The Tombstone is Only Part of the Story

Today’s Journey Through Scripture Readings:
Exodus 39-40; Matthew 23:23-39


27 “How terrible it will be for you legal experts and Pharisees! Hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs. They look beautiful on the outside. But inside they are full of dead bones and all kinds of filth. 28 In the same way you look righteous to people. But inside you are full of pretense and rebellion (Matthew 23:27-28, Common English Bible).

I spend a lot of time in cemeteries. It isn’t that I’m ghoulish or anything. I’m not. It just goes with the job. While I don’t spend funeral director kind of time at cemeteries, I still spend more than the average person.

Cemeteries in general (there are exceptions to the rule) are usually clean and neat. The lawns are manicured. Many of them could rival golf courses for the work that goes into maintaining them.

The tombstone is a microcosm of the cemetery. Tombstones are intended to last for a very long time. There are cemeteries around that are quite old and you may find tombstones that show signs of wear from age and weathering, but usually, even at a grave that is three, four, five hundred years old the names are still readable. You can still make out the vital information on the stone. The intention is for people to know who is buried below them long into the future.

Because graves are the final resting place for those near and dear we tend to want things to look nice. We want to see well-maintained grounds. We want the cemetery, the headstone, and the grave to be something in which the deceased would take great pride. So we take special care.

What is above the ground looks good. What is below the ground is another matter. I have never seen the inside of a casket when reopened. I don’t find any pleasure in looking in on one who died recently. It cannot possibly be any better to look inside the casket of one who has been dead for some time.

In other words, things are beautiful on the outside but inside? Not so much. The words Jesus used to describe the inside of the grave were “bones and filth.” I don’t find that as even a pleasant mental picture.

Jesus goes on in today’s lesson. He is speaking to the Pharisees and legal experts. He describes them to be much like the grave that has a beautiful headstone but underneath is bones and filth. The Pharisees and legal experts, Jesus says, are much like that. They look polished and professional on the outside but on the inside, Jesus says they are “…filled with pretense and rebellion.”

I think this speaks to us as a warning.  At times we have the pretense of good, faithful people, we look the part. We are all nice and neat, all spit and polished. That is the outside. What is in our hearts and in our minds is far from what we show the world. Things can be pretty dark in our lives because of what we carry with us.

We all know our own deep, dark secrets. But, though it is not in today’s lesson, there is good news. God knows those deep, dark secrets too. And, guess what? God loves you anyway. God loves us and forgives us and helps us to work past the bones and filth in our lives. Then, God replaces the bones and filth with grace, love, joy, and peace.

Have a blessed day in the Lord.

With Joy and Thankfulness,

Copyright 2018, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved


Spirita Spiro (Esperanza for "Spirit's Breath) is rather new in my life. But the blog is not. I began writing a blog several years ago. It lived under the title, "The Pastor Ponders." Over the years I have tried several different names and "The Pastor Ponders" always seemed to fit best. I am trying again with Spirita Spiro. For 27 years I was a full-time pastor in the United Methodist Church. This year, August 2018, I semi-retired (I can't actually retire quite yet) and began teaching social studies. It is something I have always wanted to do and if I was going to do this, I needed to make it sooner rather than later. So, I made the move. I thought with the career change there also needed to be a name change to the blog and other things, such as spiritual direction. Spirita Spiro is my attempt to share some of my thoughts. I often share what I am thinking with my dog "Bishop," but he keeps his thoughts to himself. He will even go to sleep sometimes while I am sharing my thoughts with him. The truth is, if it doesn't involve getting his ears scratched, his belly rubbed or some kind of treat, he really doesn't care. I will say this for him, he never argues with me or tells me I am wrong. So, I decided to share some of my thoughts with whoever might come across this blog in their ramblings around the Internet. I live with my wife Cindy and our little dog in Lufkin, Texas. I spent the past 27 years as a full-time United Methodist pastor. Most recently I served as pastor of First United Methodist Church in Sweeny, Texas. I have also served United Methodist congregations throughout East Texas including rural Madison County (Elwood UMC), Lovelady (First UMC) and Kennard (Center Hill UMC), Canton (First UMC), rural Smith County (Mt. Sylvan UMC and Union Chapel UMC), Grapeland (First UMC), Tyler (Pleasant Retreat UMC), Santa Fe (Aldersgate UMC), Freeport (First UMC) and Oyster Creek (Oyster Creek UMC), Diboll (First UMC), and now Sweeny (First UMC). My wife Cindy and I have been married for over 40 years. We have two grown sons. Wayne and his wife Nikki and all our grandsons (Kaleb, Noah, and Jaxon) live in Southern California. Christopher and his wife Morgan and both our granddaughters (Jenna and Natalie) live in Tyler Texas. I enjoy preaching and all aspects of preaching from research to writing to the actual preaching event. I also love writing, reading, playing the guitar as well as a bit of drawing. I have spent quite a bit of time over the past two years working with paracord on various projects, mostly prayer ropes I usually give away. I sing bass with a local barbershop chorus called The Coastalaires. I have also recently begun doing a little wood carving. I also enjoy playing with Bishop, something he likes a great deal better than listening to my thoughts. I hold an Associate of Applied Science Degree in Business Data Processing, specializing in Microcomputers from San Jacinto College in Pasadena, Texas, a Bachelor of Science in Political Science with a minor in History from Sam Houston State University in Huntsville, TX, a Master of Divinity from Southern Methodist University in Dallas, TX and a Doctor of Ministry from Carolina University of Theology. When I was a student at Carolina, the school was in Iron Station North Carolina. They have since relocated to Manassas Virginia (Yeah, go figure, a school named Carolina geographically in Virginia). This blog is mostly devotional writing, but there are other things here too. Just about every week I will either post my sermon manuscript or a video of the worship service. On occasion, I will post something I see in society. Occasionally I write a short story, a poem, or a song and will post it here too. I will say this, my motivations for writing this blog are really selfish. I write it to get what I am thinking out of my head and onto something a bit more permanent. They say, after all, once something is on the internet it never really goes away. Still, I hope you enjoy reading it. And, should you desire, you can one-up Bishop and actually tell me what you think. Who knows, it might generate a bit of discussion between you and me and anyone else who might make their way here. With Joy and Thankfulness, Keith Sweeny, Texas May 2018

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