried in and around Sparta. My brother’s ashes are scattered on the farm where we raised, and recently I learned that one of my ancestors was buried at sea.

One day, though, cemeteries all over the world will be shaken, the oceans will give up their dead and even ashes will be reassembled.

God’s love, as demonstrated in Jesus at Calvary, makes our redemption possible. God’s power, as demonstrated in the resurrection of the Christ, makes possible our resurrection. That’s why Christians celebrate Easter as Resurrection Day! We celebrate the resurrection of our Lord; we also celebrate the resurrection to come – our resurrection to life everlasting.

Paul told the Thessalonian believers that, “If we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so those who have died in Jesus will He bring with Him…the dead in Christ will rise first…then those of us still alive will be caught up with them to meet the Lord.”

Oh my goodness! Can you imagine what those well-kept cemeteries will look like?

Paul further states, in his letter to the Philippians, that when Jesus returns from heaven, He will remodel our bodies and make them like his glorious body; the way He was when He burst forth form the tomb; the way He was when the women, then Peter and John, found an empty grave and learned that “He is not here for He is risen.” That’s the Jesus that was seen by hundreds of witnesses before He ascended into Heaven.

I don’t know about you, but I plan to celebrate His resurrection on Sunday…unless He comes back to open a bunch of those graves before then.

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