Jerry Evans died yesterday morning. Jerry quietly crossed over that horizon of life into the place where the peace that passes all understanding becomes an eternal reality. Even as we mourn Jerry’s death and thank God for Jerry’s life, we can know that Jerry is whole and well today.
Also, Joan McLean’s sister Catherine Anglen died Monday of this week after a long struggle with Alzheimer’s disease. In our grief at the loss of Catherine and in our gratitude for her life, we know that Catherine is at peace and is whole and well today, too.
Often when I think about death I turn to chapters 14-16 in the Gospel of John. These four pages offer many of Jesus’ last teachings, instructions, hopes and dreams for his followers. Jesus shares these words during a Passover meal on the Thursday evening before he is executed by the Roman government. If you get a chance I encourage you to read these three chapters. Some of the most familiar words in the Christian scriptures are found in these passages. We often hear them read at funerals. If you have the time to read them in both the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) and The Message (MSG) it will give you a lot to ponder.
Here’s a link to the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV): http://bible.oremus.org/?ql=214629572
Here’s a link to The Message (MSG): http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=John%2014:1%20-%2016:33&version=MSG
Not all the words in these chapters make sense to me and there are even some things that suggest a theology that is narrower than my perspective. If you read these chapters I’m guessing you might have a similar response. That’s why it is so good to affirm our Wesleyan Quadrilateral every Sunday: The living core of the Christian faith is revealed in scripture, illumined by tradition, confirmed with reason and made real in personal experience. Our faith journeys and our theological understandings are informed in so many ways.
Today I was struck by John 14:27. This verse is part of Jesus’ last goodbye to his disciples. Here are both the NRSV and MSG translations:
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid. (John 14:27, NRSV)
I’m leaving you well and whole. That’s my parting gift to you. Peace. I don’t leave you the way you’re used to being left – feeling abandoned, bereft. So don’t be upset. Don’t be distraught. (John 14:27 MSG).
I cherish these words. God offers us both the peace that passes all understanding and the gift of being whole and well. For me that’s what eternal life is about: the peace that can only come from God and the wholeness and well-being that can only come from God.
In my Sunday benedictions I put it this way:
May the peace of God that passes all understanding – the peace that the world cannot give but can never, ever take away – may that peace be with each of you and all of us together, now and forever more. Amen.
I’ll see you Sunday. Until then please keep our beloved church in your prayers. I remember you in mine.