7 For none of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself. 8 For if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord's. 9 For to this end Christ died and lived again, that he might be Lord both of the dead and of the living.
10 Why do you pass judgment on your brother? Or you, why do you despise your brother? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God; 11 for it is written,
“As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me,
and every tongue shall confess [shall give praise] to God.”
12 So then each of us will give an account of himself to God.
We all have a sermon we remember, more than all the others. (If you don't, you need to find one.)
Mine was an Episcopal priest. One Sunday, my newlywed husband & I were missing church, in our huge church, and we decided to attend the chapel (small) service at 5 in the afternoon. It was warm - everyone was very relaxed.
People, everyone, visited in the pews. "Did you hear? ~ Yes, it was in the newspapers. ~ I heard about that, was it really Father ----? ~ No, it was his son. ~ I read about that, and didn't know if it was him. ~ Where is he? ~~ He is very upset. ~ That's to be understood, I hope he has someone helping him. ~ I heard he was on sabbatical. ~~ Good for him, he'll need it. ~~ Did he have more children? ~ Did they know the other boy?"
Our priest, his 17 year boy, had been shot to death by a long time friend, a gun accident. It had been in the papers. As we visited - information was exchanged - people were sad - this was a loved man, a priest who had long been a loved part of the church family.
Our visiting was interrupted... a cassock-ed figure had stepped up to the small podium. In shock, we realized our Father had not gone on sabbatical. He began by ruefully looked up and said, " I can tell by the looks on all of your faces, you know about the terrible tragedy that befell my family this week." He glanced down, there was a grimace at the floor. He looked up, his expression squared away. "No matter, it is better you understand as we begin."
"No, let's begin from the beginning. This is a catharsis for me. Today, because of the circumstances, I will read from the text and give the sermon. We will be having the communion service today after the reading and sermon."
The Text today is Romans 14:7-12. And this precious man read it to us. Perfectly.
"Let me begin by saying, this was an accident between two young men exploring what it is grow up in an area of the country where men are familiar with fire arms. The young man who shot and accidentally killed my boy was unaware the gun, a hunting rifle, would go off. He is enormously distraught, as is his family. It will be many years before they, and we, recover from this. Your prayers would be appreciated."
"Although, I said that easily, as a man who has been a priest for many years. I do not mean to be that cliche and let me say on a softer note, please pray for this family, the boy who shot and, of course, my boy."
"Let me start out by quoting a song that I have often hummed, probably as I washed one of my first cars I ever owned. Well, the chorus:"
No one comes near.
Look at him working, darning his socks in the night when there's nobody there
What does he care?
All the lonely people
Where do they all come from?
All the lonely people
Where do they all belong?
Ah, look at all the lonely people
Ah, look at all the lonely people
Eleanor Rigby died in the church and was buried along with her name
Father McKenzie wiping the dirt from his hands as he walks from the grave
No one was saved
"This week, I've spent hours in the cemetery, at the grave of my son. It has been cathartic for me, to be there alone, the peace, the quiet, a place for prayer. About my fourth visit, I saw in the distance a little, little funeral. Sad. Lonely. A minister saying a prayer. I waited. I thought surely the minister was praying before people arrived. I prayed, at a distance, with him. Soon, I saw the lump of dirt going into the grave. At this point, as a man of God, who conducts funerals, I realized it was my duty to go over and be a mourner with this minister. He happened to look up, I waved and he waited for me to cross the cemetery to him."
When I arrived, I explained I was a priest & had the intention of joining with him in prayer. The minister said he'd be glad to have my company and we would read the service together. We did. I learned this was an elderly woman, who was old and had been part of the congregation for so long, people really didn't remember why she was without family or friends. She was very much like Eleanor Rigby. " Waits at the window, wearing the face that she keeps in a jar by the door. Who is it for?" She'd sat towards the back, by herself, for many years. People had assumed there were family or friends for her. Perhaps she had outlived them. But no one came. No one."
"My boy was blessed, he'd known something about life that this poor woman did not."
"If you never hear another sermon, hear me. This is what it is about."
"Every Day, you have the opportunity to build your life."
"What are you working towards?"
"Will people know the Light of Jesus Christ through you?"
"Do not end up as Eleanor Rigby, where no one was saved. "
"It is not all about you. You are called to save others with you."
"Every day, you build, you build your epitaph."
"Make each day count."
"Make each day end, knowing that you have served the Lord."