This sermon is one that I gave without a manuscript. Instead, I used a few notes. This written version is constructed from my notes.
Scripture - Psalm 138
1 I give you thanks, O LORD, with my whole heart; before the gods I sing your praise;
2 I bow down towards your holy temple
and give thanks to your name for your steadfast love and your faithfulness;
for you have exalted your name and your word above everything.*
3 On the day I called, you answered me,
you increased my strength of soul.*
4 All the kings of the earth shall praise you, O LORD,for they have heard the words of your mouth.
5 They shall sing of the ways of the LORD,
for great is the glory of the LORD.
6 For though the LORD is high, he regards the lowly;
but the haughty he perceives from far away.
7 Though I walk in the midst of trouble,
you preserve me against the wrath of my enemies; you stretch out your hand,
and your right hand delivers me.
8 The LORD will fulfil his purpose for me;
your steadfast love, O LORD, endures for ever. Do not forsake the work of your hands.
Sermon: “What Would You Do?”
If you knew this was the last year of your life, what would you do?
Would you feel compelled to responsibility? Would you feel you had to work harder to be sure those you would leave behind were taken care of once you were gone? Or would you want to follow frivolous pursuits, partying day in and day out, because, you know – “eat, drink, and be merry for tomorrow you shall die?” Or, would you allow your heart to lead you? Would you seek to make others happy while you still had the chance? Would you make changes, or would you just continue to do what you’ve been doing all along?
I’ve been reading this book by Henri J. M. Nouwen called Sabbatical Journey. Henri Nouwen was a Roman Catholic priest who had a career as seminary professor at the University of Notre Dame, and at the Divinity Schools of Yale and Harvard. He eventually felt called to leave that life to live and work at L’Arche Daybreak, a community for special needs adults in Toronto. As Iread this book, I became fascinated with something that the reader knows, but that Father Nouwen does not know. You see, the full title of the book is Sabbatical Journey, The Diary of His Final Year.
I began to notice Nouwen’s notes about feeling tired and not feeling well. As I read through his days, I noticed his complaints about things he wanted to do, but never seemed to get done. In the midst of these things, though, I noticed something else as well. I saw what he WAS doing.
He was traveling, visiting family, writing – if even just a daily diary entry. He was meeting with friends, teaching, reflecting on a life of service and giving time and pastoral care to special needs adults. He was giving thanks every day, even on a bad day.
Henri Nouwen didn’t know that it was the last year of his life, yet he let his heart lead him.
They say that Jesus did know when he was in HIS last year of life. There’s no doubt that he knew it on the night that he was betrayed. Nevertheless, he went where he knew his betrayer could find him. In the garden, he prayed for God to deliver him from darkness.
Jesus knew the political and religious climate in which he worked and taught. Most assuredly, He knew that his actions would lead to his death. Still, he followed his heart and did the work that he understood God had given him to do.
He travelled, spent time with friends, and taught. He gave time and pastoral care to children and to those in need. He gave thanks even in the midst of trouble.
We all know we are going to leave this earthly life sometime. We just don’t know when it’s going to happen. It’s easy to get caught up in whatever is happening to us without making a conscious choice to live in a certain way. It’s easy to get caught up on living for self-satisfaction, fame, or wealth for its own sake. Other choices are available to us, but we find ourselves seeking what the world tells us we should want to be. That is: rich, famous, beautiful, and admired by others and by ourselves.
But, in trying to live for these things, we are often disappointed. We fall short of our hopes and our true personalities are lost in other people’s dreams thrust upon us. Too often, we end our lives never achieving happiness. Becoming rich and famous isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but sometimes there is a better way for us.
If YOU knew this was the last year that you would walk among the living, would you change your life?
Knowing, Jesus chose to follow his heart and to live the life that God gave him to live. Not knowing, Henri Nouwen chose the same. He admired Jesus and saw beauty and purpose in the life that Jesus led. Indeed, he recognized Christ’s life on this earth as the ultimate model for living a Godly life in love and service. Did either of them find happiness? Perhaps not, at least not the kind of happiness we might think we want, but it is certain that they brought happiness to others while they were here.
They brought purpose to the lives of others in the work they left behind. Henri Nouwen left us his writings about finding relationship with God. Jesus left us his Way to find relationship in God and a helper in the Holy Spirit.
In the past few weeks, Pastor Rosemary has been leading us in discussion about how Primera Iglesia - WE – can make a difference in our community. We have been making lists of ways we can change our life as a church and our lives as individuals so we can change the lives of others.
Just as I believe that the Holy Spirit led Henri Nouwen to live a life in service and in relationship with God, I believe the Holy Spirit will lead us to live as God calls us to live; to be Christ’s church; to be a balm in a hurting world.
Each of us can live our lives differently, or we can live just the way we have been living – it’s our choice!
I, for one, am choosing to live my life as if it were my last. Some things will have to change. Some things will stay the same. With the help of the Holy Spirit, I will live my life in faith, building relationships, spending time with family and friends, and finding ways to serve others in the midst of a busy life. Finally, I will live my life giving thanks.
With the Psalmist, I will say, “I give you thanks, O Lord, with my whole heart.”