Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Memorial Service for Julio Gonzalez & Al Como

John 5:24-30; Romans 8:31-39; Isaiah 40:6-11

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.

It is said that there is nothing certain in life except death and taxes. There is a reason why people say this, for these are the common experience of all mankind. However, do you allow these realities, death and taxes, to define your life, to determine who you are, and what your value is to yourself, to your family, to your neighbors and community, and to God? I pray not. For, your God and Creator did not create you for death, but for life with Him, and taxes belong to Caesar who will meet his own end. No, death and taxes do not define you; they are not who you are. But, you have an enemy in Satan who continually tells you so; and, he has allies in this world and in your own fallen flesh. Thus, it comes down to who you will listen to; who will you allow to define your value and life – The God who made you, and knows you, and loves you, or the devil who hates you and God and wants to destroy you. Who will you listen to?

Jesus said, “Whoever hears my word and believes Him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.” Let me share with you a brief grammar lesson. Notice the tense of the verbs Jesus uses. They verbs hears, believes, has, does not are present participles; they indicate that an action is happening now and will continue to happen indefinitely. They are defining verbs that speak a reality and a truth about those who hear Jesus’ word and believe in Him and His Father who sent Him – they have eternal life, here and now, and they will continue to have eternal life forever. They do not come into judgment and they will not ever come into judgment. To make this even clearer, Jesus uses the perfect tense verb has passed to show that, for those who believe in Him, death has been defeated, here and now, and no longer holds sway over them, for he has passed from death to life. So, as for death and taxes, at least one of these has become much less certain.

But, how can this be? The reason that the certainty of death and taxes has become cliché is because it is the common, universal experience of all men. Nevertheless, Jesus is bold to say that death is not a certainty, but rather, that it is life that is certain. For, the power of life over death lies with Jesus’ Word. “An hour is coming,” says Jesus, “and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live.” Notice, Jesus doesn’t say may live, but will live. There’s nothing uncertain about that! And, Jesus says that this is true now, because life is in His Word.

Jesus’ Word is life-giving and life-creating – as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Jesus is the Word of God first spoken into the dark void in the beginning that brought into being all that is: light, land, the heavens, plants, and animals. Jesus is the Word of God spoken into the ear of the Virgin, implanted in her womb, made flesh that He might dwell amongst us as our brother. By the power of Jesus’ Word He cast out demons, stilled the storm, healed diseases, and raised the dead. And, by the power of Jesus’ Word the dead are still raised to true and everlasting life when it is heard and is implanted in human hearts that it may bear fruit a hundredfold.

Hearing is passive. You know all too well that you cannot help but hear many sounds and voices all around you, but you have to cover your ears, flee from the sound, hide in your homes, or drown the noise out by increasing other sounds as a distraction. So, too, the Word of God has penetrated this world and calls to each of you so that you can only attempt to block it out. For, if you do not block it out and reject it, Jesus’ Word has the power to raise you from death to life, now, and forever. The Holy Scriptures record Jesus having raised at least three persons from the dead: The widow’s son at Nain, Jairus’ daughter, and Jesus’ friend Lazarus. In each of these accounts Jesus raised the dead by speaking His Word.

On our own, in our sin, we are all dead like these three. By our own reason and strength we cannot believe in Jesus or come to Him. What can a dead man do? But the Holy Spirit has called us by the Gospel, enlightened us with His gifts, sanctified and kept us in the true faith. That is to say, Jesus’ has called us to faith by the power of His Word. He has raised us from death to life, not by anything that we have done, but what He alone has done. And, because of this, we do not have to fear death and damnation, we do not have to fear anything in this world or in the next, because nothing is able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

This is God’s amazing grace, His free and perfect gift, that, while we were still sinners, while we were dead in our sins, God was reconciling us to Himself in Jesus Christ. If we had to work our way back to God, we would never get there; we’d be damned before we started. But God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him will not perish but will have everlasting life. He is the Good Shepherd who seeks out His lost and wayward sheep and brings them home. He knows His sheep and they know Him; He calls to them and they hear His voice and they follow Him. The Good Shepherd lays down His life for His sheep that they may live in Him.

Julio and Al are God’s precious sheep, now called home to His heavenly pastures where sheep may safely graze. They have heard the voice of their Good Shepherd Jesus and they have followed Him, and nothing can separate them from the Father’s love in Jesus Christ. We thank our heavenly Father for the time we had with them. We thank Him for the faith He gave to them and the love He reflected in them. But, most of all, we thank Him for His promise kept and fulfilled for them – that they are with our Lord in paradise and truly live, and that we will see them again and rejoice with them. God, bless us and keep us in faith throughout our pilgrim journey.

In the + Name of Jesus. Amen.

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