Summary: This is a funeral message for a family with differing memories of the contribution of the deceased to their lives. Deals with anger, feelings and memories.
September 25, 2002
Luke 18: 9-14
I did not know_____________. Oh I had met a man by that name but I am sure that none of you would really call the man I met less than a year ago the __________of most of your memories. Many of your memories of _______________are perhaps pictures of a robust young man…perhaps. Perhaps your memories of ____________are of a man who worked hard and provided a living for his family or families…perhaps. Perhaps your picture of _________________is not so gracious as either of these…perhaps.
I know how I feel about the ______________that I was introduced to less than a year ago. And, perhaps we do not share similar feelings about _________________.Perhaps you feel anger because ______________was not all you wanted and less than you expected…perhaps. Perhaps you are feeling guilty because of that anger or because you don’t feel you did enough for ________________ or others that surrounded his life and his dying…perhaps. Perhaps you feel sadness at the loss of a man with whom you had unfinished business…perhaps.
Memories and feelings are interesting things. Two people see the same traffic accident. One says that the car that was involved in the hit and run was a small white car. Witness number two says that the vehicle was a full sized Navy Blue car. Which one is right? They both saw the same accident.
Two people are raised in the same house, under the same rules, by the same person or persons. One person feels anger at a particular set of circumstances and never understands why. While person number 2 accepts that stuff happens and sometimes we get double stuffed in this world and never even asks why and just somehow understands. Which person’s feelings are appropriate? Well perhaps they both are. And perhaps it is OK and natural to be both angry and happy at the same time. Perhaps it is OK and natural to remember the good, the bad, even the ugly at the same time…perhaps.
In the scripture passage that I have chosen for today we see just such a disparity in thought and feeling. One person approaches a holy, righteous, just and merciful God and is driven to examine himself. And, in that examination he finds himself wanting. He finds himself insufficient. The other person approaches the same place of worship. He approaches the same holy, righteous, just and merciful God and upon examination he too finds the first person wanting. He too finds the first person insufficient. They are both right in their assessment of the first guy.
However the rub, as far as scripture is concerned is that the lesson that Jesus teaches in this parable is that in all areas of life we are first and for most called to examine self in regards to sin. To look inwards at what we have done, why we have done it and ask the question, “Am I right before this holy, righteous, just and merciful God.” The other lesson in this passage is that when we look at the mistakes, the short comings and the mistakes of others regardless of how grievous, we are the ones who are damaged in the process. With our eyes on others we never become whole.
Jesus earlier in his earthly ministry tells another story about two men. This time he tells us that each man owed a third some money. One man owed a small amount and the other owed a very large amount. Jesus says that the third man, who is owed both sums decides to forgive both men of their debt. Jesus then asks his disciples, “Which of the two men will be most grateful, the one who owed much or the one who owed little?” To which they replied, “Why of course, the one who owed much.” Jesus said, “You have chosen correctly, and so it is with the Father in Heaven. He who has been forgiven much, loves much and he who is forgiven little loves little.”
What do these two stories have to do with Claude Wiseman? For we seem always called at the death of a person to examine that life. That after all, is perhaps…natural. And as we look back we can conclude that there are some skeleton’s in ___________ closet. Perhaps there may even be several. But the thing that I am most drawn to at times like this is to examine my own life. For I want to come away from this place today in right standing before a holy, righteous, just and merciful God. And, when I examine Jeff Stratton’s closet it looks to me to be the work of a serial skeleton collector and so I say, “Lord be merciful on me, a sinner.”
You see the most important look in retrospect is not upon the life of ________________but upon the life of…us. Where do each of us stand in relationship to a holy, righteous, just and merciful God. This kind of day is and always will be about us and not the one who now rests from toil and tears, sorrows and suffering, good acts or bad. That is what the first story tells us today, if any good is to come from what we do here it must come from within and must be centered with whom we most closely associate our actions, our words and our thoughts. Are we the tax collector right now or are we perhaps the Pharisee.