Friday, February 28, 2014

Sermon for Jason's Service of Witness to the Resurrection

Service of Witness to the Resurrection:  Jason Fuhr         2/23/14
Psalm 139:1-18, 23-24,  I Corinthians 15:1-11, John 14:1-7

The most important word to describe Jason is “Christian”.  We’ll unpack this important name in a moment.  But if we were to survey everyone here, and try to find the phrase that might collectively describe how we knew Jason, it would be “hall of famer”. 

Jason was the only hall of famer that I know.  To enter into a hall of fame, you have to be someone who was known, appreciated, excellent and excellent for a long time.  Jason meets all of those criteria.

Not many people know that Jason was an aspiring author.  He was a master story teller.  One time, at our weekly Bible Study, he told me that he was going to someday write a book, “Nicknames of Bungtown” (Bungtown being an old, locally used nickname for Lambertville).   While he never got to write the book, he told the book.  And we’ve all heard the stories.  “Rug Rat was walking down to the river one day when he saw John Tartersauce out in a boat”  Whenever I would hear stories from Jason, two thoughts would go through my head:   1.  I know this is a true story.  These are real people he is talking about.   2.  Who are these people?  And why didn’t they fight harder for more positive nicknames? 

That many stories departed with Jason is a sad thing and a deep loss for all of us.  But one thing we know:  He told true stories. 

Yes, Jason was a hall of famer.  Yes, he was an author of stories.  But most important, Jason was a Christian.  Jason called Jesus Christ ‘Lord and Savior’.   Right now, Jason is at rest, at peace, at home in paradise.  On the last day, Jason will experience resurrection.  As we state in the Apostle’s Creed:  I believe in the resurrection of the dead.  God will raise him, and all who have died in the Lord.  Jason will give an account of his life. Because of the sacrifice, forgiveness, grace and mercy of Christ, Jason will receive his reward for his service to the Lord.

This is the gospel, God’s good news:   Jesus died for sinners.  Jesus was buried, confirming his death.  Jesus rose from the dead.  Jesus ascended into heaven.  Jesus is in heaven preparing a place for us.  Jesus reigns, giving glory to his heavenly Father.   Scripture foretells of a new heavens and a new earth where the cosmos will experience the fullness and grandeur of God.

In the Christian story, Jesus rose first, the dead will rise on the last day.  They will be raised imperishable, glorious, in God’s power and as a spiritual body.  Jesus, in the resurrection accounts of the gospel, was able to eat, to walk through walls, to be recognized, though not always at first glance.  Jesus rose first, followed on that great day by all those who belong to him.

That is a true story.

The Scripture declares that ‘everyone who has the Lord’s hope in them purifies themselves, just as they are pure’.  Also, ‘No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him.’

We gather here today to support Irma and Kim, in their grief.  We come to find an appropriate way to express our grief.  But one thing we do not do, is grieve Jason’s position. 

Does anyone not feel he will be richly rewarded by God?  One of the things Jason did better than most of us was understand that God’s good news was meant to be shared beyond the four walls of any sanctuary.  God’s good news is for people.  And so Jason, brought good news into the board meeting, onto the golf course, into the banquet hall or behind the scenes to all different types of people.  The Apostle Paul said that God’s grace was not without effect.  God’s grace came to Jason, and it affected him and his community.  Sharing God’s grace, Jason brought goodness, kindness and wisdom to us.  Jason was wonderful because he was inspired by the Lord’s grace.

That is a true story.

What could the new heavens and new earth look like?  What could Jason’s future be?  Certainly, only God knows.  Imagine with me for a moment something that none of us can possibly conceive.   In the new heavens and new earth,  there is the Fuhr family mansion.  I don’t see a large mansion per say, the glory of the Fuhr’s future home is the landscape.  There is a beautiful back porch with well crafted rocking chairs to sit and enjoy.  The day begins with praise to God and a cup of coffee, watered down to weaken the taste, enjoyed on that back porch, watching the birds feed and play and dance.  The bears that live in heaven will know it is wrong to break bird feeders.  Jason begins his morning work at the lollipop and root beer barrel factory.  He was offered the CEO position, but turned it down, he’d enjoy working right alongside the people.  After lunch, a nice siesta is in order, followed by some exercise.  His afternoon exercise will be two golf holes that are part of the landscape around his mansion.  Now mind you, they don’t require any lawn mowing to be maintained.  They are intricately woven into the fields and trees. forest and paths, with flowers and vegetables and bushes and all kinds of animals all around.  Jason’s afternoon work consists of making frames for the beautiful art that Irma will produce.  Kim comes over for a nice quiet, family dinner.  This is followed by a few friends coming over.  They’ll be time for each of you, but also for new friends.
---the dozen children in Lao who received a prosthetic limb
                   from Jason and Irma
---the student from old Lambertville high, or SHR, that he
 never really got to know well
          ---someone whose life was saved by the rescue squad,
                   supported in part, by his golf tournaments
          ---A family he helped at Christmas through his participation
                   on the Deacon board.
Time for visiting will be followed by a walk down to the community ball park, and since everyone’s there, why not play, or for that matter, why not play two?  You won’t need lights, because the Lord God will be the light of the new heaven and the new earth.   And Jason will worship and glorify God with every word, smile, thought, deed, dance and song. And he, and we, will delight in the glory of God.  And we will worship God, forever, just as God’s light will illumine the cosmos, forever.

Now, imagine something a billion times better than what I’ve described.  The billion times better reality:  That’s a true story.

In conclusion,
You are invited to believe the good news of Jesus Christ and place your faith in the Lord.
Jason’s future is good because he placed his faith in Christ. 
Jason is a child of the living God.
Jason is a follower of Jesus Christ.
Jason modeled for us what it meant to be led, and filled, with the Holy Spirit.

And that, brothers and sisters, is a true and good story.


Transformation                                                                      2/23/14
I Corinthians 15:12-58, Luke 9:28-36

Today, we gather during worship with the death of Jason Fuhr on our minds and hearts.  We’ve read the Story of Jesus’ Transfiguration a week early, because it is a wonderful story for us today as we consider death, and life, and life after death. 

Let’s think about this past week.

Sociologists describe 5 universal expressions of grief:

If you know someone well enough that you feel grief because of their death, then you will feel all five of these expressions during your journey of healing.  Everyone feels all these things.  The trick is, that there is no time table, and no order, to these expressions.  One person might be depressed for a day and shocked for 5 years, while another person might be shocked for a day and depressed for five years.  These are expressions that are not moral:  that is, it is not right or wrong to feel these, we just feel them when we greive.

These are human reactions, and therefore appropriate.  When done well, they lead to healing.  It is not wrong to feel them, but like a conversation, if you raise them, you need to listen and be ready for a response.

Let’s think about today.

Worth-giving to the Most Worthy:

Story of the Transfiguration:
          --Jesus, Peter, James and John go up the mountain to pray.
          --Jesus prays, his face lights up and clothes brighten.
          --Two appear:  Moses and Elijah: The Giver of the Law and
                   the Prophet.  The law and the prophets, tell the story of
                   Israel’s salvation.  The Messiah was an Israelite.
          --They are there to talk about death, specifically, Jesus’ death
                   at the hands of the roman authorities.
          --The disciples are awakening to this presence of Jesus.
          --In fact, Peter likes it so much he suggests they stay.   But
             his good feelings are suddenly surrounded by an
             enveloping cloud, and they were afraid.   And God speaks:
             This is my son, whom I have chosen.  Listen to him.

This story is important because the disciples saw and heard the voice of God and the transformation of Christ.
In his second letter to the church, Peter writes:  We did not follow cleverly invented stories when we told you about the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty.

Peter continues to write, that our response to this majesty of Christ,  “we have the word of the prophets made more certain, and you will do well to pay attention to it, as a light shining in a dark place,  until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.”

Jesus was more than a teacher, or a good guy.  He was the Lord.   And Peter, James and John saw that, and believed it.  And eventually told people about it.  They saw the glory of God.

Service of witness to the resurrection
We will gather at Lambertville and use that space to bear witness to God’s power and future promise of resurrection.  Jason will be raised on that last day, as the Apostle’s Creed reminds us “We believe in the resurrection of the dead”.

Our job today is to worship God in that service.  If you are singing, sing with your whole heart.  If you welcome or talk with neighbor, to do that well.  If you are helping with the meal afterwards, that you do so to give God glory.

Sharing a meal.
The meal becomes a place where healing can be nurtured.  Use this time to tell the stories about Jason that you love, or to see old friends and neighbors.

Let’s think about the future.

Our future is transformation.   It is very human to grieve.  And being human is allowed.  But we grieve, not out of despair, but because of hope.  

1.    to change in composition or structure
2.    to change the outward form or appearance
3.    to change character or condition

Witness to the Resurrection?   I Corinthians
1.    Resurrection is real, otherwise  (12-19)
2.    Christ has been raised, a forerunner to our resurrection, and is in process of putting enemies away. (20-28)
3.    Resurrection should change our behavior (29-34)   see Transformation Definition #3
4.    Death precedes resurrection in the natural world (35-41)
5.    Resurrection bodies (42-49), bearing the image of Christ  see Transformation definitions #1, 2
6.    There is mystery, but the story ends in victory through Christ (50-57)
7.    Order to life  (58)

Our future is the transforming power of God.
we are being transformed into Christ’s likeness, with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.
II Corinthians 3:18

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, they are a new creation, the old has gone, the new has come.
II Corinthians 5:17