Gone But Not Forgotten by Nancy White
“On an island off the coast of The Bronx in Long Island Sound, unmarked stones rest atop mass graves showing where one plot ends and another begins. Each plot contains 150 bodies. This is New York’s potter’s field, one of the largest cemeteries in the United States where the unclaimed dead, the unknown and the very poor have been laid to rest for more than a century.”
This quote is from a July 2 Reuters article written by Laila Kearney. The article was written because the Hart Island potter’s field cemetery (which was purchased by the city in 1868) is now fully open to the public, where previously they were not allowed.
The Reuters article goes on to say:
“”Unfortunately, there are always people who fall off the radar,” Bronx borough historian Lloyd Ultan said on Monday. “You have to have some place to inter them, so that’s what happens” at Hart Island, he said.
Many older markers are bare, but newer ones carry numbers that coincide with an identification number on each coffin. The ID number, and name if known, are put into an online database that helps people find deceased relatives and friends.
Some 40 bodies a year are identified and returned to families.”
This article reminded me of a couple of things.
First, while our Lord Jesus was buried in a rich man’s tomb, His death is intimately connected to a Potter’s Field in Jerusalem, because the 30 pieces of silver used to buy Judas’ betrayal was ultimately given to buy that field. We find this in Matthew 27:7 “And they took counsel and bought with them (that is the 30 pieces of silver) a potter’s field to bury strangers in.”
It also reminded me of Hebrews 11:13 “These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them , and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.” We are all strangers on this earth, belonging to a different country, and, in a sense are buried on foreign soil.
But we believers could never be called part of the unknown or unclaimed dead. There is no need for identification numbers on our grave markers or coffins, because the Father knows those who are His – as it says in 2 Timothy 2:19 (“The Lord knows those who are His”)
In fact, as I was reminded by Mr. Wayne Cole in his farewell sermon last week, God has my name, has your name, written on the palm of His hand. Isaiah 49:17 “See, I have inscribed you on the palms of My hands…” And this is not like when you write a note in ink on your hand and you have to remember not to wash your hand until you pick up those paper towels on your way home from work. No, this word “inscribe” is from the Hebrew word meaning to engrave. God has our names carved into His hand. They aren’t going to wash off.
No matter how lost, lonely, forgotten or adrift you are (or feel you are) in life or in death, God can not forget you. Though we may wait in a pauper’s grave in a potter’s field, He knows and He waits too. He awaits the opportunity to resurrect us into His Kingdom.