Click play to listen to the audio version of this sermon.[audio:sermon-1-2-12.mp3]
It was early April of 2011, Irma Mytinger, one of my parishioners, called and asked if I would be willing to visit a dear friend and neighbor of hers named John. At a recent visit to his doctor led the doctor prompted the doctor to suggest that John should speak to his priest. John hadnâ€™t had a priest for some time and Irma was asking if I would be his priest. I said, â€˜gladly.â€™ I called. John said, â€˜I know who you are.â€™ I invited myself over. John said, â€˜sure, come on over.â€™ We introduced ourselves, had a cup of coffee and I said, â€œI hear youâ€™re afraid of dying.â€ John said, â€œEveryone thinks that Iâ€™m afraid of dying, my doctor, my wife, my neighbor. I know Iâ€™m dying. Iâ€™m not afraid of death.â€ I said, â€œokay then, what do you want to talk about now?â€ And we spent the rest of the visit talking about the places where he had been a cook and the Red Sox. Before leaving, we read John 14:1-3, the gospel reading we just heard, we prayed together and I left.
Jesus said, â€œLet not your hearts be troubled.â€ And if JESUS says it, then, thereâ€™s no discussion, no arguing, no doubts, â€œlet not your hearts be troubled.â€ He is the One who came down from heaven, born of the virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died and buried, who descended into hell, who rose again from the dead and who ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of God the Father almighty. If JESUS says, â€œlet not your hearts be troubled,â€ then â€œlet not your hearts be troubled.â€
The next Sunday, John was in worship here, and he didnâ€™t miss a Sunday unless he was too sick to come. In September he began attending my â€œInquirers Classâ€ where he was instructed in the faith that was given to him as a free gift in his baptism. He missed the last two classes because he was simply too sick to come. But he called and asked me to come by with the assignments that he had missed. I did. We talked about the Scriptures and I served Him the Lordâ€™s Supper, the body and blood of the One who said, â€œLet not your hearts be troubled.â€ He said, â€œI am so glad that I have found my faith again.â€
We talked about Simeon and the â€œNunc Dimmitisâ€ that we sing after the Lordâ€™s Supper every Sunday, from the 2nd chapter of Lukeâ€™s gospel. There was this priest who served in the temple in Jerusalem named Simeon. Luke says, â€œhe was righteous and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel and the Holy Spirit was upon him.â€ The Holy Spirit revealed to Simeon that he would not see death before he saw the Lordâ€™s Christ.
The whole world had been waiting to see the Lordâ€™s Christ ever since Adam and Eve fell into sin and heard the Lord God promise that her offspring would crush the head of the serpent. Adam and Eve waited to see the Lordâ€™s Christ. But they died. Noah waited to see the Lordâ€™s Christ. But he died. Abraham, Isaac, Jacob waited to see the Lordâ€™s Christ. But he died. Moses and the people of Israel waited to see the Lordâ€™s Christ. But he died. David longed to see the Lordâ€™s Christ. But he died. All of the prophets prophesied that the day was coming when we will see the Lordâ€™s Christ. But they died. And the Holy Spirit told Simeon that he would not see death before he saw the Lordâ€™s Christ.
And every day Simeon would go to the Temple to perform his priestly duties, wondering, is this the day. And then one day, a young couple came into the temple with their 40 day old infant in their arms. And somehow Simeon knew. He went over to this couple, his name was Joseph and her name was Mary. And he took the child from their arms into his and he said, â€œLord, now let thou thy servant depart in peace, for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in sight of all peoples. A light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of your people Israel.â€ (Luke 2:22-32).
And as John received the bread in his hands, the bread that is the true body of the Lordâ€™s Christ, he was in the place of Simeon. He held the body and blood of the Lordâ€™s Christ, hidden under the bread and wine, but present nonetheless. â€œLord, now let thou thy servant depart in peace, for my eyes have seen your salvation.â€
This is the Lordâ€™s Christ who took upon Himself the sin of the world, Adam and Eveâ€™s, Noahâ€™s, Abrahamâ€™s, Isaacâ€™s, Jacobâ€™s, Moses and all the people of Israel, Davidâ€™s, yours, mine and John Poirierâ€™s.
It wasnâ€™t for His own good health that He went to the cross. He bore the punishment for our sin that we deserve. And on the 3rd Day, He rose from the dead that we may have what we donâ€™t deserve â€“ life after death, even everlasting life in the glory of heaven.
â€œBelieve in God. Believe also in me,â€ says the Lordâ€™s Christ. Donâ€™t kid yourself. He did not die and rise again for nothing. He died and rose for you. Donâ€™t throw His cross away. Donâ€™t take a chance that it was not for you. If Jesus says, â€œBelieve in God. Believe also in meâ€ then thereâ€™s no discussion, no arguments, no doubts, â€œBelieve in God, believe also in Me.â€
John believed in God and in His Son, his Lord and Savior. John became a member of this congregation on December 18th, 2011. He wasnâ€™t here for that either because he was too sick. He called to let me know he couldnâ€™t make it. I said, â€˜that doesnâ€™t get you out of a thing.â€™
Just an hour and a half before he died, I asked him the following:
Â§ â€œDo you confess to almighty God that you are a poor, miserable sinner?â€ If so, nod your head. And he nodded his head.
Â§ â€œDo you confess to our merciful Father that you have sinned against Him in thought, word and deed?â€ If so, nod your head. And he nodded his head.
Â§ â€œDo you confess that you justly deserve His temporal and eternal punishment?â€ And he nodded his head.
Â§ â€œDo you believe that our Lord Jesus Christ died for you and shed His blood for you on the cross for the forgiveness of all your sins?â€ And he really nodded his head.
Â§ â€œDo you pray God, for the sake of the holy, innocent, bitter sufferings and death of His beloved God, to be gracious to you?â€ And he nodded his head.
And I said, â€œUpon this your confession, I, by virtue of my office as a called and ordained servant of the Word, announce the grace of God to you, and in the stead and by the command of my Lord Jesus Christ, I forgive you all of your sins. In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.â€
â€œLet not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in Me. In my Fatherâ€™s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go to prepare a place for you, I will come again to take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.â€
Just nine days after joining this congregation, John left us. Which is not to say that he is no longer a member of this congregation. But it is to say that for him, the congregation meets at a different place. Here, the average Sunday worship attendance is around 70 or 80. Now, he worships with the angels, the archangels and all the company of heaven where the average attendance is â€œa great multitude that no one can number, from every nation, from all tribes, and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. All crying out, â€˜Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne an to the Lamb!â€ For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd and he will guide them to springs of living water.â€
The chef who cooked for at Margaret Chase Smithâ€™s home for Dwight Eisenhower and Edmund Muskie, sits now at the banquet table of God and feasts on rich food and well aged wine, of rich food full of marrow, of aged wine well refined.
And for all of the eating and drinking that goes on at this â€˜mountaintop banquet,â€™ it is the Lord who does the swallowing. â€œHe will swallow up the covering that is cast over all people, the evil that is spread over all the nations. He will swallow up death forever.â€ (Is.25:6-8).
â€œLet not your hearts be troubled.â€ Even in your sorrow and grief, give thanks to God for His Son, Jesus Christ who has overcome OUR death by His death on the cross, and opened OUR graves by HIS resurrection from the dead, and has opened the kingdom of heaven to all who believe.
What more is there to say? Only this: â€œAmen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen.â€ (Rev.7:12).