What God creates, God loves; and what God loves, God loves everlastingly. I hope that you will hold on to those words. They are the thread that runs through everything we will do here today. They are the thread that runs through everything I will say to you. They are the thread that ran through Roger’s life, his dying, and his being raised up to new life. They are the thread that continues to tie his life to yours and yours to his.
I didn’t really know Roger. We never had any conversations. I can’t tell you stories about what he was like, what he did, or what he said. I really only have one story about him and I’ll tell you that in a just few minutes.
As I learned about Roger from others there were two things consistently said. First, he was a “kind soul.” He was a good man with a big heart. He cared about people. He was helpful and generous, sometimes to his own detriment. The second thing I was told is that Roger was different. He was a bit slower than others, enough to be recognized and too often treated as being different.
When I heard that I wondered what difference his being different made to others. Because you know as well as I that the world can be a difficult place when you are different. The world can be way to quick to see and name difference as a deficiency and way to slow to create a place and space for one who is different. And too often that one lives at the extremes of either being avoided or taken advantage of.
It’s easy when you are different to become lost; lost to the world, lost to others, lost to oneself. And I suspect there were times like that for Roger. But I want you to know this. There is one in this life and world to whom we are never lost, to whom we can never become lost. That was true for Roger and it’s true for us. In whatever ways Roger may have been lost to the world, to others, or to himself, he was never lost to Christ.
In Christ everyone, every single person, is loved, called by name, and claimed as a beloved child. Jesus is the one for whom difference makes no difference. “I will never drive away anyone who comes to me,” Jesus says. Not anyone, not Roger, not you, not me. There is not enough difference in the world to keep us apart from the love of Christ.
In Christ no one is ever lost or left behind. “This is the will of my Father, that I should lose nothing of what he has given me.” Not Roger, not you, not me. “But that I should raise them up on the last.” “I will rise them up on the last day” without regard to who they are, what they are like, how they are different, or what they’ve done or left undone. That’s the raising up love of Christ, the raising up love of Christ that filled Roger’s life here on earth and continues to fill his life, the raising up love of Christ that fills you and me.
The raising up love of Christ means difference makes no difference and we are never ultimately lost. And that’s really good news not just for Roger but for you and me, because he’s not the only one who’s ever been seen as different or felt lost. I’ve known what it’s like to be lost, haven’t you? I’ve known what it’s like to feel or be seen as different from others and I’ll bet you have too.
Whatever that lostness might feel like for you, whatever that difference might be, and whatever those were for Roger, they are always defeated and overcome by the raising up love of Christ. In a strange way, the difference and lostness of Roger in this life and world now become for us the promise that all shall be well. He is the witness that in Christ difference make no difference and that we are never truly or finally lost. He now declares for us that the raising up love of Christ really is real. The promises of today’s gospel (John 6:37-40) have been fulfilled in and through Roger’s life, and they being fulfilled in your life and in my life.
I’ve wondered what I might have learned from Roger if we had had some conversations. I wonder what his life might have taught me about mine. I’m pretty sure there was something there for me to learn. And I am willing to bet he taught you something about yourself and your life. Maybe he enlarged your life, made it more beautiful, touched it in a way that forever changed you. Maybe there was a word, a glance, a shared moment that you will forever cherish that helps you feel less lost and not so different.
That has not ended. Those things are just as real and present today as they were day they happened. Life has changed, not ended. So I will listen to his life, seek out his presence, and see what he might have to say to me. Maybe you will as well.
I told you I had a story about him. It happened on a Tuesday in this church almost sixty-nine years ago. It was November 22, 1949 to be exact. Roger came here with his brothers and sisters and the water of God’s life was poured over his head. He was immersed in the love of Christ that day. He was named as a beloved child. He was sealed by the Holy Spirit in baptism and marked as Christ’s own forever. Forever. Nothing could or would ever undo that. And my guess is that throughout his life Roger was always swimming in and navigating the waters of his baptism. Those water represent the raising up love of Christ.
So when you hear Jesus say, “I will rise them up on the last day,” don’t think that means it’s the end or that it’s all over. This raising up love of Christ is happening all the time – it was there at our birth, in our baptism, throughout our life, in our dying, and in our rising. And it’s on that last day, the one that looks like the end, that we discover it’s really just the beginning. The last day is also the first day.
From our perspective death looks like the last day. We can name the day and maybe even the time of Roger’s death but he never knew that moment. He simply passed from this life to the next life and the thread of God’s love remains unbroken. The waters of Roger’s baptism have never dried. Those waters continue to wash him in the love and presence Christ. Now that doesn’t take away our grief or stop our tears. It means, however, that death does not have the final word for Roger or us. And that’s why on this day, even as we come to what looks like the end, even as we stand at the grave, we can make our song, “Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia.”
For Christ, for Roger, for you, for me, for all those we love but no longer see. “Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia.”