A Meditation by Rev. Mark Creech
Delivered at the Easter Sunrise Service at the Carter’s Chapel Baptist Church Cemetery, Selma, North Carolina
When I was a boy I used to visit an old cemetery in my hometown because I thought it was interesting to look at the grave markers. Some of them stretched back as far as the Civil War. Perhaps some of you have enjoyed doing the same for one reason or another.
On many tombstones or markers there is often a heading that reads with something like “Here Lies” and then the date of the deceased and perhaps some praise of the person in the form of an epitaph.
I’ve not seen them myself, but I understand that Early New England gravestones have some of the most interesting epitaphs.
Some of them implored their readers to prepare for imminent death. Like this one for George Butler, age 17, that reads:
“This Happy Youth resig’d his Breath/ Prepar’d to live and ripe for Death:/ Ye blooming Youth who see this Stone/ Learn early Death may be your own.
Others simply tell of the highlights of life’s journey, like the one that reads:
Joseph Washington, born in North Carolina a slave
Died in Massachusetts free
And then others are humorous like the one that says:
Under the sod and under the trees,
Lies the body of Jonathan Pease.
He is not here, there’s only the pod.
Pease shelled out and went to God.
But as interesting as all of these epitaphs are, there is none so amazing as the one that belongs to Jesus. It was neither written nor cut into the stone, but spoken by the mouth of an angel and recorded in the annals of eternity. It reads:
He is not here: for he is risen, as he said.
For those who stand in this cemetery and may look not more than a stone’s throw away and see the grave of a beloved family member or friend – for those whose hearts feel the pangs of grief because someone very special is no longer present – these words telling of the resurrection of Christ bring hope and comfort as none other.
The apostle Paul summed it up well when in I Thessalonians 4:14 he wrote:
For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him. For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise…
You know, Winston Churchill before his death planned his funeral, which took place in Saint Paul’s Cathedral. He included many of the great hymns of the church and used the eloquent Anglican liturgy. At his direction, a bugler was positioned high in the dome of Saint Paul’s and after the benediction the bugler sounded “Taps” – the universal signal that the day is done – that an end has come.
But then came a surprising dramatic turn: as Churchill had instructed, after “Taps” was finished, another bugler placed on the other side of the great dome, played the notes of “Reveille.” – “It’s time to get up. It’s time to get up. It’s time to get up in the morning.”
That was Churchill’s testimony to his confidence that the last note to be played at the end of a life may be “Taps”; but then there’s always “Reveille.” Death is not the end. There’s still the reveille of resurrection ahead.
So on this blessed Easter morn, while we watch the glorious sun rising in the East, while we witness the withered leaves transforming into sweet flowers growing, while we patiently await the sleeping buds to spring forth from beneath the earth itself, may we once again relish in the greatest words of promise ever uttered: “I am the resurrection and the life,” said Jesus, “He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die.” (John. 11:25-26).