The Pastor's Pen

Graveside Gardening.


Graveside Gardening

This is the phrase my brother in law gave to what we did on Sunday afternoon at my mother’s graveside. Ezra, Eden, Gabriel, Keri and I together with my sister, brother in law, nephews and niece decided to plant flowers on my moms’ grave.

After my moms’ burial in August last year, my sister agreed to wait for our return to erect a tombstone on her grave, so we could grieve with them and have some sense of closure. We have had to deal with the delayed grief of not being able to be with my mom in her last days and especially not being able to attend her funeral during the strict Covid lockdown restrictions last year.

So this was a good day for us. It was a wonderful day, sad, but wonderful. We planted white and red rose bushes in the middle of the grave and then planted bunches of flowers called 'Alyssum Carpet of Snow' across the whole grave. The instructions told us that these flowers would “produce a blanket of thimble-shaped clusters of pure-white blossoms with a sweet, honey-like fragrance and delicate beauty all season.” I think my mom would approve!

I am thankful we did this. My sister in the beginning was hesitant and my children asked us why we needed to do this. At first I didn’t have the words to give them an answer, but the simple answer was, to help us remember mom! Hopefully the flowers will grow abundantly and healthy on my mom’s grave, which will give us a reason to go back to visit the grave and to do further needful gardening. And while we do this, we will be able to spend intentional, focused time, remembering my mother.

Thinking about all of this has helped me to understand the important role that remembrance plays in Christian worship.

You’ve probably heard the phrase, “We’re a forgetful people.” I know I have, and I’ve even used that phrase many times, and generally I believe it’s true. We are warned in Scripture about this shortcoming and tendency we have to be forgetful people. Its difficult to think that I will forget my mom, or that one day my children will forget what I look like, but how often do we forget our Lord?

The Bible is full of reminders to remembrance. In Romans 1, Paul associates the brokenness of society with a failure to remember God and glorify him. In Deuteronomy 8 and Psalm 103, we are told to remember God. In Exodus 13:3 and Psalm 77 we are told to remember his deeds, and his commands in Number 15:38-41.  In 1 Peter 2 we are told to remember what it means to be people in a community together and to remember Jesus in the sharing of communion (I Corinthians 11:23-26).  

A few years back I preached a sermon series through the seven churches in Revelation, remember that? The first church that is addressed is the Church in Ephesus. It was a church known for growing godly elders, and being a tremendous testimony in the world. It was a church with solid theology that could discern false doctrine; this was a strong group of believers that did not grow weary and persevered for Christ’s name sake.  

It appears that in the early days when Paul and Timothy were there, this church was on fire for the Lord, they were out winning people to Christ, spreading the Gospel, teaching solid doctrine and training up strong men in the faith. Then things changed. They lost their first love (Rev. 2:4). This once vibrant church lost her fervour and was indeed guilty of abandoning her first love. How did this happen? Well, I think they forgot. Scripture tells us they forgot their first love, Christ. Maybe they got so busy working? Maybe they were too preoccupied with a virus. I don’t know. But notice that verse 5 of Revelation 2 starts with the word: “remember.”

Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent.” (Revelation 2:5)

These were our Lord’s instructions to the church in Ephesus. This is a strong reminder and a command to repent here, to stop, turn around, and “do the works you did at first.”

I often wonder if Paul and Timothy were still alive and were to write a letter to New Life Church, what would they tell us to remember? I think they would remind us why we’re here, and who we are in Christ.

This should be an easy one for us to recite an answer too. We’re here to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.

Are we doing this successfully? Do we understand and remember the power of the Holy Spirit we have living inside of us? Do we grasp the magnitude of this power, and remember the source of this power, divine power, to overcome our trials, or are we settling to continue to walk our Christian lives wrapped in grave clothes?

With all the uncertainty and all the restrictions around us and all the busyness we find ourselves in, we need to remember the truths that we have been taught. This season has taught me that we need to remember God and the truths in His word! Truths such as these…

  • Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has (2 Corinthians 5:17)
  • The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. (John 10:10)
  • to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds,  and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness. (Ephesians 4:22-23)

We have been bought with a price, a costly price. Let us remember and live lives together in community, worthy of our calling.

Remembering with you,

Pastor Gareth