Tuesday of Pentecost, (May 17, 2016)
TITLE: “Let Not Your Hearts Be Troubled”
Family and friends of Gene, especially his daughters, stepsons, and you, Peg. Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord, Jesus Christ. Amen. Our text for today is the Gospel just read from St. John chapter fourteen.
William Eugene Holland was born on February 22, 1931, and was baptized on the same day. He was married to Harol Demmon, until she passed away in 1984. He married Peggy Irvine on October 19, 1985. Gene died in Christ on Wednesday, May 11 in the year of our Lord two thousand and sixteen., at the age of eighty five years. “And I heard a voice from heaven saying, “Write this: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.” “Blessed indeed,” says the Spirit, “that they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow them!”” (Rev. 14:13 ESV)
Gene led what I think we could call a full life. Working in trucking, taking care of family, church, Bible class, hobbies. His life was lively, if not always easy. I think it would be fair to say that Gene had a, um, sparky personality. Sometimes that spark came out in wit and good humor; at other times it was a sort of darker or sharper spark. But you really didn’t need to wonder where you stood with Gene. He would tell you, whether you wanted to know or not. I can remember visiting Gene one time just a few weeks ago. The deaconess and I were chatting with him and with Peggy, and I asked after a while if I could read some Scripture and have a devotion with him. His response, “It’s about time!”
Things with his diabetes took a turn for the worst about five years ago. I’m sure I couldn’t even list all of the various ailments that came as a result of diabetes. Circulation problems, heart, lungs. But five years ago was when gangrene had set in, and the result was that he lost his left leg. I think it would be fair to say he never really recovered from that. He tried to keep his humor about it, though. I can remember when I would come and visit there was more than one occasion when I was greeted with a, “Hello Pastor! Sorry I can’t get up to greet you properly.”
But all joking aside, the last five years were hard. Sometimes almost unbearably hard for both Gene and for you, Peg. But still Jesus says,”Let not your hearts be troubled“. But that’s hard to imagine after the last five years. What does Jesus mean when he says let not your hearts be troubled?
To start with, Jesus knows your sorrow and pain. He’s not saying that isn’t true or real. He knows your griefs and sorrows, just as He knew Gene’s griefs and sorrows. Jesus rejoices when you rejoice, and weeps with you when you cry and are sorrowful. And so it is that Jesus knows your sorrow in the face of death, even the death of a father or step-father, husband, friend. That sorrow is real, because death is real. And the sad reality, for Gene and for all of us really, is that we all deserve to die. Our sin breaks us, separates us from God and from each other. Even Gene, for all his sharpness and wit, Gene fully recognized that he was a sinner, and that he had made many mistakes in his life, some of them doosies. The kitchen table prayer happened a lot, “I a poor miserable sinner confess to you all my sins and iniquities…
Gene, you see, was baptized. He is an heir of heaven and a child of eternal life. God forgives all those sins, some of whom we know, some which are between him and God. God is about forgiveness and mercy, not judgment, not fear and hatred and enmity. And that new life is what fed Gene for his whole life long. The body and blood of Jesus, given and shed for him and for you.
So when Jesus says Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid, He says this because He knows how the story ends. He knows that He would die for the sins of the world, and that He would rise again from the dead. So now, when Gene dies, or you, or me, when we die it is never the end of the story. It is a part of the story. Maybe the saddest part of the story. But it is never the end of the story.
“In my father’s house are many rooms…and I go to prepare a place for you.” That’s what Jesus promises. Jesus promises to make things right. Your brokenness healed. Death defeated. Sins forgiven. Reconciliation. Peace. Real peace. Not the peace of the world. Not peace which really means separation. That’s not peace. No, the peace that the world gives is at best an illusion, something that lasts for a few minutes, or days, or years, and then is gone.
No, the peace that Jesus gives to you is that Gene will rise again from the dead. In his body. Whole and purified. Made right of all wrongs and fixed of all its frailties. And he gives that same promise to you. “And though worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh I shall see God, and my eyes shall behold and not another.” That’s the promise that God makes to you this day and every day.
But until that time when we are reunited, be at rest, Gene. Be at rest until we are reunited with saints and angels and all the company of heaven. We will rejoin you soon.
In Jesus’ name. Amen.
And now the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in true faith to life everlasting. Amen.