Memorial sermon for a friend
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.
In parts of the San Gabriel Valley, people have been buying homes, usually two properties next to each other. You might think they do this in an attempt to keep family together. That’s true, but not in the way you imagine. They buy these side-by-side properties with tract home on them and then demolish them. Once the dumpsters are full, they are taken away, and something interesting happens. The new owners built one large house which takes up the new properties. They call them “McMansions”.
Maybe you wish you could live in a house that’s so opulent, so rich, so luxurious. I comfort myself at times like that by saying, “but there’s so much space to clean, I wouldn’t want that”.
Today, you have heard a lot about Jesus, heaven, God and ‘churchy’ stuff. It’s expected, because we are in a church to remember and celebrate, the life of Pastor Donald Wilkowski. This is not exactly the place where you drink a beer and reminisce around a firepit in the backyard and commend an old friend to his maker.
No, this is the place where we read from an ancient book, partake in traditions and sing some songs. The question is why do we do it? What’s in it for me? Can’t I get the same benefit from listening to music on my headphones and taking a walk on the beach? After all, that’s a great place to recharge my batteries.
That’s true, in part. We can definitely benefit psychologically from taking time off to reconnect with ourselves and nature in a beautiful location. We can become whole again, at least, for a little while.
But that’s where the benefit ends. That beautiful sunset never guarantees another sunset. That ‘time off’ transitions to work time and all the expectations, pressures and demands return again. The demands and expectations of family life flood back in. The burdens of life return and you might feel like a beast of burden.
Kind of makes you wish you stayed at the beach, doesn’t it?
Jesus of Nazareth said the following:
28“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”(Matthew 11)
He didn’t say he would pull you out of your circumstances and put you on easy street. He simply says that He will give you rest. Psalm 55:22 states, ‘Cast your burden upon the LORD and He will sustain you’.
Today, many of you come burdened. A dear friend, neighbor, and family member has died. This weighs heavy on the heart. Where can we go to unload the feelings, all the feelings we have?
The first followers of Jesus felt troubled about something Jesus had said in John chapter 13. You see, Jesus told them, “Where I am going, you cannot come” (Jn. 13:33). These followers had given up their entire lives, reputations and livelihoods to follow Jesus. They had followed him everywhere. They had gone to God-forsaken places and the Temple, synagogues and lowly homes. They saw Jesus healing the blind, curing the lame, and raising the dead. They were with him everywhere.
Now, though, He was going somewhere that they couldn’t. At least, not yet. We know this because John writes that Jesus was talking about his own death and return to God the Father. That He was going to be falsely accused, tried, and unjustly sentenced to death. That He was going to be beaten, whipped, spat upon and crowned with thorns upon his head. That He was going to carry a heavy burden; a wooden crossbar upon which he would hang.
Then, God put a burden on Jesus that no one else could bear. In that God-forsaken place outside of Jerusalem, Golgotha, Jesus became our scapegoat.
Then, the follower of Jesus, John, writes that Jesus told them that he was going ahead of them for a purpose. He was going ahead of them to prepare a place. He was going ahead of them to be a good host for when they arrive. Jesus, who lived a selfless life, would continue this selflessness after his death and resurrection. He gave up everything for them.
And that’s just what impacted John so powerfully. You see, the Gospel of John is all about God’s Kingdom arriving here on earth through His Son, Jesus. All of the miracles, His birth, baptism in the Jordan, preaching and teaching pointed to the fact that the King had come. But He didn’t come to exact judgement upon us. Jesus Christ, God the Son, came to rescue you and me. He came to rescue us from the greatest burden we bear, the burden of death.
On that cross outside of Jerusalem, 2,000 years ago, Jesus became the scapegoat for every man, woman and child in the entire world. The wandering King, who had no place to lay his head in this world, was crushed for all. He was crushed for you, dear friend.
He was crushed for the Reverend Donald Wilkowski, too. The impact this made on him lead Don Wilkowski to give up being an engineer to follow His savior into God-forsaken places, Temples, McMansions, lowly houses. He followed Jesus here, to serve and care for God’s people, helping them to bear their burdens in this life. He followed Jesus to the Father’s House where Jesus has prepared a place for him.
And the Jesus he followed is calling you, too. Jesus tells you now,
“I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.
Acts 4:12 states:
“And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”
This Selfless King has become your savior. He has already taken on the burden of death. You don’t need to get cleaned up first. You don’t need to fix your issues. Not every ‘i’ has to be dotted and every ‘t’ crossed. That’s Jesus’ job. He simply says to you “Come”.
It is God’s will for you. Paul write in 1 Timothy 2:
3This is good, and pleases God our Savior, 4who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. 5For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus, 6who gave himself as a ransom for all people.
The great rescue has begun. Heaven awaits. It is a place free of the burdens of life in this world. Jesus is there waiting for you and me to arrive. It is a place of Joy, peace and Love. All made possible because of Jesus, who is the only way there.