Sunday Services at 10:00am
1155 Silas Deane Highway, Wethersfield
"He must become greater; I must become less." (John 3:30)
As we enter the third month of 2015, one thing has been clear this year for me: it has been the year of the funeral. In January, I performed the celebration of life service for Phil Vaglica, the first member (although not the first person) of our church to pass away while I’ve been the pastor. A few weeks later I was attending Wes Feshler’s funeral, remembering another man who had been a part of our church and a wonderful brother in Christ over the past few years. Last week, I found myself performing a funeral for another woman, the mother of a good friend who had recently visited our church. And I know that other church members have lost close family members and friends already in 2015 as well.
One of the most meaningful moments for me of Phil’s celebration of life service was when I was able to share honestly about some of his character flaws and quirks of personality, and then say “Phil wasn’t perfect. But that’s okay, because he wasn’t the hero of his story – Jesus was.” Having been to funerals where the recently departed is spoken of only in positive terms, as if they were an angel put on this earth, I know it can feel almost irreverent to be honest about not only the good qualities but also the difficult aspects of a person when they die. But when their story is that of a sinner saved by grace, it feels more appropriate, more right, to speak honestly of the deceased while elevating Jesus and His salvation and grace in the person’s life.
I thought about this reality again this past week as I read the news that Josh Hamilton – the former baseball prodigy, who became a drug addict, then a Christian, then the MVP of the American League – had relapsed into cocaine and alcohol abuse (you can watch his testimony here). Most people are familiar enough with addiction to know that relapses happen, and that Hamilton deserves prayer and support and not condemnation for falling again into sin. But since Hamilton proclaims Jesus Christ as His Savior, his story can be spun one of two ways: either he is a hypocrite who preaches one thing but acts like a sinner, or he is a sinner saved by grace, who despite being saved, is daily in need of God’s grace in order to keep him clean and in step with Jesus.
As the singer-songwriter Andrew Peterson put it:
“It’s the great, confounding reversal of the Gospel of Jesus. If the word we preach is one of attainable perfection, of law, of justification by works, then when we fail, our testimony fails with it. But if we preach our deep brokenness and Christ’s deeper healing, if we preach our inability to take a single breath but for God’s grace, then our weakness exalts him and we’re functioning as we were meant to since the foundation of the world.”
The gospel of grace reminds us that Jesus is the hero of our story. We may call ourselves Christians, but that does not mean we are elevating ourselves as the model of holy living. It means that our sins have been forgiven, our hearts transformed, and our future hope promised by Jesus and His perfect life and sacrificial death on the cross for us. As long as we continue to elevate Him as the hero of our story, then whether we conquer our sins or stumble and fall, His love and grace will continue to be magnified. And when it comes time for us to die, Jesus will be the one celebrated for all the good He did with our lives.
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