In the Shadow of the Sanctuary

by DanWolgemuth on June 24, 2022

It was a trip down memory lane. But it turned out to be so much more.

At the end of a Sabbatical last September, Mary and I made a pilgrimage to some significant family sites for both of us. The Upper Peninsula of Michigan for her… Lancaster, Pennsylvania for me.

A small Brethren In Christ church in Mt. Joy, Pennsylvania was on the list for me. The building in Mt. Joy was the 2.0 version of the church, but the cemetery beside it was original equipment. 

Tucked behind a wrought iron fence were aging tombstones. Several with the name WOLGEMUTH at the top. Most significant to me was the marker for Grabill and Cecelia. My dad’s parents. My grandparents.

A glance beyond my grandparent’s graves, and there was a grave marker in the cemetery with the name Daniel Wolgemuth on it. No doubt a distant relative… and a vivid wake up call.

Cemeteries beside sanctuaries. Life in proximity to death. In many rural communities, that is the norm. Or at least it was.

That’s outrageous to think about today. Imagine your local congregation embarking on a new building project that includes space for a cemetery. Yet, I can’t help but think that a departure from this norm has left a vacancy. It’s eliminated a vivid lesson. A life and death lesson.

Cemeteries remind us of the lie of Satan… “You will not surely die” (Genesis 3:4)

Cemeteries connect us to the fabric of community and the legacy of family.

Cemeteries constrain us to evaluate the stewardship of our lives and the quality of our living.

Cemeteries amplify the imperative of Christ. His life. His death. His victory.

I fear that the church/cemetery combo is a relic. Dismissed as quaint. Discarded as old fashioned. Demoted in the wake of changing priorities and economic realities.

Yet, the lesson should not be missed. Perhaps every church driveway should traverse a collection of tombstones. Perhaps every Sunday church gathering should contain the reminder that it took the death of Christ to make a cemetery simply a waypoint on the journey to eternity.

Inevitable. But not the final word.

Maybe, just maybe, this is my 67-year-old mind shifting gears… or perhaps it’s more than that. Perhaps it’s intended to prompt deeper gratitude for this shared journey. Through birth and death. Through tears and laughter. Through victory and loss.

Across the parking lot from the sanctuary. Inside the reach of the hymns. A cemetery is poised to teach a lesson. To ignite our worship. To amplify our adoration of the life giver.

When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written:

            “Death is swallowed up in victory.”

            “O death, where is your victory?

                        O death, where is your sting?”

            The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Corinthians 15:54)

Beside the cemetery in Mt. Joy… a sanctuary. Death, swallowed up.

Thanks be to God for His unspeakable gift.

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Samuel F. Wolgemuth

by DanWolgemuth on June 17, 2022

For Ruth, Sam, Ken, Robert, Debbie and Dan… he is our father. His DNA. His genes. His influence. His impact.

Our father. The six of us. Anchored to each other because of a shared father.

Yes, mine. But always, ours.

A life that connected us. A legacy to steward, to leverage, to remember, to learn from.

Siblings connected. A father in common.

That’s why the language of Jesus in Matthew 6 is so important. In the classroom of prayer…  Jesus says, “Our Father…”

Our.

Plural pronoun.

The language of community. Of family.

Our.

Yes, mine. But always, ours.

Together.

A shared legacy. An inheritance.

A name to steward.

Father.

Unflawed. Unselfish. Unencumbered. God… with a large family.

Jesus, with the same entrance ramp in prayer as mine. Father.

Ours.

Father’s Day 2022. Against the backdrop of brokenness and isolation and alienation, Jesus tells me that I am not alone. Never.

Family. With a shared father. With shared responsibility. With equal rights and authority.

Personal, but never private.

A drop of water in a cloud of witnesses. Ours. Together.

We have a father. The best father.

Compassionate King.

Eternal and present.

Tender and triumphant.

Just and justifier.

It is the first two words of the Lord’s Prayer that say it all. That changes it all. That distinguishes it all. That establishes it all. That empowers it all.

Our Father. With siblings in every nation, every tribe, every language, every color. A family reunion awaits.

Father’s Day.

Dignity, not division.

Joint heirs with Jesus.

The plural pronoun that reminds us…

We have a Father.

We.

Us.

Ours.

No, He doesn’t need another tie. He deserves worship, adoration, unity, humility and obedience.  These are the perfect gifts for our perfect Father.

Now, more than ever. Father’s Day.

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Cosmic Guards

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Ah, yes… graduation. Achievement celebrated. Transition initiated. The future anticipated. And, of course, cards and gifts purchased. For those biblically-minded gift givers, a laser etching of Jeremiah 29:11 is always a favorite. “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to […]

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I was a freshman at Wheaton Central High School. A newly minted Tiger, and a member of the wrestling team. More specifically, an 80-pound member of the team, with high school weight classes starting at 98 pounds. Midway through the season, I was elevated to the sophomore team, which meant an inaugural match against our […]

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“Follow Me”

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As I journeyed through the concluding pages of “The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry”, John Mark Comer, the author of the book, invoked these words from the Apostle Paul… “Make it your goal to live a quiet life, minding your own business…” (1 Thessalonians 4:11, NLT) A quiet life. After Comer spends pages and pages highlighting […]

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First…

April 22, 2022

Youth For Christ is a ministry that I love. It reaches 11 to 19-year-old young people through the conduit of relationship with the timeless message of hope in Christ. Part of what I love about the mission is who God uses to share the message. Rescued and redeemed sinners. Self-conscious and underqualified. Those who could […]

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What if…

April 15, 2022

Over the years as Mary and I reflect on another anniversary, we are drawn to a question that illuminates gratitude and humility in our souls. It’s not an easy question, but worthwhile. It started with something like… “What would my life be like today if I had not married you?”  This question fuels the engine […]

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