Sunday, March 26, 2017

Lent 4

Two weeks ago I preached on Abram's call." Go!" God said, "to the place I will show you. Leave behind your security and identity--all that you hold dear." This is the life of obedient trust--give up all to receive abundantly more! Today we hear it again.

Samuel has invested a great deal in the first king of Israel. Now God asks him, "How long will you cling to the past? How long will you grieve over Saul?" "Go to Jesse" and "I will tell you what to do" There is an added element, Saul has become irrational and explosive; Samuel feared death but went. Like Noah, Abraham, Moses, and Joshua---Samuel is chosen for a mysterious vocation. He must trust God and obey.  This is faith.

Samuel goes and in an ironic twist the people tremble in fear at his presence asking if he comes in peace/shalom. In Samuel, as in others, including Jesus, we see faith-full humans can still struggle with fear and worry. We can take solace in that. It is also good to know that just because you love and obey God does not mean you will suddenly know everything. Even the great prophet Samuel has no eye to see the chosen one, he sees as all men do. The Lord does not look as mortals, He sees the heart. Human seeing is always blindness. We are always in need of the light of the Holy Spirit or the Word of God to see as God does.

Back in 1989 I moved to Orlando. As I walked downtown I saw a blind man approach another man a few steps ahead of me. The blind man asked for directions to some building and the man in front of me paused for a moment, pointed down the street and said, "It is right over there," then continued on his way. It made me wonder which of the two was really blind.

Jesus meets the blind man. It is a very long story, yet it raises the same question, "Who is really blind?"
"Rabbi who sinned, this man or his parents?" ask the disciples. They too are blind, they can not see a human in need; they see a perpetrator being punished. Their theology blinds them to God as well. They think that God controls everything so they try to make sense of human suffering and call it a direct result of personal sin. It is a nice, neat explanation of things (an explanation the book of Job rejected). Jesus says "neither."

Jesus says the man is blind "so that God's works might be revealed." The two Greek words, hina and phanaroo help us understand what Jesus is saying. The Strong's Biblical Hebrew dictionary in the blueletterbible says "hina" means "in order that (revealing the purpose or the result). In this sentence it is the latter, he was born blind and the result is God's works will be phanaroo--made actual, made real, made apparent, made understood, can be seen and experienced. Jesus says, "he was born blind but God is going to show the world what He can do."

The light-darkness contrast is a reminder of creation--the same creation which the Eternal Word (made flesh in Jesus) was an instrument in creating. "I am the light of the world" says Jesus--words which deserve an hour long meditation. "I work in the day, the time of God, for the night belongs to satan." He calls the blind man out of darkness, figurative and literal, He rescues him from the clutches of satan, the kingdom of sin and death.

The leaders of the Jews are also blind. They claim Jesus is a sinner. They badger the man who received his sight and call him a sinner. The poor man simply says what he knows, "I was blind but now I see." Eventually, unwilling to hear him and refusing to see Jesus for what he is, the leaders throw the man out.

Jesus comes to him and asks, "do you believe?"
"I believe" he says, "I believe"--those words open him to the Lord in a deeper way.

As I stood on the street in Orlando watching a man who could see point and say "over there" to a blind man I was stunned. Jesus is stunned as well. He is shocked that people who believe they have the answers and who know God could get it so wrong.
Jesus said to them, "If you were blind, you would not have sin. But now that you say, 'We see,' your sins remain." For God does not see as man sees, God sees the heart.

This Lent, confess you are blind, over and over; repent in your heart for intentional blindness and pray for God to give you eyes to see. Come Holy Spirit of Light, make us to see!

Thursday, March 23, 2017

John 8

Daily readings from Jeremiah and John this week. We will look at John 8, which contains some remarkable claims by Jesus. It is not some moral teaching nor an exhortation to love. It is rather a series of statements which confront the listener with what is either a delusional utterance or a life changing word of truth.

"I am the light of the world; whoever follows me will not walk in darkness but have the light of life."
"You know neither me nor my Father, if you knew me you would know my Father also."

Modern and Post-Modern Christians are all about negating such claims in an effort to appeal to a universal sense of "religion." The 'all paths lead to God' mantra is especially embraced by those who do not want to seem too harsh or to be imposing their beliefs on others. [Note, there is no concern about imposing their universalist approach or imposing their low Christology.] All paths literally do not lead to God, no human construction to heaven is possible. We are dependent on God to make the move to us, we cannot of our own power find eternity. No surprise, the readings from Jeremiah 10 reinforce this revelation of Jesus. Jeremiah refers to the difference between the God who created all things and the (fake) gods which created nothing but are rather the creation of humans. The false gods and the idols fashioned by human hands are not able to save. More to our point, Jeremiah 10:23-24 (NRSV) states, "I know, O Lord, that the way of human beings is not in their control, that mortals as they walk cannot direct their steps. Correct me, O Lord, but in just measure; not in your anger, or you will bring me to nothing." No ways lead to God. No paths lead to God. Our ways and our paths lead only to our own projections and to gods of our own making... But, in His mercy, God provides the Way.

Traditional, orthodox Christian faith is centered on the person of Jesus, not His teaching. The divine-man, God Incarnate, by virtue of His self-gift in relationship, is who provides us access to God. He emptied (kenosis) Himself and became one with us so that He could fill us (theosis) and become one with Him. To see God we must look into Jesus' face (the only image of God which is available to us, the only image which is not an ungodly idol). But what of all those who 'sincerely seek' God but do not know Jesus, cannot 'believe in' Jesus, have been abused by the church or Christians and cannot fathom opening to Jesus? Indeed, this is a fair question, but it misses the point. God works in and through the world, but as Jesus says (8:23ff) "I am from above, you are of this world, I am not of this world." No need to reduce Jesus to only a human teacher and the offer of salvation to a purely human transaction. Some Christians jump on the "no Jesus, lake of fire" band wagon with such glee that it makes you wonder if there is love within them. God is clear about His intent. C. S. Lewis provided many models for understanding that Jesus finds a way, because those who sincerely seek God are drawn to God by God, and Jesus is the means, even if He is anonymous to them. (See the final book of the Chronicles of Narnia at the judgment.) If you prefer something earlier, read the 2nd Century apologist Justin Martyr, who died for Jesus and whose theology of the logos/Word explains salvation is God's work.

True statements about Jesus--I am the light, I am one with the Father--cannot be ignored because the world is a confusing place. The salvation in Jesus, through Jesus, does not have to be reduced to membership in a local secret society known only to a few.

"When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am and that I do nothing on my own authority, but speak as the Father has taught me."

Jesus has earlier compared himself to Moses' healing serpent, now again we see the lifting up imagery. In John's Gospel, being lifted up on the cross is, at a deeper level, being lifted up to glory. The core revelation in Jesus is that God's power is best understood as Selfless Love, that God defeats the Enemy by Himself suffering and embracing death. Jesus warns His listeners--people who stand with this world and its falsehoods, its love of power, and its corruption--that God's judgment of the world stands before them in His own person. Jesus offers life, but many will fail to grasp the opportunity. Those who embrace Him "will know the truth and the truth will set them free." What is this freedom; from sin, death, darkness, freedom from being reliant on our own insufficient resources and our own crooked paths!

In the end, that is what has ahold of us isn't it? Freedom becomes license in the world. I am free people say, oblivious to the binding power of their addictions and pathologies. We are blind to the myriad ways that we are blind, unable to detect that the freedom to do as we please is a death sentence. As we choose to follow our own hearts we are unaware that our hearts are also ruled by the lies we've believed and the insatiable passions which drive us.

Jesus says, "I declare what I have seen in the Father's presence." Is it possible that we have yet to fully live, that we have yet to truly state all the goodness and beauty? That there is a "so much more than we could ask or imagine" yet to be revealed? Jesus, in John 8, stands before us with a promise. In Him something is coming which will put our hearts at peace, at joy and in true love.

Is He a madman? Is He deluded? Perhaps, but I think not. I believe He is God incarnate, The Son of Man who is sent to save us all. I believe today is another chance to trust and obey Him and take another step on that path which leads to all we can hope for!   

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Wondering about Jesus Healing

I am more and more aware of the "incarnational" aspect of all God's interactions with us. As I have repeated frequently lately, the Eternal God who lives outside space and time interacts with humans who are in the here and now. What must God do to squeeze Himself into our world to interact with us? And at what cost? The Greek word kenosis, meaning emptying, is applicable to Jesus' Incarnation but is probably also at work in all God's interventions in the world. This raises the question, what impact does being in space and time have on God as He honors the laws of the universe which He created?

Save/heal/rescue, these and other words can all translate the Hebrew and Greek words describing God's interventions. Matthew 9:27-31 describes Jesus saving two men from blindness. It is a nice, neat transaction. They cry out, "Have mercy on us Son of David (Messianic King)!" Jesus asks, "Do you believe I am able to do this?" They say, "Yes," and He touches their eyes and declares, "According to your faith let it be done to you." And they could see.

This model of healing is: Prayer + Faith + Jesus = Miracle/Healing. It tends to put a huge emphasis on faith; you receive according to your faith. It also creates a tension; "if you receive according to your faith, well, it is on you. If it did not happen, then your faith was lacking." Very neat and simple, which I like, but life is rarely neat and simple, and I do not like blaming people's lack of faith as the only answer....

Matthew 15:29-31 recounts massive numbers of sick and suffering being placed at Jesus' feet. The crowd is "amazed" (in the sense of wonder) at this taking place. It must have been an awesome sight indeed. It is lots of blind, deaf, lame and broken people being made whole. We are not given any indication of the what transpired between them and Jesus. Did He ask each of them the same "do you believe?" question, did they all have faith?

I bring this up because today we read John 5:1-18 at Morning Prayer and I plan to use it Thursday in our evening discussion. (You may want to read it)

Jesus is in Jerusalem. It seems it is where the sheep were brought into the temple for slaughter. There is a pool there (archaeologists have found it, just as described). We hear that there are many invalids ('asthenos' means weak, impotent, sick, who are then further identified as blind, lame and paralyzed) there. It is not described as a mass healing, although lots of people needed it. First point of reflection: no reason is given, but clearly Jesus did not heal everyone He came across.

The man had been 'sick' (same word) 38 years. We are not told how old he is or what the illness is, but it seems Jesus knew he had been sick a long time and that Jesus appeared to have initiated the conversation. Jesus asks,  "theleis hygeis genesthai" [theleis= wish, will, desire; even delight in] [hygeis= whole, sound, healthy; 'true' when applied to doctrine. We get our word hygiene from the Greek.] [genesthai= be, become, come to pass, be made] As you see these three words, it is informative to imagine different combinations to get a feel for what Jesus is asking. "Would you delight in becoming your true self?" "Do you really want to be healthy?" "Do you wish to become whole?" The question, in the Fourth Gospel, is always open to deeper meanings and the people usually have symbolic import and value. What the Author likes to do is take events and then express them with a parable-like openness to greater depth of meaning. The nameless man (yet they somehow knew how many years he was sick) does not respond in the affirmative and does not verbalize faith. Instead he says that he has no one to put him in the pool when it is stirred up.

[technical note--Some ancient copies have an additional verse which explains that an angel stirred the water and the first one in was healed. However, superior ancient texts do not have this explanation and many Bibles do not include it in the main text, but as a footnote. Stern's Jewish NT Commentary, p 169, quotes Jewish Sources which indicate there were health rituals there in Roman times. The Jewish Annotated NT, p167, calls it a "healing sanctuary." The explanation may have been widely known by the readers of the Gospel so no explanation was needed, but later added by a scribe.]

What do we note about this response? The man switches the discussion from "do you want/will/desire health?" to "not my fault, I am a victim here..." This is not the faith response we read about with the blind men at all. Yet, for some reason, Jesus seems to not care. Instead, He said to him, "Stand" [the Greek word is egeiro, it means to rise, to wake from sleep, to rise from the dead. In Matthew 9:5-6 Jesus similarly tells a man on a pallet "Your sins are forgiven, rise, take up your pallet and go home." When Jesus says that He will rise from the dead the same word is used.] "Take up your mat" the word for 'take up' is also used by Matthew for "take up your cross and follow me." "Walk," (peripateo-means to walk or walk around; it also means to walk as a disciple in the Fourth Gospel) Jesus said, and the man walked.

The narrative shifts from healing to a debate; because it was a Sabbath, Jesus' opponents become enraged. Without getting into the details of that debate, suffice to say that there were arguments about the exact "content" of the Sabbath rest, some thinking it meant to refrain from work while others added other activities as infractions. Jesus clearly did not think this was a sin against the Sabbath, but His opponents did. It boggles the mind that they missed the miracle to pursue the accusation against the Lord. However, there was some opposition spin going on. Later on, we see that the underlying issue was Jesus' language about God. Calling YHWH, "my Father," meant that Jesus made Himself equal to God (v.17-18). This is, of course, very important but not what I am focused on here. Nor will we consider that the man basically turned Jesus in to the authorities (hopefully because he was simply obtuse). It is noteworthy that Jesus comes back to find him and warns him not to sin unless something worse befall him (also echoed in the Matthew healing).

What are we to think about Jesus saving/healing this man? What of the warning about sin? The direction I would go is not the only one. I think Jesus is reminding him that there are worse things than being crippled, I do not see any causal connection between sin and illness being made here. I know sin can produce illness, but I do not believe illness is a specific punishment sent by God for sin.

Jesus' assertive healing intervention here remind me that God sometimes acts on our behalf without our cooperation. Sometimes the faith of the recipient does not factor in. In light of the "many" other invalids who were not addressed, it seems, for reasons known only to Him, Jesus does not provide blanket coverage for everyone. This is a mystery. It is a reminder that God's Kingdom has not yet come. It is a reminder that life is full of salvation and healing, but that we still live with sin, sickness and death.

Probably the most important thing is that Jesus, the one who calls God "my Father" will also be raised and He promises to raise us up--and all will be healed then, all will be made whole. Perhaps, at one of the many levels of the story, Jesus is asking each of us, "Do you want to be made complete, whole, healthy? Would you delight in the fullness of life? then pick it up and follow me. I will provide all you need."

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Leave it all, to receive it all (Lent 2)

Genesis 12:1-4     John 3:1-17  Romans 4:1-5, 13-17

Genesis 12 summarizes the life of faith. “Go,” God says, “to the place I will show you.” “Leave,” God demands, “your place of security—family, identity, all you hold dear.”  The Lord promises Abram great things: he will be a nation, he will be blessed, he will be a blessing. But this comes at a cost--Abram must leave behind all that he has. God gives us promises, and we respond in faith. Or as Jesus says it, "You must die to live."
If this sounds negative ponder reality. A container must be empty before you can fill it. It is a physical law and a spiritual law as well. In the spiritual life, kenosis—self emptying—is the beginning of every journey. It is the spiritual law of love. Even God had to empty Himself to unite with humanity. God the Son emptied Himself to become the man Jesus. We, too, must be emptied. It is not easy. Like Abram we cling to the illusion of security that our identity and possessions seem to give us. False security is at the core of what is wrong with us human beings. It is this false security which Jesus addresses in the Gospel today.

John 3:1 actually says, “Now there was an (Greek) anthropos (man/human) of the Pharisees named Nicodemus.” This immediately follows John 2:23-25, where we learn that many are drawn to Jesus because they see His signs, “But Jesus did not entrust Himself to them, because He knew them all, He did not need anyone to testify to Him about (anthropos-humans) because He knew what was in (anthropos-humans).

Nicodemus is a human drawn to Jesus by the signs. Jesus knew what was in him. Nicodemus calls Jesus “a teacher come from God,” but he is in the dark (of his comfortable religious assumptions) and fails to understand. Humans need to be born from above, to leave behind the old life to receive the Kingdom. The Greek word ‘anothen’ which means ‘above’, see 3:31, can also mean ‘again.’ The baffled Nicodemus thinks it means “born again,” Jesus explains that to be born from above is a work of the Holy Spirit and baptism. In other words, Nicodemus is invited to join the church—to become part of the Jesus movement.

God sent His only son to save the world, not to condemn it, but humans are free to reject the Son. We can refuse the offer of salvation and reduce  Jesus to another human who was great teacher or miracle worker—this is what it means to love darkness and turn from the light. Nicodemus is in the dark (literally and figuratively), misunderstanding Jesus he ponders "being born again" and he asks, “How can this be?” The answer is know Jesus--the One who descended from heaven. The One who will be lifted up on the cross. The One God gave to save the world. 

What would we give up to receive God's promises? Will we empty ourselves to receive Jesus? Do we trust enough to die to self and be born from above? How can this be when our heart is untrustworthy? If the human heart is untrustworthy, Jesus gives us hope that God can make us new in baptism through the Holy Spirit. In John 14, Jesus says, “If you love Me and obey Me then the Father and I will live in you.” This is our promise, and we must empty to receive.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Friday Meditation on Deuteronomy 10:12-22

Today our Lenten group meditated on the reading from Deuteronomy 10. It is a reminder that the Bible is a relevant book....

It begins with a question and an answer:
What, O Israel, does the Lord your God (sha'al- can mean to inquire or ask, more strongly to request, stronger still to demand) ask/demand of you? To fear God (fear is the awareness of God's Transcendence. It is to look into the fullness of Eternity, the completeness of Perfection, the otherness of the Holy--and to lose one's breath. It is to feel one's pettiness, smallness and sinfulness in the face of the One who is Good and Author of all good), to walk in His ways (faith is always a living expression, and obedience is the fruit of faith. The Ancient texts make no arbitrary divisions between one's internal disposition and one's outward behaviors. Faith is a "way" of life, it is a "path" and it includes the whole person), to love Him (the ancient Israelites saw no conflict between fear and love, of course, because love is intimate and horizontal and fear is transcendent evokes worship. The God of "heaven and earth" is both), and to serve Him. Serve has a deeper meaning, as it is used in the Book of Exodus to describe the forced labor of the Hebrew people to Pharaoh.  Whom do you desire to serve--the lords of this world or the Lord God? The word "serve" also connotes worship. We use it in English as well, "What time is the Easter Service?" To serve God is to embrace the creative, loving work of God in the world and it is also to worship God in the communal expressions of our praise and thanks.

Keeping the commandments are the expression of total love for God. Love is not a feeling. Love is obedience (Deuteronomy 11:1 repeats this) to the God who takes care of the widow, orphan and stranger/outsider. In our discussion today, one woman noted that the debates on immigration is nothing new. God tells the Israelite, be kind and take care of the foreigner within your land because you were foreigners in Egypt. The importance of corporate memory in Biblical faith cannot be overstated. Remember who you are and where you came from, God says over and over in myriad ways. Remember and see in those around you the things which you have endured. Jesus summarizes this as "treat others as you would want to be treated."

Applying this to our discussions on immigration requires more rational reflection than most of us seem capable of mustering, but nonetheless the Scripture speaks a relevant word to us today. Wherever we come down on the idea of borders and nation states, the principle of treating others with compassion is always relevant.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

What to Give up? A Different Kind of Lent

readings: Joel 2:1-2, 12-17   2 Corinthians 5:20-6:10    Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21

Ash Wednesday

The purpose of life is unity: to love God and others. (The Greek word) 'Theosis', or divinization, is the end result of this union. Because God the Son emptied (Greek word: kenosis) Himself to become what we are, we can be filled up and become what He is! 

Salvation is, above all, a new creation. God rescues us from the fallen world, the devil and most importantly from ourselves. He saves us from sin and death, so that He can recreate us as His children. In Lent we work with (Greek word: synergy, 2 Corinthians) the Holy Spirit. It is God's work, but without our cooperation it does not happen.

So Lent is a season of divine-human synergy. We work with The Spirit to become one with God. We are not trying to be better people, although that will happen. We are trying to let the Father's love make us new. He alone can save and re-create us.

Sin is the obstacle to this new creation and union. Sin creates disunity. Why do we sin?  Recently I discussed this with a good friend. He said that he thought the deadliest sin was fear. I think he is right and here is why. 

What motivated the first sin? Fear. They were afraid that they might miss out on the forbidden fruit. Their fear generated mistrust, they decided, "maybe we shouldn't believe God?" So then they take and eat the fruit, that was the crisis point--the moment of decision. They could have repented. They could have turned back and asked for mercy. Instead they killed the relationship because of fear. They heard God and were afraid, so they hid. When God finds them, then they start to blame others. Sins multiply. There is no repentance, just fear, mistrust and selfishness. Fear chokes love, even as it feeds doubt and despair. 

"Fear not" is repeated constantly in the Bible. Love and trust are the antidote for fear. Yes, we need courage, but courage is not the opposite of fear; love and trust are. Courage is the strength to choose obedient trust and love. Courage is the strength to turn from myself and look to others. Courage is the strength to love and serve the Lord.

The best Lenten disciplines turn us away from fear and doubt. The best Lenten disciplines focus on the Lord in hope, trust and love. What if this Lent we simply stop hiding and let God love and recreate us?

Rather than cokes and chocolate, I invite you to give up fear and doubt. (giving up chocolate and cokes is good, it's just needs to be part of a larger plan) Get a focus:
Focus on the Father's love in Jesus. 
Focus on trusting God and loving God. 
Focus on cooperating with the Holy Spirit.

You really are loved beyond what you can imagine. Ponder that and let it sink in! The Enemy wants you to live in fear. Whatever you do the next six weeks, do it to become one with Jesus. Pray. Empty yourself. Listen. Trust and love. Love and trust. All forty days....

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Funeral Homily Christopher Phillips

February 28 marks the beginning of my seventeenth year at St. Andrews. I started on Ash Wednesday, a day when we tell every Christian "you will die" and call them to a season of repentance. Sadly, a wonderful young man was hit while walking across the street at Overton Square. Somehow the driver decided to drive off, leaving Christopher to die in the streets. Please pray for the police to find the perpetrator. Pray for the police who deal with this sort of thing on a regular basis. Pray for the family and friends who suffered this terrible loss.

Christopher Phillips' Funeral

I want to share a story about Jesus from an eye witness. John 11 tells a story about the death of Lazarus. Jesus loved Lazarus and his two sisters, Mary and Martha. It was a personal loss for Jesus.

When Jesus arrived, both Martha and Mary told Him (v 21, 32), “if you had been here he would not have died.” Later on the folks gathered around say the same (v37). They knew Jesus had power to heal.

Humans often wonder why God doesn’t "do something" to prevent bad things. We say to God, “If you had been here this would not have happened.” Sometimes it is an angry accusation… Other times, a heartbroken expression of faith… I am sure many of us found ourselves thinking, “If you had been there Jesus, wouldn’t Christopher still be here? Wouldn't it have been easy to hold him back for a few seconds?"

When Jesus arrived at the tomb, He is not happy. The Greek word, embrimaomai, literally means to snort with anger. Jesus was really angry. We also read that He was deeply troubled (tarasso). Jesus was in turmoil. In fact, later on Jesus wept.

Jesus’ response to death is deep sadness and anger. Do those feelings resonate with us here at Christopher's service? Jesus was very upset. Sound familiar? Anyone else feeling the same thing? God made us for life, death is of the Enemy! Jesus is mad at death, so He does something with this very human mixture of emotions. Jesus turns to His Father in prayer.

Then Jesus tells them to open the tomb, which horrifies everyone. Sometimes I hear people talk about the ancient world like the people were simpletons. Let us be clear. The folks in the ancient world were very familiar with death, especially tragic death. They were also clear that dead people stayed dead. No one expected anything more for Lazarus in this world. So they tell Jesus, “There will be a stench!” They were fully aware of the decay already at work.

Jesus also understood the power of death, but Jesus believed the Father’s love was more powerful. God does not control every detail of life or death. That is why He comes to save. If He was already controlling everything there would be no need for a Redeemer. Good News: God’s healing love can rescue us from anything, even death. Jesus thanked His Father for that salvation life and love. Jesus said to the corpse of Lazarus, “Rise, Come out!” Lazarus did. The people were shocked. Then we learn that the enemies of Jesus, the ones who had him handed over to be crucified, also determined to kills Lazarus. We do not know if they did.  

The name Christopher means “to carry the Messiah” or “Christ bearer.” Literally, we are all called to be a ‘christopher.’ Christopher carried much that he had learned from Jesus' teaching in his childhood. We have heard many stories about how wonderful he was.

Last week Christopher went to the Overton Square to meet a friend. I noticed many times people said this, and always in the singular. In the early church one paid attention to such details of language. Last week Christopher went to meet a friend and he unexpectedly met his Truest and Best Friend--the Lord Jesus. I know that Christopher was not a religious person. In a real sense that doesn't matter because I also know that Jesus loved him anyway. Jesus does not love us because we are religious, or good. Jesus loves us because God is love, and Jesus is God Incarnate... Now Christopher knows it too. I believe Jesus offered Christopher life, but I do not know how that conversation played out. I do not know what Christopher’s response is. Like each of us, he continues to have freedom to submit to the Lord Jesus or walk away. We pray for Christopher to make the best decision. I have heard how sweet and smart he was, so I assume he chose well.

I know that the love of Jesus is stronger than sin, stronger than death, stronger than sadness or pain. I know Jesus is our companion. Jesus suffered greatly and died at about the same age as Christopher was. If I did not believe that Jesus is the Divine Lord who saves us, then it would be cruel to stand her telling you, his mourning friends and family, that there is hope in Jesus. I have buried many dear friends and some of my closest family, so I tell you the message that sustained me through those losses. Resurrection life is God's answer to death. In John 11, Jesus says again and again, “Your brother will rise again,” but Jesus also says, “I am the resurrection and I am the Life.” Such a statement is very bold. Jesus is more than a teacher, He claims that He is life. So, Jesus is our hope. We are loved more than we can imagine. The redemptive love and power of God in Jesus is available to us right now. The Holy Spirit is here ready to begin transforming us right now. We are invited to trust, to love and to open to receive the Lord, right now.