- From In the Garden, by C.
Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, the Son can do nothing on his own, but only what he sees the Father doing; for whatever the Father does, the Son does likewise. The Father loves the Son and shows him all that he himself is doing; and he will show him greater works than these, so that you will be astonished. Indeed, just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whomever he wishes. The Father judges no one but has given all judgment to the Son, so that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father. Anyone who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him. Very truly, I tell you, anyone who hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life, and does not come under judgment, but has passed from death to life.
- John 5.19-24 (NRSV)
The chorus from In the Garden is our worship heading on Sunday, because it expresses so much about the life of faith, both now and in the future; in a succinct, profound, and beautiful manner. It is also a hymn that is sung time and again at celebrations of the life of a loved one who has died. It is the last verse that is particularly comforting at such a time, because it reminds us that though our trials are many in this life, our future is with God.
There are many hymns popular at funerals for precisely this reason; they comfort us in times of tragedy. Think, for example, of Amazing Grace, How Great Thou Art, or Precious Lord Take My Hand (that our own Cal McBride will play Sunday on classical guitar), to mention but a few. When we consider such hymns, we often find that it is particularly the last verse or verses that focus on our destiny in heaven, while the others speak of faith in the present tense. But we tend to focus in such hymns on the comforting part; the last part.
I find that faith is often like this; we focus primarily on the last verse, our destiny with God in heaven. And this is a sure bet; God will never abandon us. When we focus on our destiny, however, we lose the powerful message that God is present with us now, and invites us to live a life that anticipates the joy we will know in heaven. Faith is powerful now, this day, and in my perspective we are called to live faith fully in the present, and not simply wait for the sweet by and by.
This raises significant questions. For example, how do we live our faith in the midst of life? How are we touched and transformed by God’s presence now, in our daily life? On Sunday we will explore practical aspects of the spiritual life that can strengthen our faith and its expression; such things as prayer, meditation, and bible study. Between now and then I invite you to reflect on ways God can use to strengthen your faith, and then use you to pay forward the blessings God bestows on you day by day. I hope you will join us.