Summary: Life has stripes and blood and death. Each is a part of life. We know that but sometimes we turn the page too quickly, wanting only to think of the good things of life. In fact life would be so much easier if we could do just that. But it is in times like
Star Island is an island of the coast of New Hampshire, near Portsmouth. It is unique because half the island is in Maine and the other half is in New Hampshire. It is a place where New Englanders come to vacation, worship and sit in rockers on the front porch of the old Victorian Hotel. It is a very elegant setting. On the island also are more austere accommodations at the Star Island Camp where kids come to play tennis, swim in the ocean and enjoy fun activities. It is one of the best youth experiences a child can have. There is a story form that camp one day when a counselor was reading the story about the candy cane. She only read the part where the J stands for Jesus and upside down, it stands for the shepherd’s crook. Thinking the children were too young to hear that the stripes of the candy cane which stand for the strips and wounds on Jesus’ back, she skipped the pages. But a child noticed and demanded that she read the pages which were passed over. She read them but left the gory parts out. But the child continued to press her: “So why did they kill Jesus? And plus, who did it?”
Life has stripes and blood and death. Each is a part of life. We know that but sometimes we turn the page too quickly, wanting only to think of the good things of life. In fact life would be so much easier if we could do just that. But it is in times like these that we are confronted with the stripes and the death of life and it is time for us to dwell on this page, this moment of life.
We are here today because of love: our love for Sam and God’s love for him and us. It’s because we love people so deeply that their absence makes us hurt so much. Death is something that separates us. When we are separated from someone we love, we feel as though a part of us has been cut off. While death does separate us, we are told in the Scriptures that there is one thing from which death can never separate us and that is God’s love. Romans 8:38 says, “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
What kind of love is the love of God? It is a love that seeks. In the Scriptures, we are compared to sheep and that means we are prone to wander. “All we like sheep have gone astray.” And even faithful disciples and believers like Sam have moments and experiences where they have gone astray from the will and ways of God. But God sought out Sam to bring him home, just like God seeks for you and me when we go astray. That’s why Jesus is called the Good Shepherd, who was sent to seek the lost sheep and bring them safely back into the fold. Jesus said, “My sheep hear my voice, and I give unto them eternal life. And they shall never perish.”
But God’s love not only is a love that seeks, it’s a love that saves. Jesus said about his ministry, “the Son of Man has come to see and to save that which was lost.” A seeking and saving love reconnects us with the Creator. Sin separates. And the sin in our lives when we have chosen to do our will and pursue our dreams is a step away from God, creating a chasm between God and us. Saving love is a love which cares too much to leave us in that predicament. So Jesus came to save us from ourselves, reminding us that we were created to be in relationship with God, to honor and glorify him with our lives. But that chasm was so wide that only Jesus’ death on the cross could bridge that gap. So Jesus’ death on the cross was to carry the burden of our sins and pay the price for our sins as His punishment. Jesus died for the sins of the world and he died for Sam’s sins so that he might once again know a personal relationship with God. That’s be to God.
What kind of love is the love of God in Jesus Christ? It is a love that seeks, a love that saves and it is a love that stays. No matter how difficult the circumstances may be, God’s love will always be there. Even the very gates of hell are helpless to separate us from the love of God through Christ Jesus. Nothing in life and nothing in death can come between us and the love of God. God never turns his back on his children and God never withholds his love because of conduct. His love is an everlasting love that never changes….a love that keeps us secure in His loving arms.