from the Gospel of St. John
“Jesus said to the crowds, ’I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst. But I told you that although you have seen me, you do not believe. Everything that the Father gives me will come to me, and I will not reject anyone who comes to me, because I came down from heaven not to do my own will but the will of the one who sent me. And this is the will of the one who sent me, that I should not lose anything of what he gave me, but that I should raise it on the last day. For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in him may have eternal life, and I shall raise him on the last day.'”
Preachers who begin by saying, “Words cannot express…” continue to use words for the next thirty minutes. Mine is not that long because I have nothing new to tell you. You already know what I’m about to say. So I guess lengthy preachers are right, “Words cannot express.”
Our prayer tonight is genuinely and powerfully that. A prayer. Not a judgment which offers no resolution, not self-blaming which, like a gerbil in a cage which keeps going around and around in circles, and it’s not a repeating gossip which further destroys someone’s character. And most importantly, it’s not about playing God in our evaluations or appraisals of someone. Jim thought he was God and he was wrong.
The most challenging part of being a Christian isn’t the believing. We so often think that it’s all about the beliefs. We can say and believe whatever we wish, but the hardest part of being a Christian is, well, being a Christian. It is our actions that speak louder than words, as the saying goes.
Being a Christian is the Prayer of St. Francis – in words, of course, but full of and requiring our complete attention and action.
“Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me bring love.
Where there is offense, let me bring pardon.
Where there is discord, let me bring union.”
Are you grounded? We often don’t think about it or answer that question but we should. What grounds your life? When “error, doubt, despair and darkness” surround your life, what holds you down in safety, what light continues to burn; even if it’s only a flicker? That’s the grounding that will help and support your handling today and knowing there is a tomorrow. Jim despaired and forgot about tomorrow.
“Where there is error, let me bring truth.
Where there is doubt, let me bring faith.
Where there is despair, let me bring hope.
Where there is darkness, let me bring your light.”
Outside my kitchen window, while writing this on a cold, snowy Monday evening, I saw a bird fly overhead. Probably looking for some place warm to land. Wondering to herself, “What state am I in? It’s mid-April and here’s this crappy weather!” What happened here? It’s an unanswered question that we all ask tonight: “What happened here?” You may have some hints and vague clues, but you will never know the complete answer. That’s the mystery of life we live, and that’s the mystery of faith that grounds us, and we hold onto dearly, “for dear life.”
My admonition for you tonight and in the months and years ahead is not to define Jim by his tragic, self-death. He was still a complete person who lived, loved, breathed, touched the lives of many, contributed and took, and tried the best he could. In memories held in your heart and through your stories told about Jim, please consider the whole person. It’s beneficial in remembering him, and it’s healthy for you who continue your lives. Jim succeeded in some ways and failed in others. Christians call that sin and grace. And we believe and act more on the beauty of God’s grace than hopelessly dwelling on our own sins.
Jim either forgot or ignored. Let us never lose our grounding in our own potential and belief that there is a tomorrow and faithfully put into action – in our families, in our friendships, within ourselves – a merciful and hope-filled God.