Sunday, August 25, 2013

14 Pentecost

 
August 25, 2013

Isaiah 58.9b-14; Hebrews 12.18-29

+I am, I have to say, sometimes a restless priest. On bad days, I’m a restless priest. On good days, the term probably would be “driven.” I’m a driven priest. I never like resting too long. There is always something that needs to be done. There needs to be a project. And, more importantly, there are always goals to set and to achieve. That actually sounds so much more better than the reality of the situation. More often than not, I just have to be doing something.

Well, my big goal recently has been something several us here are hoping is done. As you no doubt read in the announcement for the marriage James and William a few weeks, there is movement afoot here at St. Stephen’s to get the baptismal font in the narthex redone.  We actually discussed this last week at Vestry. And this past week, Sandy Kenz and I were discussing finding a potter to make a more appropriate bowl for the font. I’m actually having a lot of fun looking for that potter. If anyone knows of any potters who would be interested in it, please talk to me about it.

Now some people might find such things a frivolous. There’s that arty fartsy priest again.  The font is just a cosmetic piece of the church, some might argue.

But not so. I’m a big believer in the symbolism of things. And our font is as much of an important symbol to who we are and we are here at St. Stephen’s as our altar or the cross over the altar or the aumbry or the lectern from which the Word if proclaimed. Or even—at some point in the future after the font—maybe as important of a symbol as a bell????? The neighbors will LOVE that!

The baptismal font is a very important symbol for us, who live out our baptismal covenant on a daily basis.

As you all know, no doubt, one my personal heroes in the Church is one of the greatest  (no, I would say the GREATEST) Archbishop of Canterbury, Michael Ramsey.  One of my favorite stories about Ramsey is how, when, after he had become a Bishop in the Church, visited St. Andrew’s church in Horbling in England in which we was baptized in 1904.  There, he asked to see the baptismal font. (I will post a photo of this font on my blog later today)  Standing there, he began to cry and was heard to murmur:

“O font, font, font, in which I was baptized!”

As Geoffrey Rowell, Ramsey’s biographer,  wrote of that incident: “[Ramsey’s] deep sacramental sense and understanding of baptism as being plunged into the death and Resurrection of Christ, which was [and is] at the heart of the Church’s life, comes out in that moment of time.”


Last week in our Gospel reading, we heard Jesus talking about a baptism by fire.  In my sermon last week, I mentioned that when were baptized in those waters, we were also baptized in the fire of God’s spirit.

Today, in the Letter to the Hebrews, we hear another fire reference to God.  We hear, “indeed our God is a consuming fire.” In baptism, we realize how much of a consuming fire God is. We realize that in those waters, a fire was kindled in us. God’s fire was kindled in us. And, to be a Christian, to be follower of Jesus, means being aflame with the fires of our baptism. But if we left it there, we might still not understand the true ramifications of our baptism.

One thing you all know I enjoy doing here at St. Stephan’s is inviting people to explore other areas of the Book of Common Prayer, other than just our section concerning Holy Communion.  So, let’s do so again today. Let’s take a look at the Catechism again. If you look on page 858—there you will find the somewhat definitive answer to “What is Holy Baptism.”

On page 858, we find this answer:

“Holy Baptism is the sacrament by which God adopts us as his children and make us members of Christ’s Body, the Church, and inheritors of the kingdom of God.”

It’s a really great definition. Holy Baptism is not then just a sweet little service of sprinkling water on a baby’s head and dedicating them as we would a boat.  It is a service in which we are essentially re-born.  We have been washed in those waters and made alive in the fire of God’s love and made new—specifically we have become Christians in being baptized.

But, the one point I really want to drive home this morning is that last part of the definition from the Catechism.  In baptism we become “inheritors of the kingdom of God.”  We are given a glimpse of this Kingdom of which we, the baptized, are inheritors in our readings from both Isaiah and Hebrews today.

In Isaiah, we hear the prophet saying to us: “If you remove the yoke from among you, the pointing of the finger, the speaking of evil, if you offer your food to the hungry and satisfy the needs of the afflicted, then your light shall rise in the darkness and your gloom be like the noonday.”

Now, that’s some beautiful poetry, if you ask me.

“…your gloom [shall] be like the noonday.”

But more than that, it’s just so wonderfully practical. When we follow Jesus—when we love God and love our neighbors—we are truly saying, “Yes, we are inheritors of the Kingdom of God.” But, what does it mean to be an “inheritor of the kingdom of God”?  Being an inheritor of God’s kingdom means living out those promises we make in our baptismal covenant.  It means proclaiming by word and example the Good News of Christ. It means seeking and serving Christ in all persons and loving everyone as we desire to be loved. And it means striving for justice and peace, and respecting the dignity of the every human being. And by doing those things, we are truly being the inheritors of that kingdom.  This is what it means to be a Christian.

It is not just saying, “I accept Jesus Christ as my personal Lord and Savior”  It does not mean just being nice and thinking good thoughts all the time. Being a Christian means both believing and then acting like one. Being a follower of Jesus means that we understand fully that something truly wonderful and amazing happened to us when we were baptized.

 In that baptismal font in which we were baptized we were truly “buried with Christ in his death,” as we will hear in the Baptismal service later. In those waters, we shared “in his resurrection.” And through those waters—and that fire of God’s love that was kindled in us in those waters—we were “reborn by the Holy Spirit.”

This is not light and fluffy stuff we’re dealing with here in baptism.  It is not all about clouds and flowers and sweet little lambs romping the meadow.  It is not just “feel good” spirituality. It is the greatest event in our lives. It was a life-changing moment in our lives. And this God we encounter today and throughout all our lives as Christians, as inheritors of the God’s Kingdom is truly, as the author of the letter to the Hebrews tells us today, “a consuming fire.”

God doesn’t let us sit back and be complacent. God is like a gnawing fire, kindled in that holy moment, deep within us. God shakes us up and pushes us out into the world to serve others and to be the conduits through which God’s kingdom—God’s very fire of love—comes into this world.

Baptism is a radical thing. It changes us and transforms us.  And it doesn’t just end when the water is dried and we leave the church.  It is something we live with forever.

In Baptism, we are marked as Christ’s own forever. Forever. For all eternity. And nothing we can do can undo that.

That’s why I love doing baptism so much. My hope is that , one day, we will look at the font here at St. Stephen’s (whether we were baptized in it or not)  with special appreciation and will be able to recognize, in some way, the beauty of the event that happens here on a regular basis. My hope is that, when we dip our fingers into that bowl of water and bless ourselves with that blessed water, it will remind us of that incredible day in which we too were baptized.

I hope we can all look at that place in which baptism happens here at St. Stephen’s with a deep appreciation of how, we too, on the day of our baptism, were changed, how God’s consuming fire was kindled in us  and how we  became “inheritors of the kingdom of God.”

We are inheritors of that unshakeable Kingdom of God. For that fact let us, as the author of Hebrews says to us today, “give thanks, by which we offer to God, an acceptable worship with reverence and awe; for indeed our God is a consuming fire.”

 

Sunday, August 18, 2013

13 Pentecost

August 18, 2013
Jeremiah 23.23-29; Hebrews 11:29-12.2; Luke 12.49-56

+ This past week on Facebook, I saw a great little photo. It shows a young kid with his face in his hands, looking as though he were despairing. The caption to the photo was, “When I was young, I thought everyone in the Church got along with each other.”

Uh-huh. So did I, Kid.

Any of us who have been in the church for any period of time, know that is not quite the reality of the Church. Every day in the Church is definitely not a love feast. We don’t all sit around agreeing with each other on this and that. In fact, it’s almost never like that.

I’m sure, this afternoon at our Vestry meeting, your vestry members and wardens will no doubt be reminded that the Church is not a love feast all the time. Though there’s nothing to terrible planned for our meeting today either.

I remember the first time I realized the Church can be fickle place. I sort of knew about it before, but the first time it happened was shortly after I had returned to Church and was intent on pursuing my calling to be a priest. As I stepped up to the plate, trying to do what I thought needed to be done, I found I was stepping on the toes of none other than the formidable Emma Ness. Some of us remember dear Emma. She was a force to be reckoned with at Gethsemane Cathedral for several years.  I am not speaking negatively about her and if she were alive and with us this morning, I would remind her of this story. Of course, as happens times in my ministry, I believe without a doubt that Emma is, in fact, with us this morning. And many other mornings too.

Anyway, back then, I realized very quickly that there were certain responsibilities Emma had in the Church that she was not content in letting me, the young upstart—or anyone else, f or that matter—ado. At first, she defended what she did with an iron will. And I was on the receiving end of that iron will. Not a pleasant place to be.

Later, when I realized I had crossed the boundaries with her, I found the way to soften those iron boundaries. I became her friend and confidant and supporter.  She needed love in her life and, I can say, I loved Emma.  We ended up being very close and dear friends. I was with her when she died and I preached at her funeral.

But Emma taught me a lesson about those divisions in the Church. They exist and they can be difficult to deal with. Difficult, but not impossible.

And, in her way,  Emma was like a fire. (I think she’d love to be compared to fire) A fire that burned away some of that innocence and naivety of what it means to work in this human-run (though divine-inspired) organization called the Church.

Yes, there are divisions in the Church. There are divisions among us, even in this congregation. Those divisions, at least here at St. Stephen’s, are, for the most part, little ones. Minor ones.

In the larger Church, they are much bigger ones. Issues of interpretation and personal convictions continue to divine the Church.

I get pretty firm about such things, as many of you know. Although I am patient when it comes to people telling me there are certain things about the Church they might not like personally—trust me there are many things I too personally don’t like about the Church and the way things are—but even then, you have no doubt heard me say, “this is not an issue of any one of us.”

We, as the Church, are a collective. And when one of us stiffens and crosses our arms and stands aloof off to the side, the divisions begin, and the breeches within the Church widen, and the love of God is not proclaimed. And the rest of us, in those moments, must simply go on. We must proclaim what needs to be proclaimed. We love what needs to be loved.  We move forward. And when it happens to me—and it happens to me quite a lot—I will occasionally speak out.

But for the most part, I realize: this is the Church. And we must plow forward together because that is what Jesus intends us to do as his followers.  He makes this quite  clear.

Jesus tells us today that he did not come to bring peace, but rather he came to bring division. Not a nice thing to hear from Jesus. We want Jesus to bring peace, right?

Well, his message, of loving God and loving one another, is a message that does divide. We, who rebel against it, who inwardly stiffen at it, we rebel. We say, “no.” We freeze up.

But, Jesus makes this very clear to us. It is not our job, as his followers, to freeze up. It not an option for us to let our blood harden into ice. For, he came to bring fire to the earth. To us, his followers. When we were baptized, we were baptized with water, yes. But we are also baptized with fire! With the fire of the Holy Spirit that came to us as we came out of those waters. And that fire burned away the ice within us that slows us down, that hardens us, that prevents us from loving fully. That fire that Jesus tells  us he is bringing to this earth, is the fire of his love. And it will burn.

Now, for most of us, when we think of fire in relation to God, think of the fires of hell. Ah, but not so. Again and again in scripture, certainly for our scriptures for today,  fire in relation to God is seen as a purifying fire, a fire that burns away the chaff of our complacent selves. Fire from God is ultimately a good thing, although maybe not always a pleasant thing. The fire of God burns away our peripheral nature and presents us pure and spiritually naked before God. And that is how we are to go before God.

But this fire, as we’ve made clear, is not a fire of anger or wrath. It is a fire of God’s love. It the fire that burns within God’s heart for each of us. And that fire is an all-consuming fire. When that consuming fire burns away our flimsy exteriors, when we stand pure and spiritually exposed before God, we realize who we are.

The fact remains, we are not, for the most part, completely at that point yet. That fire has not yet done its complete job in us. While we still have divisions, while we allow ourselves to stiffen in rebellion, when we allow our own persona tastes and beliefs to get in the w ay of the larger beliefs of the Church, we realize the fire has not completely done its job in us. The divisions will continue. The Church remains divided.

For us, as followers of Jesus, we are not to be fire retardant, at least to the fire of love that blazes from our God. As unpleasant and uncomfortable it    might seem at times, we need to let that fire burn away the chaff from us. And when we do, when we allow ourselves to be humbled by that fire of God’s love, then, we will see those divisions dying. We will see them slowly dying off. And we will see that the Church is more than just us, who struggle on, here on this side of the veil. We will see that we are only a part of a much larger Church. We will see that we are a part of a Church that also makes up that “great cloud of witnesses” Paul speaks of in today’s Epistle. We will see, once our divisions are gone and we have been purified in that fire of God’s love, that that cloud of witnesses truly does surround us. And we will see that we truly are running a race as the Church.

Paul is clear here too: that the only way to win the race is with perseverance. And perseverance of this sort if only tried and perfected in the fire of God’s love.  

Yes, this is the Church. This is what we are called to be here, and now, as followers of Jesus. These is what we, baptized in the fire of God’s love, are compelled to be in this world.

So, let us be just that.  Let us be the Church, on fire with the love of God, fighting to erase the divisions that separate us. Let us be the prophets in whom God’s Word is like a fire, or a hammer that breaks a rock in pieces. And when we are, finally and completely, those divisions will end, and we will be what the Church is on the other side of the veil.

We will be the home of God among God’s people.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

12 Pentecost

August 11, 2013


Luke 12:32-40


+ There is a word I use very often. Any of you who know me, know I use this word a lot. The word I often use is “gauntlet.” As in, I feel like I’ve gone through the gauntlet.

“Running the gauntlet,” of course, is an old punishments in which a person runs through two lines of people who pummel them as they run.

Well, I’m going to be honest with you this morning. I’ve been run the gauntlet these last few days. These last several days have been exhausting. They have been emotionally draining. Two funerals in two days. And my brother’s funeral yesterday really hit me at my core, in a way I didn’t initially think it would.

In fact, I’ll be even more honest. I felt pretty brave in the days leading up to the service. Several friends and fellow clergy asked me: “I don’t think you should do this.” What did I do? I poo-pooed them, as I often do.

Then, just as I was about to announce the first hymn at the funeral, I suddenly panicked. I realized, “You know what, I don’t know if I can do this after all.”

Pastor Strobel was there and there was a very brief moment in which I thought, “Maybe I can pass off my cassock, surplice and stole to him real quick.” Of course, I wouldn’t have done that to him.  But it was a good lesson for me.

So, yes, I feel like I’ve been through the gauntlet. But, for all these difficult times, there is a some good in the midst of it all. One realizes that, in moments like, it’s very obvious where the rubber meets the road. And it is moments like this wherein one truly knows where one’s treasure lies.

As I was preparing for this sermon this past week, I found myself really hearing our Gospel reading for this morning anew.  I really let the Gospel reading sink in and I realized that Jesus was telling me—and all of us—two things that strike us at our very core:

First, he begins with “Do not be afraid.” We love hearing that. This past week, those words never sounded sweeter in my ears. Those are the words we want Jesus to say to us and those are the words he tells us again and again in the Gospels.  And those are words I love to preach about. If I could peach on nothing else but Jesus’ commandment of “Do not be afraid” I would be a very happy priest. (Actually, I am a pretty happy priest anyway)

Do not be afraid.

Second, he tells us “where your treasure is, there you heart will be also.”  At first, we might find ourselves nodding in agreement with this. But when we start thinking about what he’s truly saying, we might find it a bit more difficult to accept.

“Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

Now, to be clear, when we hear Jesus talking today of where your heart is there is your treasure, he isn’t talking so much of our material treasure. He is saying that where your heart is, that is where your passion will be. There is where your attention and your fulfillment will be found.

Now, for me, I have two passions in this life. They are not secrets.  I have, of course, my vocation to the Priesthood.  And, of course, my other passion is poetry.  If I was asked where my treasures are on earth, I would say it was squarely within those two areas. Not too bad of places for one’s heart to be.

“Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

This might not be as easy for us to accept, because we know it is a very true statement. And few of us can say with all honesty that our treasures are built up enough in heaven that there too is our heart.  Our treasures, for the most part, are here on earth.

So, we do have to ask ourselves that very hard question: where is our treasure?  Or maybe the questions: what is our treasure? What is our passion?  What is that drives us and motivates us? Is it money? Is it fame? Is it our job? Or is it something like family and spouse? They are hard questions to ask and they are hard questions to answer.

But Jesus is clear here that we shouldn’t beat ourselves up about what our treasure is. Rather, he says, we should simply shift our attention, shift our focus, and center ourselves once again on the treasure that will never disappoint, which is, essentially, him and all that he stands for.  When we find our treasure in Jesus, we find that that treasure is more than just a sweet, pious, Jesus-and-me kind of relationship. Recognizing Jesus has our treasure means making all that Jesus loved and held dear as our treasure as well—primarily, loving God and loving others as we long to be loved.

It seems that when do that, it all falls into place.  I don’t mean that it falls into place in a simple, orderly way. It definitely does not ever seem to do that. More often than not, when we recognize all that Jesus encompasses it only frustrates us and makes our lives more difficult.

Rather, even despite the frustration and the difficulty in seeing Jesus as our treasure, we find ourselves strangely more fulfilled. Despite its up-in-the-air quality, we quickly realize it’s a treasure that sustains and lifts up when we need it.

“Where our treasures are , there our hearts will be also.”

For us here at St. Stephen’s, we know how to build up that treasure in heaven. We do it by following Jesus, and in following Jesus, we love God and love each other. We build up our treasures by doing what we do best. We do it by being a radical presence of love and peace and hospitality in this community and the Church.

We are doing it today, by marching and being a very visible presence in the Pride Parade. That presence means something to those people who see us. They know we are a congregation of radical love and acceptance.  And we are a place of radical love and acceptance, because Jesus, the One we follow, was the personifications of radical love and acceptance.  And because he and all he stands for is our treasure, we know we are heading in the right direction in what we do.

Jesus is where we should find our treasure—our heart. But even if we are not there yet, spiritually, it’s all right. We should simply cling to that command he made to us: “do not be afraid.”

Do not be afraid. Do not be afraid of where our passions and treasures lay.  Do not get all caught up in the things of this earth. Instead, just love your neighbor as you would love yourself. And love your God who provides for you everything you can possibly need. And know that that Jesus, our true treasure, whom you love and who loves you in return, has a place prepared for us with him. If we do, out treasure is here with us.

So, let us build up that treasure. Let us move forward to building up our treasures, even when we’re tired, even when we’ve gone through the gauntlet, even when we are weary and beaten by this world. Jesus tells us in no uncertain terms,  “It is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.”

The Kingdom is here, in our midst. We are bringing it forth, increment by increment. Step by step. Loving act after loving act. Truly, the Kingdom is just that close.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

The memorial service for my brother, Jeff "J.D." Gould


The Burial Liturgy for my brother
Jeffrey “J.D.” Gould
(June 13, 1956-July 29, 2013)
St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church Fargo, ND
Saturday  Aug. 10, 2013

+In the last almost two weeks since Jeff died I have had several fellow clergy—as well as a good share of friends and family—who told me I should probably not being officiating—and certainly not preaching— at this service today. It’s in a moment like this, right about now, when I realize: they may have been right.  Let me tell you, it is a hard thing to lead the funeral service for one’s brother. They do not teach you how to do things like this in seminary.

 But, I have to admit, I am happy I am doing it.  I need to do this. Yes, it has been more difficult than you can even imagine. But it’s also been good. It’s been good because it has given me time to say a nice, long goodbye to Jeff.

 But, even then, it has taken me a while for all of this to sink in. I think many of us feel that way. How is that Jeff—J.D.—is no longer around, somewhere? How many of us have checked his Facebook page, expecting a grumpy cat update, or a Minnesota Vikings posting, or just some quirky thing he found that reposted or shared on Facebook? How many of us have checked that page, just hoping maybe—maybe!—he wasn’t really gone? And checking that page, it was all confirmed—there, with all those condolences, all those memories people are sharing of him.

 For those of us who are family, for those of us who are close friends, this has even been harder.  We’ll never again get a card or letter written in that very distinctive handwriting of his. We’ll never have another call from him with that very distinctive voice of his.  He’ll never come back to Fargo in that huge camper of his.

 For me, the first several days after his death were days of shock.  It didn’t make sense.  The day after he died I talked to my sister-in-law Judy and she told me how sick Jeff really had been following his stroke in 2007.  And she told me, at that time,  how trapped he felt in his body, how he truly felt as though his body had turned against him.

 At one point, he said, “I am tired of this. I am stuck in this body!”

 Those years since the stroke were particularly difficult for him.  I think the more limited he became physically, the more frustrated he became. For many of us who have suffered from debilitating illnesses, we know what that frustration is like.

 As many of you know, I myself suffered with cancer about thirteen years ago. Those physical limitations, let me tell you, are hard.  And we now how, as much as we depend upon these mortal bodies, they can also become kind of prisons for us as times.  For those of us who have felt that our bodies have turned against us, we feel a certain sense of betrayal. I think Jeff would’ve understood that sense of betrayal. He would’ve understood that that body of his betrayed him.

 But today, for Jeff, that is all behind him. That betrayal of his body. The frustration. That limiting of his life.

 I was thinking about all of these things in those days after Jeff died. And, as I did, I was mourning him and thinking about how he must’ve suffered in that body of his.  It was hard to think about the pain and the frustration he must’ve felt. It certainly didn’t come through in those Facebook posts. It didn’t come through in the phone calls on birthdays, or Christmas or Mother’s Day or Easter.  As I thought about it, I really felt horrible.

 Then, last Sunday something happened. I was celebrated the Eucharist here at St. Stephen’s on Sunday morning, as I always do, here at this altar. Now, when my father died three years ago, as many of you know,  I had a very, very difficult time. I really felt like he was gone. I didn’t sense him anywhere. I didn’t feel his presence. He just seemed gone. And I really kind of despaired over that.  But there was one moment when I could always  feel his presence. And it was during the Eucharist, during Holy Communion. .

 There is a belief in the Church that when we celebrate Holy Communion, the “veil” between this world—this world in which we live and breathe—and the next world—the world where those we loved who have died have gone—that veil becomes a very thin one at Holy Communion. And, for me, it was true. It was often at Communion, when that “veil” seemed thinnest, that I would sense my father. I knew he was there. Just on the other side of that veil. And he was happy there.

 Well, on Sunday, I felt it again, but this time with Jeff. At Communion, as I looked down at the broken bread and looked into the Cup, I felt Jeff. And I realized that he was there too in that glorious place. And he was freed of that body that caused him such pain in the end. There, in that other place, he was young again. He was beautiful. And, most importantly, he was alive.  And I was happy for that.

 We should all be happy in that.  We rejoice today in the fact that Jeff is there, on the other side of that veil. We rejoice today in the fact that that mortal body of his is no longer an issue for him. He has been freed from it. There are no physical limits for him in this moment.  It is always important to be reminded sometimes that we are more than these physical bodies.

 One of my favorite quotes (I even quoted it yesterday at the funeral I did for the husband of a very dear parishioner) is from the great French Jesuit priest and paleontologist Pierre Teilhard de Chardin. Teilhard one famously made the statement that we are not physical beings have spiritual experiences.

 We are in fact spiritual beings have a physical experience.  We are spirits, here and now, having this physical experience.

 I love that. I like that because it shows us that we are, in very our essence, spirit. And that, yes, these physical experiences can great and wonderful sometimes, but sometimes, they can be hard and painful. And that just because these mortal bodies fail us and eventually lie in dust, we—in our essence, in our very truest selves—live on.  These physical experiences are only temporary. But our spirit goes on.  I’ve thought a lot about that in these days since Jeff left us.

 In our scripture reading from the book of Revelation today,  we get a glimpse of what awaits us on the other side of that veil, when we are freed from these bodies. We hear the Apostle John saying,

 “God himself will be with them;
he will wipe every tear from their eyes.
Death will be no more;
mourning and crying and pain will be no more...”

I love that image! I love to take consolation in the fact that there will be a day, for all of us, when death will be no more, mourning and crying and pain will be no more. In these last few days—in these last few years—our family has had more than enough of death and mourning and crying and pain. I look forward to that time when those things will pass away and we will not have to deal with them anymore.

 Today, this afternoon, Jeff is in that place—in that place where death no longer exists. He is in that place where he is fully and completely alive—where is himself.  Now, for us, who are left behind, for us who loved Jeff and who will so greatly miss him, this all can be so incredibly painful. But, our consolation is that the place in which Jeff now dwells—that place of light and joy and unending life—that place awaits us as well.

 Yes, now we  have tears in our eyes. Yes, now feel real sadness. Yes, now, in our lives, we know true pain. But our consolation today is in the fact that in that other place, that place of light, that place in which our spirits will dwell, there will never again be pain. There will never again be tears. There will never again be sadness.  That is our consolation today. That is how we move from here into the rest of our lives. That is how we go forward. We go forward knowing full well that we are truly spirits having a physical experience. This is what gets us through this awful time in which Jeff is not with us anymore.   This is where we find our strength—in our faith that promises us an end to our sorrows, to our loss.

It is a faith that can tell us with a startling reality that every tear we shed—and we all shed our share of tears in this life, Jeff knew that very well in his life—every tear will one day be dried and every heartache will disappear. It will.  And on that great and glorious day, we will awake into that place of joy and gladness and light and life. And none of that will ever be taken from us again.

So this morning and in the days to come, let us all take consolation in that faith that Jeff is complete and whole in this moment.

I will miss Jeff. I will mourn Jeff. I am not ashamed to admit that. Our family will now seems strangely incomplete. At least, for now. But, even in the midst of this mourning, even in the midst of these tears, I know. I know that where he is, we too will be. And what is incomplete now, will be complete once again.

So, even with these tears, even with this pain, let us be glad. Let us be glad that one day we too will be sharing with Jeff in that joy, that light, in that place where all pain and sadness and death will never again exist.