The Return

Rev. Deacon Allen Batchelder

Trinity Church
Waltham, Massachusetts
November 27, 2011 Advent I

Isaiah 64:1-9, Psalm 80:1-7, I Corinthians 1:3-9, Mark 13:24-37

From the Prophet Isaiah:
Yet, O Lord, thou art our Father; we are the clay, and thou art our potter; we are all the work of thy hand. Be not exceedingly angry, O Lord, and remember not iniquity forever. Behold, consider, we are all thy people.

From the First Letter of St. Paul to the Corinthians:
As you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ; who will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

And from the Gospel of St. Mark:
And then they will see the Son of man coming in clouds with great power and glory. And then he will send out the angels, and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven.

Let us pray:
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in thy sight, O God, our Rock and our Redeemer, our Strength and our Salvation.
Amen. †

I hope everyone had a wonderful and blessed Thanksgiving. Good food and good fellowship with family and friends. I trust that everyone thanked God for the delicious food and the many blessings He has bestowed upon us.

When things are going well for us, we may think that we don’t need God or we take Him for granted. We think we can handle things on our own without asking God for help or guidance or even thanking Him for the many blessings He has given us (such as, His Son, Jesus Christ). The question we all need to ask is: What priority is God in our lives? Is attending church and worshiping God a priority? Since you are here, it is.

Now what happens when there is a problem in your life. Let’s say you have to deal with the loss of a loved one; perhaps there is a problem in your family; trouble at work, maybe you lost your job; perhaps you are concerned about what’s going on in our country or around the world. Given any one of these situations, one might turn to God for help, guidance or understanding.
We assume that God will always be there for us. But should He listen to us if He is not a priority in our lives; when we don’t attend church regularly; when we don’t give of ourselves generously (which includes our time and our income). Why should God care about us if we don’t care about Him? God is with us through the good times and the bad times and He expects us to be with Him also.

When you read the Old Testament, you read about the history of God’s chosen people, the Jews. The Old Testament is the history of humanity: the good, the bad, and the ugly. The Jews certainly had their ups and downs with God. When they turned to God and repented of their sins, He forgave them and blessed them; they were victorious in battles and they prospered. However, after awhile when things were going well, they thought they could manage on their own without God. They turned to idols and other gods.

We read in Psalm 115:4-5: Their idols are silver and gold, the work of man’s hands. They have mouths, but they cannot speak; they have eyes, but they cannot see; they have ears, but they cannot hear; they have noses, but they cannot smell; they have hands, but they cannot feel; they have feet, but they cannot walk; they cannot make a sound with their throat. Those who make idols will become like them, everyone who trusts in them.

In our Old Testament reading today, Isaiah was preaching to a “blind and deaf” Israel (like the Idols they worshiped). It is God’s people, who are blind to his ways and deaf to his word. They worship what they have made, rather than the creator – this is at the heart of idolatry. When the Jews turned from God, He would punish them and allow bad things to happen.

The prophet Isaiah, the son of Amoz, proclaimed his message to Judah and Jerusalem between 742 and 687 B.C., that critical period in which the Northern Kingdom was annexed to the Assyrian empire and which Judah, the Southern Kingdom lived uneasily in its shadow as a tributary. Nothing is known about the early life of the prophet, although it has been conjectured from certain aspects of his message that he may have been a priest.

Isaiah lived at a time when God’s temple in Jerusalem was destroyed, Gods’ glorious land had been ravaged, and His people were in exile in Babylon. Isaiah cries out to God to “come down” and reveal his awesome power to the nations. The other nations trust in dead idols, so let them see what the living God of Israel can do!

Why was God not working wonders? Because the Jews had sinned and must confess their sins and turn from them. God has planned for his people wonderful things beyond their imagination, but their sins prevent Him from sharing His blessings. Is there hope? YES, because god is a forgiving Father and a patient Potter. He can cleanse us and make us anew if we will let Him have His way.

The problem of sin was not restricted to the Jews, in fact it continues to this day. The problem is that we don’t always let God have His way; that we don’t always repent of our sins.
Perhaps as Christians, we have a false sense of security with the saving grace of Jesus Christ; that we can do whatever we want and He’ll forgive us. Sorry, it doesn’t work that way.

Our Epistle reading this morning has Paul writing to the church in Corinth. Corinth was a defiled church. Some of its members were guilty of sexual immorality; others got drunk; still others were using the grace of God to excuse worldly living. It was also a divided church, with at least four different groups competing for leadership (1 Cor. 1:12).

How did this happen? The members of the church permitted the sins of the city to get into the local assembly. Corinth was a polluted city, filled with every kind of vice and worldly pleasure.

Around the 1970’s there was a slogan in the Protestant denominations: “we are in the world, but not of the world.” This meant that we would hold fast to our Christian beliefs; that we would set the example to a disbelieving world. Unfortunately, soon after that, the church developed a philosophy that the church needed to change in order to attract people or hold onto “young” people. We need to welcome diversity. So, the churches conscientiously or unconscientiously allowed the sins of the world into their churches. This was especially the case here in New England. Unfortunately, the opposite result happened. The church has lost thousands of members; attendance is down; churches are closing. People turned away from God and His Word.

The word church in Greek means “a called-out people.” Each church has two addresses: a geographic address (i.e. 730 Main St. Waltham, MA) and a spiritual address in Jesus Christ. The church is made up of saints, that is, people who have been “sanctified” or “set apart” by God. A saint is not a dead person who has been honored by men because of his or her holy life. No, Paul wrote to living saints, people who, through faith in Jesus Christ, had been set apart for God’s special enjoyment and use. In other words, every true believer is a saint because every true believer has been set apart by God and for God. We are God’s living saints!

As we enter the Advent season and look forward with anticipation to Christmas. It is natural for us to think of the coming of Jesus Christ. But I am not talking about the birth of a baby boy, I am talking about the return of Jesus Christ, where He will establish His kingdom on earth.

When we look at the times we are in: high unemployment, fighting in the streets, promotion of class warfare, fighting across the Middle East. One might wonder, will things get better or are these signs that His return is near?

Our gospel reading this morning talks about the end times and the tribulation. In the Book of Revelation, the last half of the Tribulation is called “the wrath of God” (Rev. 14:10,19). During this time, God will judge the world and prepare Israel for the coming of her Messiah.
It will be a time of intensive judgment such as the world has never seen or will ever see again. In it, God will be working out His purposes and setting the stage for the coming of the Conqueror (Rev. 19:11ff).

Satanic deception will continue to the very end, and false Christs and false prophets will lead people astray. In fact, they will even do miracles (Matt. 7:21-23). So deceptive will be these miracles that even the elect will be tempted to believe their lies. Of themselves, miracles are not a proof of divine calling and approval (Deut. 13:1-5). The final test is the Word of God.

The tribulation period will climax with the appearing of terrifying signs in the heavens and worldwide chaos on the earth (Luke 21:25-26). These signs, which have been predicted by the prophets (Isa. 13:10; 34:4), will prepare the way for the coming of Jesus Christ to the earth. It will be a revelation of His great glory as He comes to establish His rule on earth (Acts 1:11; Rev. 1:7).

The Apostle Mark describes the re-gathering of Israel from the nations to which they have been scattered throughout the world (Deut. 30:3-6). They will see their Messiah and trust Him, and the nation will be created in holiness and glory (Zech. 12:9-13). Some theologians think the reestablishing of the State of Israel to be a sign, where Jews from around the world have returned to the land promised by God.

Jesus did not want His disciples or us to get so involved in the prophecies of the future that they would neglect the responsibilities of the present. Those responsibilities are: sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ with the lost, being a living saint, and living a life in the control and will of God.

As Christian believers today, we are not looking for “signs” of His return; we are looking for Him! But people living during the Tribulation will be able to watch these things occur and will know that His coming is near. This assurance will help them to endure (Mark 13:13) and to be good witnesses.

We as believers do not depend on signs; we depend on His unchanging Word, the “sure word of prophecy” (2 Peter 1:19-21). But He does command us to “watch.” To “watch” means to be alert, to stay at one’s best, to stay awake. Why must we stay alert? Because nobody knows when Jesus Christ will return. When He was on earth in His humiliation, Jesus did not know the day or hour of His coming again. Even the angels do not know. The unsaved world scoffs at us because we continue to cling to this “blessed hope,” but He will return as He promised (2 Peter 3). Our task is to be faithful and to be busy, not to speculate or debate about the hidden details of prophecy.

Watchfulness has nothing do to with going to heaven. It is purely a matter of pleasing Him, hearing His loving commendation, and receiving His reward (Matt. 25:14-30).

While Christians today may not experience the terrible sufferings described in the Tribulation, we will have our share of persecution and tribulation in this world before the Lord returns (John 16:33). But the warnings in this chapter of Mark may be applied to our own lives today: “Take heed that you are not deceived” (Mark 13:5); “Take heed that you do not become discouraged and quit” (Mark 13:9); “Take heed, watch and pray” (Mark 13:33).

“And what I say unto you, I say unto all, “Watch” (Mark 13:37).

Let us pray:
O Lord, most merciful and gracious God. As we look forward to and with anticipation to the return of your Son. Help us not to get lost in the affairs of this world. May we be ever vigilant to His coming again. We love you with all our heart, mind, and soul. Give us the courage to be a witness to a darkened world. Help us to be true to you and to your word. And may we be a living saint in your church and with all we meet. This we ask in the name of your Son, our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, in whose name we live and pray.


More Judgment (Give Us a Break!)

20 November 2011
The Reverend J. Howard Cepelak

Trinity Church

Waltham, Massachusetts

Pentecost XXIII – Thanksgiving Sunday – Stewardship Sunday

Zephaniah 1:7, 12-18; Psalm 90:1-8, I Thessalonians 5:1-11, Matthew 25:14-30

From the Book of the Prophet, Zephaniah:
The prophet wrote, The great day of the Lord is near…. A day of wrath…a day of darkness and anguish, a day of ruin and devastation, a day of darkness and gloom….

From St. Paul’s First Letter to the Thessalonians:
The apostle instructed them and instructs us regarding the coming Day of Judgment saying; Put on the breastplate of faith and love and for a helmet the hope of salvation…. For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us…. therefore encourage one another and build one another up….

From the Gospel According to St. Matthew:
Speaking words of harsh judgment on the man who had buried his money in the ground, the Master said, you wicked and slothful servant…you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and at my coming, I should have received what was my own with interest…cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness….

Let us pray.

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in thy sight, O God, our Rock and our Redeemer, our Strength and our Salvation,

This inspiration for many of my sermons comes from conversations that I have with various people – some of them church people but most of them only casually involved with church life, if involved at all. This is most certainly a part of the evangelical mission entrusted to every clergyman – and to every Christian as well. Proclaiming the crucified and risen Christ is our job.

Now, most of the people with whom I discuss the Christian faith and religion participate in church life only on special occasions – the occasional baptism, confirmation, wedding or funeral. Some may attend at either Christmas or Easter but for the most part, these most important Christian holy days have become for them secular holidays. So even Christmas and Easter do not automatically get honored.

Today we celebrate Thanksgiving Sunday. We remember our faithful Pilgrim founders who came to this new world to establish a new life in a new land where they could practice their style of Christianity free from governmental harassment or interference.

When they arrived on these shores after so many years of such struggle, persecution and suffering, the first thing that they did was to kneel on the beach and give thanks to God for His providential care and for their new life in this new land.

We follow the Pilgrim example of gratitude as we observe Thanksgiving Day – a national holiday established for the specific purpose of giving thanks to God for the blessings of our lives and for this free country. Gratitude to God functions as part of the faith foundation for the practicing Christian – gratitude for salvation in and through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ as well as for every other good thing that comes to us.

But for the casual Christian or for the committed secularist, thanksgiving to God holds little or no meaning. It has no importance. In the unredeemed faith of the secularized mind, every good thing that we see as a blessing is for them an entitlement. And when they fail to get what they want when they want it – usually at someone else’s expense – their response is anger. Anger instead of gratitude functions as the motivating force in life.

Any perceived injustice is God’s fault. They will say to me, If there is a God and if He’s good, then He would not let this kind of thing happen. In other words, they pass judgment on God. And they punish Him by not believing in Him. Then they spend the rest of their lives promoting and defending their belief in the non-existence of God. But that’s another sermon entirely. Ironic for sure, but nonetheless the way it is for so many angry people.

In these many conversations, whenever I even hint at the divine judgment let alone of the wrath of God of which the Bible speaks frequently, they will most certainly say, Give me a break!!!! Like, how could you be so stupid to think that there’s some kind of divine judgment. (And stupid is the most frequently used word. They assume that some one who believes in God is stupid.) Of course, if you believe as they do, well then you’re smart. Do you see my point? Although they pass judgment on God, the idea that God will pass judgment on them – well, that’s ridiculous – and stupid.

So much of the current disbelief in God and the fashionable disdain for Christianity especially in the realm of the pseudo-intellectual academic elites is intimately linked to modern socialism. Modern socialists demonize successful people, see financial profit as a grievous evil and condemn anyone who works hard, makes money and supports himself and his family. Link financial success to Christian commitment, and you have the greatest of all evils in their eyes.

It’s interesting how the socialists will use scripture and some part of our Christian history to claim justification for their cause. For instance, the very first church – the church in Jerusalem – was a socialist – indeed, a communist community. All the members had to sell all that they had, put the money into common wealth in support of the community and own no private property. Any money earned had to be put into the common wealth used to support the members of the church.

The problem was that others who worked for a living – not full church members – had to continually contribute as the commonly held wealth created no other wealth for the sake of ongoing support. Now, this was not perceived as a problem since they expected the return of the Lord on the Day of Judgment at any moment. They would have no need for money, houses or land. But when the Lord did not return as soon as they expected, all kinds of problems resulted.

Perhaps they should have learned from Jesus’ Parable of the Talents. The servants who capitalized on their monetary trust received praise from the master. But the unworthy servant who failed to capitalize his money lost it all. And in the process, he incurred the divine judgment.

Truly, a small socialist / communist community can survive – witness the many monasteries and convents throughout church history – but only on the gifts of the capitalists. A capitalist is here defined simply as one who works and carefully invests his money so as to create more money. If the capitalists fail to make money and offer support to the community, the socialist / communist community dies – even the Christian socialist / communist community. Despite our Lord’s clear instruction to create wealth and share it properly – as charity but not as entitlement – some people just do not get it. They demonize financial success and glorify financial failure.

For the first few years of their life in Plymouth the Pilgrims operated on a socialist economy. Like the Jerusalem church, they found that the lazy took advantage of the hard workers and the hard workers had no motivation to work as they fruits of their labors were taken to support the freeloaders. Eventually, quoting St. Paul when he said of the freeloaders in the various churches in the ancient world, He who does not work, does not eat, the Pilgrims changed their way of life.

The socialist model had failed, in Plymouth as it had in Jerusalem – and as it does everywhere it’s tried. So in 1623, houses with garden plots were established. Private property and self-sufficiency replaced the failed socialism and the settlement prospered. Over the next several decades, with more and more settlers arriving, the Massachusetts Bay Colony became one of the most successful and prosperous parts of the British Empire. And eventually, with the full exercise of free-market capitalism, this nation became the richest in the whole world and in all of human history.

Although much of Scripture glorifies those who give up everything in this life including material comfort and wealth in order to properly serve God as a part of their Christian walk, they voluntarily give that up. For them material well-being functions a barrier to their understanding of their vocation.

But the Bible also bears witness to those who capitalize on their divinely given gifts and maximize their material condition for the sake of faithfulness to the same God who may call others to renunciation. For the rich young ruler, for whom his wealth is barrier to a good relationship with God, He says, Sell all that you have give the money to the poor and come follow me. Following Jesus Christ is the most important part of the account. But the rich young man who valued his wealth more than his relationship with God – well you get the point.

Judgment falls on the wealthy who love their wealth more than they love God or who make money in an immoral or unethical manner. But the same judgment falls on those who being blessed, fail to maximize their blessing. For the rich young ruler, giving up his wealth would honor and glorify God. For the unfaithful servant, increasing his wealth would have offered the same divine honor and glory.

Today is for us at Trinity Church, Stewardship Sunday as well as Thanksgiving Sunday. The two really do go hand in hand. Without a doubt, the proper motivation for supporting the church of Jesus Christ is the gratitude in our hearts for the great gift of salvation. I use those words every Sunday as we dedicate the offering. We should give, as St. Paul recommends, cheerfully and not by force. We should be glad to do so, finding deep spiritual satisfaction as we give of our material substance.

And substance is the key word here.
We give out of our substance – not out of our excess or give to God our leftovers. No. We give to God in support of His church first – we take the Biblically established tithe – 10% – and dedicate it to Christ. Then we work out the rest of our budgets. God first. In our finances as well as in any other part of our lives, if we put the Lord first, everything else begins to fall into place.

As God instructs us through His prophet, Malachi, saying, Bring the full tithe…and see if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you an overflowing blessing. so we should set this principle first in our lives.

And one last word about judgment. No one knows when the day of the Lord will arrive. Scripture bears consistent witness to it as a dreadful day when anything evil will experience the wrath of God. But as St. Paul tells us – and I paraphrase, we are not destined for that wrath but for salvation in and through Jesus Christ who died for us. Thus we can live our lives in faith, in hope and in love – not in anger or fear like the secularists and other non-believers. And he tells us to encourage one another building each other up in greater faithfulness.

And that’s our job until He comes again.

You will be receiving a stewardship letter in the next few days. Think about and most importantly, pray about your pledge. We will dedicate our tithes and pledges on Sunday, December 11th – the 3rd Sunday in Advent.

And one more one last word about judgment. We may say, More judgment! Give us a break! Well, God has given us a break. But not only a break, He gave us THE break. The break is the broken body of Jesus Christ. In His sacrifice, He breaks the power of the wrath of God – and breaks open the gates of heaven and the Kingdom of God.

With this in mind, let us pray.

Heavenly Father, bless us with truly grateful hearts. Defend us from the assaults of the secularists who subvert from within and our enemies who terrorize from without. Deliver us from deception, false hope and bad faith. Restore this nation to the greatness that you intend. And cause us to be agents of your Truth, living our lives in your
hope, in holy love and in true faith that we may honor and glorify your Son,
the crucified and risen Saviour of the whole world,
Jesus Christ the King,


The Reverend J. Howard Cepelak
Trinity Church

Waltham, Massachusetts

The Sacrament of Holy Communion

Remembrance of the Faithful Departed – Memorial Sunday – Pentecost XXI

Revelation 7:9-17, Psalm 34:1-10, I John 3:1-3, Matthew 5:1-12

From the Revelation to St. John:
[A]nd behold, a great multitude which no man could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes and crying out with a loud voice, Salvation belongs to our God who sits upon the throne and to the Lamb!

From St. John’s First Letter:
Beloved, we are God’s children now.… And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.

And From the Gospel According to St. Matthew:
Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ spoke these words, Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness…Blessed are the merciful…. [and] Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.

Let us pray.
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in thy sight, O God, our Rock and our Redeemer, our Strength and our Salvation.

This morning’s sermon is actually two sermons in one. The first deals with church architecture and the second with the salvation of the soul. The two are interrelated and I will demonstrate that. But half way through, we will switch gears. But by the end the two will be brought together. So in the immortal words of Betty Davis, Fasten your seatbelts. It’s going to be a bumpy ride.

One of the most distressing aspects of contemporary church life in these United States as well as in Europe is the dreadful – dare I say ghastly, inhumane, profane, brutal and most certainly ungodly architecture of modern church buildings. A church building is supposed to be a sermon in stone, brick or wood – at least an inspiration to those who both look at it and enter into it – and at best, an taste of heaven by virtue of its inspiring beauty.

Currently, we see two trends. First, many people seem to want the church building to be an extension of their living room – a place to flop down, chill out, relax and be entertained – a come as you are kind of place so that you can leave as you were.

This stands over and against the true purpose of a church which is to lift up the heart, mind, body and soul of the worshipper to the very gates of heaven – that no matter how you are when you come in, you will leave having come at least a little bit closer to God. The church building should touch a worshipper’s soul – and change that soul, lifting it up to a higher righteousness. The gap between that higher righteousness and the sin sick soul can be gigantic. But God in Christ bridges that gap. His house of worship should facilitate crossing that bridge.

The second trend is that of abject ugliness. Now, I know that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. But there remain standards that distinguish beauty and ugliness.

Ugliness has no place in church architecture although it plays the major role in so many of our contemporary buildings designed by architects either angry with God if they believe in Him at all or out to make a name for themselves by being as absurd as possible in their designs. If you cannot get recognition for beauty, get it for ugliness.

Many of them are part of what is called the brutal minimalist school of architecture currently at the so-called cutting edge of the discipline. Witness the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in Los Angeles, and both the Roman and the Episcopal Cathedrals in Vermont – prime examples of the brutal minimalism that represents the degradation of the current state of our religion – a degradation of heaven’s beauty.

Scripture provides us with a dramatically different vision of heaven, of the eternal kingdom or the courts of the Lord. Biblical descriptions ranging from Isaiah’s to St. John’s in the Book of Revelation, speak of a place of astounding beauty – in fact, the perfection of the beauty of holiness.

The Biblical inspiration and the working of the Holy Spirit throughout the Christian ages, has resulted in the long history of inspiring sacred architecture with examples of divinely inspired churches ranging from huge and magnificent cathedrals to simple but beautiful chapels and meeting houses. This both honor and glorify God – the purpose not only of church architecture but also of the Christian life as well.

Now, here’s where we shift gears from architecture to soul salvation.

One of the best examples is the chapel at Stanford University called Memorial Church – a stunning exercise in holiness executed in a Byzantine – Romanesque style and laden with mosaics, frescos and astounding stained glass.

Although a non-denominational church, this building is one of the most glorious sermons in architecture in the entire world. It boldly proclaims Jesus Christ as the Lord and Saviour of all mankind. The front façade of the building depicts the risen Christ welcoming the righteous into the kingdom of heaven. The central stained glass window over the high alter shows the crucifixion. The mosaics preach the life of Christ performing healing miracles, teaching the Sermon on the Mount and glorifying every aspect of his conception, birth, life, teachings, miracles, death, resurrection and ascension.

Now, why am I so interested in Stanford University’s Memorial Church? I came across it as I researched the memorial service held for Steve Jobs about whom I spoke in my October 9th sermon – a self-proclaimed Buddhist – yet whose funeral was held in one of the world’s most magnificent Christian churches.

You see, I find this man’s life and accomplishments compelling. His contribution to the world has dramatically changed – for the better – the lives of billions of people. Furthermore, his intense and astoundingly creative intelligence, his passionate love for life, for his family and especially for his son, Reed – and his devotion to beauty – something not often noted about his great man – speak of a man upon whom the Holy Spirit has most certainly worked – a man blessed in his genetic makeup by God the creator and a man for whom, like all of us who have ever lived – one for whom Christ hung on the cross to expiate our sins – yours – mine – and Steve’s.

I know that salvation depends upon our reception of Jesus Christ as the only Lord and Saviour of all mankind. But I also know that many otherwise good and truly wonderful, kind, creative, loving and self-sacrificing people who miss the point here and there in their lives – as do you and I who claim the cross – nonetheless, these good people for whatever reason never place their faith in the One True God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Yet we love these people. And we hope – and pray – that by God’s grace, they may yet arrive in the beautiful courts of the Lord. If we, who are sinners, can love them so much how much more does God, who has no sin but loves in perfection – how much more does He love them? Jesus bears witness to this holy love in both His teachings and in His sacrifice. It’s full application remains somewhat of a mystery – the holy mystery of salvation.

Yes I – and I know many of you – hope that somehow and in some way they receive another opportunity to receive the Saviour even after they depart from this world. Many parts of the church teach of this opportunity. Many say that you must accept Jesus as your Lord and Saviour before you doe to this life. If not, you miss heaven and literally go to hell. Both positions justify themselves in the Biblical witness. Yet I, and you, hope. There is no sin in hope so long as it’s hope in the Lord.

Now I say I hope because Steve Jobs (and so many others) never confessed a faith in Jesus Christ. Yet I hope – there’s that word again – that deep down in the center of their souls, that there’s a genuine hunger and thirst for righteousness, a burring desire to see God face to face and a purity of motive and intention that will at least bring these otherwise non-believing people to the throne of the Most Holy God, to Jesus Christ the King of Heaven and the King of Angels, and see Him face to face, for the face of God the Father is the face of God the Son – and upon seeing His face, believe in Him – and in believing be saved for the one whom they now see is the one whom they so deeply loved but did not know it or could not receive it on this side of death.

Steve’s sister gave a eulogy – profoundly touching – in which she talked about how he changed her life by virtue of his kindness – of how he devoted himself to his work which was, for him, play – about his endless pursuit of beauty – eternal beauty – an astoundingly humble man of such great accomplishment who treasured happiness and who loved to love. He especially loved his wife and children.

His only son, Reed, held a special place in his father’s heart. (Steve, as a child, did not have a special place in his biological father’s heart.) Steve said, as his physical condition worsened, that he made a bargain with God – or with whatever – those are his words – that he wanted to live to see Reed graduate from high school. Now it’s important the he said God because in true Buddhism, there is no God let alone eternal life in heaven.

Perhaps, Steve had in his consciousness, a space for God. Maybe the bargain, (please note, we can make NO BARGAINS WITH GOD. We think we can, but we cannot) the terms of which remain undisclosed, had a hope for God – and in that hope the possibility of the purification of the righteousness that comes when we desire to see God face to face – and approach his heavenly throne upon which sits the Lamb of God who takest away the sins of the world.

We know that people of all nations, tribes, tongues and races stand around His heavenly throne. In St. John’s vision, they proclaim that salvation belongs to the Lamb, the Lamb of God that takes away the sins of the world – the Lamb of God who was and is and will be forever Jesus Christ the incarnate God. And, dressed in the white clothes righteousness, they sing His praise. We know that all are welcome, but will all make it?

Again, we’re saved by faith. I just hope that God offers another opportunity on the other side of death to this life so that those whom we love who do not now believe can believe and be saved.
Hope – St, John says that everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself in that hope. A holy hope purifies.

Steve Job’s last words before fading out of consciousness were simply – Oh wow! Oh wow!, Oh wow!
His sister said that he had gazed into the eyes of his wife and each of his children and then began his departure. No more words were spoken to them. She said that he then looked far beyond them and with a gentle smile simply said, Oh wow! Oh wow! Oh wow! Then he was gone.

I hope that what he saw was the face of God and in seeing believed. He loved beauty and spoke of eternal beauty. If one can see the face of God, what can be more beautiful? From what his sister said of him, Steve hungered and thirsted for righteousness. He had a purity of heart. I believe that counts for a lot.

I do not believe in coincidence. His funeral was held in that most magnificent building dedicated to Jesus Christ. He was memorialized in the beauty of holiness with every inch of that architectural masterpiece proclaiming that salvation belongs to the Lamb. And I hope that when he said, Oh wow!, it was because he saw the holiness of Christ, and as a child of God, found a welcome into the heart of the Father.

As we come to this sacred table of the Sacrament of Eternal Life, we come to taste here the feast of the banquet of haven. We remember the faithful departed. We’re united with them in communion as we share in the Sacrament called Holy Communion.

And we place our hope in Jesus Christ, in His broken Body and in His shed Blood. For He, and He alone, is the Lamb of God – the bread of heaven and the cup of salvation. In Him only can we hope.

Let us pray.
Heavenly Father, as we give you thanks for the saving sacrifice of your Son our only Saviour, so we pray that in your grace and by your mercy, you will receive all the souls of those who love, of those who hunger and thirst for your righteousness and for all who seek the beauty of holiness. Grant to us who claim your name that we may bear a faithful witness to you -that other will believe as they see our witness and enter into heaven, to dwell in your courts forever.
We ask this in the name of
and for the sake of you Son,
Jesus Christ, the King of Heaven,