Summary: For Remembrance Sunday 1995, commemorating those who had died in the previous year: their lives remind us to embrace but not misuse our freedom, to love without limitations, and to serve concerns wider than our own lives.
Before I begin, let me ask you first to turn to Galatians 5: 13, and be ready to read it with me in a little while.
[Read II Corinthians 3: 1-3]
I have an announcement to make. The most amazing thing has happened. We have found another letter from the Lord to the churches. We have discovered an extra letter.
You know how over the past seven weeks we have been working through the seven letters to the churches of Asia? You remember that we have spent time plowing through what the Lord wrote to the churches in places like Ephesus and Thyatira and Pergamum and Laodicea? Well, I am proud to announce that we have found an extra letter; we have discovered an eighth letter to go with the seven in the Book of Revelation. Isn’t that astounding!
Let me tell you about this extra letter. Maybe you remember that each of the original seven letters began with the phrase, "I know"? I know your works, I know where you live, I know your affliction. Do you remember that? Well, the eighth letter has that very same feature. The extra letter also carries the Lord’s powerful phrase, "I know." It really is quite a special thing, to have found this extra letter.
Then, too, maybe you recall that in each of the seven letters in the Book of Revelation, the Lord admonishes the church to be faithful in very specific ways. Do you remember how He told the church at Smyrna to return to their first love, to set their priorities straight? And then He said, "Be faithful." Do you recall how He cried out to the church at Thyatira about their sexual sins, and pointed out how badly they would be hurt if they were not faithful? Do you remember the formula of the seven letters: "I know ... be faithful."?
Well, that applies to the eighth letter too. "Be faithful" is the watchword of this extra letter. Can you see how excited I am to discover that we have found, right here in our church, this extra letter from the Lord?
Well, I will not keep you in suspense much longer. In just a moment I will read you the text of the extra letter. But before I do, maybe we should remind ourselves, one more time, of the thrust of the seven original letters. Maybe we should recite, one more time, the key verse we used for seven weeks. It begins, "Be faithful ... " Can you say it with me:
"Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life."
Again: "Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life."
And now, will you also read with me Galatians 5:13:
Do you remember that this is the theme verse for our church this year? From this verse we have drawn our annual theme, "Freedom, Love, and Service." What is our theme for the year again? "Freedom, Love, and Service."
Say again the verse from Revelation .. "Be faithful ... "
Now: here is the text of the special delivery, extra letter, the eighth letter to the church. This letter does differ from the others. It isn’t written on paper; it is not in a book. I cannot photocopy it and pass it around. This letter is unique. This letter is written in lives. This letter is written in human experience. This is the letter prepared by those who have lived among us. And, as Paul said to the Corinthians, they are "a letter of Christ, prepared by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.
Let’s read this extra letter.
And to the angel of the church in Takoma write: These are the words of the saints among you, those who dwelt where you dwell, who have passed from life through death unto eternal life.
We know your works. We know what kind of church you are. We know what makes you special, for we participated in shaping you. We helped to make you what you are, good or bad, right or wrong, success or failure. We are your living letters. And we admonish you: Be faithful. Be faithful in freedom, love, and service.
First, we know that you have been a church which has cherished freedom. We know that from the earliest days you have encouraged independence of mind and openness of spirit. We know that you celebrate the diversity within your ranks. We have even heard that if you get three members of Takoma discussing some issue, you will get at least four different opinions! We know that you have cherished freedom.
But we have this to say to you. We have this to admonish you. Embrace all sorts of people and help them to be truly free. Embrace all kinds of people, with all kinds of needs, and help them find freedom. Help them know the grace of a loving Lord that gives true freedom. You are called to freedom, brothers and sisters.