May 1, 2016, Living Treasure – Mtr. Kathryn Boswell
An expanded outline is below. To listen to this sermon, click here: 120908_001
The memorial service for Fr. Bill’s son – full church – the grief of losing our child
the comfort of the readings
From Isaiah 25 –
he will swallow up on this mountain
the covering that is cast over all peoples,
the veil that is spread over all nations.
He will swallow up death forever;
and the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces
From the Revelation to John –
Who are these, clothed in white robes, and from where have they come?… These are the ones coming out of the great tribulation. They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Therefore they are before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple; and he who sits on the throne will shelter them with his presence. They shall hunger no more, neither thirst anymore; the sun shall not strike them, nor any scorching heat. For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of living water, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.
And then we sang the promises of Jesus:
I am the resurrection, I am the life
If you believe in me
Even though you die
You shall live forever.
And I will raise him up,
And I will raise him up,
And I will raise him up on the last day.
And almost every hand was raised as we sang our Lord’s words in hope.
Jesus said, Those who love me will keep my word, and my Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. But what does it mean to keep his word? Most people think he’s talking about obedience, doing what we are told to do – as if the Bible were a giant to-do list (or NOT to-do list). I am a list-maker myself; I like checking things off a list. And Jesus told us that he means us to put his words into practice – the one who hears my words and does them is like the man who builds his house on a rock. The rains came and the winds beat against that house, and it stood firm. But Jesus is talking about more than obedience, more than following the rules and doing the right thing.
But when Jesus said, those who love me will keep my word, The word that is translated “keep” doesn’t mean obey; it means to guard, or protect, or preserve. This week – Karen and I and the abstract in the safety deposit box.
But the word of God is not a historical document that we squirrel away to keep it safe. Hebrews – the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword.
Jesus said, I have said these things to you while I am still with you. But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you.
Our faith is not in some dry, dusty, cobwebby ancient text, handed down over the generations for us to follow as best we can. Our faith is in a living God, the Father who makes his home with us, and who speaks to us by his Holy Spirit. The name Jesus gave to the Spirit – sometimes translated Advocate or Helper or Paraclete – means one who comes alongside us to teach us. It is the Spirit who makes the wonderful words of our Bible, the words we treasure us in our hearts, it is the Spirit of Christ who makes them live and breathe into our lives, speaking real comfort to those who are mourning, real courage to those who are afraid, real hope to those who are in despair, clear direction to those who are lost, and true wisdom to all who seek it.
When we were children, we walked alongside our parents or our big sisters or brothers, always listening, always watching, eager to learn from them so that we could grow up to be like them. It is the greatest joy for a child to stand on a kitchen chair and help with the dishes, or to be given a handful of seeds to help plant the garden, or to sit in someone’s lap and watch their hands as they show us how to knit or to carve or write.
To be a Christian is to become children once again, always listening, always learning – because the Father has made his home with us, and his Spirit comes alongside us to teach us all things and to remind us of every word that he has spoken. That’s what it means for us to keep his word; to hear his word as the Spirit speaks it to us, every day of our lives, and to treasure it as if it were our food and drink, as if it were the very air we breathe – because that is exactly what it is.
It is the word of God, spoken into our hearts by his Spirit, that we most desperately need – in times like yesterday, of loss that is too great for us to handle in any human way – when we are afraid or confused – when we’ve wandered so far from our faith that we’ve lost the way back home – in all our human struggles, we need the Holy Spirit, to teach, to remind, to come alongside of us so we remember our Lord’s words: Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives – with conditions and strings attached, changeably, grudgingly, carefully. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.