I’ve been spending time lately in the garden where our church’s columbarium is located. This is partly because it is one of the nicest landscapes in our city. The trees, flowers, and fountain make it a beautiful and serene place in which to pray and meditate. But in this Easter season, I have also been motivated by a desire to spend time around some of the saints of the church. I look around and notice the occasional potted flower that has been placed beneath a niche. I look for the names of those I knew and loved and admired, some of whom I brought to this place with their families and loved ones. I recall saying the final words that committed them to the One who now cares for them. I sit and ponder my own mortality, which is a good thing to do.
Making friends with death ahead of time strikes me as wise, not morbid. I try to breathe in joy, exhale gratitude in this place where I will finally rest. And I smile at the thought of those I will someday be joining. Ironically, I always walk out of the garden feeling more alive and more passionate about life, surrounded by the “great cloud of witnesses” (Hebrews 12) of those who have gone before me. I sense that they are urging me on, encouraging me in vital work yet to be done. I feel very small in the big scheme of things, and yet somehow affirmed that what we do in this life makes a difference.
The gospel writer John tells us that it was in the garden surrounding the tomb of Jesus that Mary Magdalene met the resurrected Christ. It was in that dark place of death that she was reunited with the most alive person she had ever known, and her response was to run back to her friends crying, “I have seen the Lord!” Such is the counter-intuitive, upside-down message of our faith. It can be in the most somber of places, or in the darkest of moments, that we catch a glimpse of eternity and feel more alive than ever. Just a glimpse, but enough to reassure us that there is more to life than meets the eye.
In this Easter season, spending time among the saints has made my faith stronger.
Rev. Don Underwood