Raised with Our Fathers
Wednesday in Pentecost 7
26 July 2017
I have lived in two countries and in several cities in my adult life. Like many baby boomers I have no clue where I would like to be buried or ought to be buried at life's end. This quandary is compounded by the fact that my own children live far from my wife and me, and they will probably move several times in their lifetimes as well. I find the church yard in rural Ontario where many members of my family are buried an increasingly attractive option. It is on a lonely gravel road surrounded by verdant grain fields and family farms with clapboard barns. This church, which my family helped to found, is long closed, because everyone moved to town, but I would imagine that the cemetery is still open for business. The orderly Germans who founded this church and cemetery simply buried people in neat rows according to their death date. My grave would simply be "the next one." However, like every baby boomer I worry about the cost of shipping my dead body from Texas to Ontario. What a ridiculous concern! But you can see that I'm conflicted.

I appreciate the sense of locatedness represented by that little church yard cemetery in Howick Township, Ontario. I know where it is. I can picture it in my head. I know quite a number of my family members are buried there. I know the gospel that was preached to them. I know that at the resurrection of the flash they will rise to glorious triumph, fulfilling a promise long ago made by their Lord Christ in their baptisms in that little now-decaying church. I know the story of the place and the story of the place is my story. As I age, I feel like the salmon swimming upstream to its birthplace; a place where it will also die. There is a strong sense of "going home." That is true for both body and soul.

In any case, I know that my remains cannot merely be scattered to the four winds by those who survive me as though my body, redeemed by precious blood, means nothing. And while the psalmist is right in saying that my place will remember me no more (Ps 103:16), I know that I have a God who has remembered me and loved me and will never forget me until the day when He reconstitutes my body, knitting together those remains unto His glory and my own. What a joy it is to contemplate being raised with faithful confessors of all generations out of the church yard that surrounds the location where God came to those previous generations in preaching and in the holy sacraments. Our burial needs still to witness to the promises of God, because whether we live or we die we belong to the Lord. This is a testimony to the locatedness of the bodily resurrection at the consummation of the age. It is good to be laid to rest with our fathers because we will be raised to life with them.

Rev. Dr. Scott R. Murray
Memorial Lutheran Church

Martin Luther

"When the time drew near that Israel must die, he called his son Joseph and said to him, 'If now I have found favor in your sight, put your hand under my thigh and promise to deal kindly and truly with me. Do not bury me in Egypt, but let me lie with my fathers. Carry me out of Egypt and bury me in their burying place.' He answered, 'I will do as you have said.' And he said, 'Swear to me'; and he swore to him. Then Israel bowed himself upon the head of his bed" (Gn 47:29-31).

"It is likely that the patriarch Jacob wanted to rest in the sepulcher of his fathers because of the hope of the resurrection. For those very saintly heroes of the church of God had no doubts about the immortality of the soul. This is why they were so greatly concerned about burial. For if the Holy Spirit had not firmly taught them this, such anxious concern about the burial of the body, the most worthless part of man, would have been superfluous. Yet the heathen, too, adorned the tombs of the dead respectfully and splendidly. But they took this practice from the fathers and sought this fleeting glory of burial even though they by no means expected eternal life. But the fathers believed firmly in the future resurrection of the dead, in such a way that they had no doubts about the resurrection of the body either.

"Furthermore, Jacob was not ignorant of the fact that he would have numerous descendants in Egypt. Nevertheless, he wants to be buried in the sepulcher of his fathers when he is dead. Here Abraham, Isaac, Leah, etc., were resting. And it is credible that Jacob was one of those who were raised from the dead with Christ. For this reason he takes such care to be buried in the land of Canaan, where Christ rose from the dead and with Him many of the fathers and their people."

Martin Luther, Lectures on Genesis, 47.31
Genesis 47:27-31
 
Thus Israel settled in the land of Egypt, in the land of Goshen. And they gained possessions in it, and were fruitful and multiplied greatly. And Jacob lived in the land of Egypt seventeen years. So the days of Jacob, the years of his life, were 147 years.

And when the time drew near that Israel must die, he called his son Joseph and said to him, "If now I have found favor in your sight, put your hand under my thigh and promise to deal kindly and truly with me. Do not bury me in Egypt, but let me lie with my fathers. Carry me out of Egypt and bury me in their burying place." He answered, "I will do as you have said." She And he said, "Swear to me"; and he swore to him. Then Israel bowed himself upon the head of his bed. 
according to the will of God.
(ESV)
Prayer
Lord Jesus Christ, You are the resurrection and the life. You have redeemed us, both body and soul, by the precious blood poured out from your cross and by the power of your glorious resurrection. Give us grace to testify to Your power over death by our burial customs, that we might be true witnesses to you and your gifts to us. Amen.

For Jill Stoneburner, that the Lord Jesus would be with her in these days surrounding her with the holy angels

For the church musicians undergoing the search process for the parish musician of Memorial Lutheran Church, that they would testify to the power of song in carrying the Word of God

For Jett Field, who is suffering heart problems, that the Lord Jesus would bring strength and healing
Art: Albrecht DURER,  The Adoration of the Trinity (1511)
Memorial Lutheran Church
smurray@mlchouston.org
http://www.mlchouston.org
©  Scott Murray 2017