A Sermon for the Memorial Mass for Lynn Bolin, November 3, 2018
St. Dunstan’s Anglican Church, Largo, FL
The Very Reverend. J. Michael Strachan
Romans 8:31-39; John 14:1-6
Nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Not even death. In all things, we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height or depth, not anything else in all creation is able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
But it’s not God from whom we feel separated today, but our sister Lynn. We feel our loss this morning, and Jesus speaks the words we heard read in our Gospel reading this morning into a context of loss. Jesus has just told his disciples that is going away, and where he is going, they cannot follow. He says that eventually, they will follow after him, but not now. Peter is filled with such tremendous separation anxiety at that thought of being separated from the one he loves, that he protests and commits to being by Jesus’ side to the very end. “I will lay down my life for you,” Peter says.
Into this context of loss, into our context of loss, Jesus says, “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me.” Each of these statements is connected. The reason we are not to let our hearts be troubled in our feeling of loss is because we believe in the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the God who created heaven and earth, the God from whose love we cannot be separated, the God who raised Jesus the Messiah the dead. And so, if we believe in God, then we should also believe in Jesus, then we should believe in Jesus, whom he raised, and who will one day raise Lynn and us too.
Until to this point, Jesus has only told his disciples that he’s going away, but now he tells them where he’s going. We are so used to hearing these words and thinking about mansions up in the sky that their obvious context and their obvious referent. “In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?” (John 14:2). This would have been perplexing to Jesus’ disciples, and it should be perplexing to us too, except we already think that we know what it means.
Earlier in John’s Gospel, at the beginning of Jesus’s ministry, he came to Jerusalem at Passover, and in the Temple he found those who were selling animals and doing money exchanges, and he poured out their coins and flipped over their tables saying, “Take these things away; do not make my Father’s house a house of trade” (John 2:16). Here he is clearly referring to the Temple, and yet when he speaks about his Father’s house in our reading, which is later in John’s Gospel, we assume he means something else. Not the Temple, but heaven.
But think about what the Temple is. It is the place where heaven and earth connect. It is the place where two realities, heaven and earth, God’s realm and ours, realities that seem fundamentally at odds can find a way to coexist. And only one person once a year can enter this sacred space, but now Jesus says that this is exactly where he’s going, to this Father’s house, to the Temple, just as the Messiah was expected to do, and when he gets there, what he’s going to do is prepare a place for us, so that one day we will be reunited with him and the ones we love in that place where earth is so filled with heaven and our bodies so transformed and renewed and raised from the dead that we call it the new creation.
Thomas is rightly confused about what Jesus has said. Maybe you’re a little confused today too. He doesn’t understand. He doesn’t know where Jesus is going and so he doesn’t know the way. Jesus says to Thomas, and to us, “ἐγώ εἰμι ἡ ὁδὸς καὶ ἡ ἀλήθεια καὶ ἡ ζωή.” I AM the way. I AM the truth. I AM the life.
Lynn Bolin has gone on ahead of us, but she is not gone. She is separated from us for the moment, but not completely. More importantly, while she may be separated from us for a time, she is not and never has been and never will be separated from the love of her God in Christ Jesus her Lord. And that’s what matters most. Because Lynn knew, just like Deacon Bill and so many others in this room know, that all of life’s great existential questions can be boiled down to one simple question: Do you believe Jesus? When he says to his disciples and to us in cryptic, shorthand code that his death, resurrection, and ascension will bring him into the new creation where he will go and prepare a place for us until it’s time to bring us there with him, do you believe him? When Jesus says the unthinkable, not just that he knows the way or that he knows the truth or that he’s experienced new life, but much more boldly that he is, like God himself, THE way, THE truth, and THE life, do you believe him?
Lynn did. Or more precisely, Lynn does. Lynn now experiences what she believed, that nothing can separate her from the love of God in Christ Jesus her Lord, not even death. Now Lynn is at peace. She rests in the love of her Father. But that is not the end of her story, for a day will come when the trumpet sounds and the dead in Christ will rise. On that day our loss will be over. On that day death will be defeated forever. On that day Lynn will rise from the dead, and if like her we believe that Jesus is who he says he is, we will too.