Richard Carpenter – March 21st, 2018 – John 8:31-36
In the Name of Christ the Crucified +
In the Name of Christ the Crucified +
Donald, Ray, Connie, family and friends of Richard our brother in Christ, grace, mercy, and peace be unto you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen. Richard was and is a free man in Christ Jesus. Richard's sudden death hit me hard, as I'm sure it hit you all hard, and I'll admit I was at a loss as to how to preach this sermon – how precisely to proclaim Christ Jesus at work for and in His servant Richard. And then it was suggested that it would be nice if our readings were the same as the readings at Richard's mother's service – and that was a wonderful suggestion. Lamentations 3 is a great text, full of comfort – proclaiming the steadfast love and mercy of God, which is something we who mourn always need to remember. And then Revelation 21 – the New Jerusalem coming as a bride – the reminder of the joy and wonder that Richard now sees and delights in – oh, that too is a rich and powerful text. Richard is in excellent hands now, and because of Christ's love for Richard and Christ's love for us, we shall be reunited and see these things together – Christ who reigns will indeed make all things new! But then, then the most wonderful one – one not always the most common for a funeral but perfect. John 8. Richard was and is a free man in Christ.
Our text starts with Jesus' famous phrase, “If you abide in My Word, you are truly My disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” Oh, and this text gets used and misapplied to so many things – where basically any fact or idea is described as liberating, what have you. However, when Jesus speaks of “the truth” He's not speaking about some random facts or medical advancements or social justice or anything like that. This isn't about taking some sort of test to be set free or book-learning or anything like that. This Jesus who says that the Truth will set you free later in John says, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life”. Jesus is the truth who sets people free, and the Son made Richard a free man. Jesus claimed Richard in the waters of Holy Baptism and kept Richard in His Word.
Richard was always eager to hear the Word of God. Whenever I'd go over to Harvest view, He'd be ready to hear again and again Jesus' love for him. If Richard didn't come to service, I knew he had to be feeling really under the weather – and even then, a time or two when he wasn't feeling that great he'd sit in the next sitting room where he could still hear the Word, still hear Jesus' love for Him. Still receive the Supper. Richard certainly did abide in the Word, and He knew the truth that Jesus Christ died for him and rose for him and that because of Jesus he was forgiven. Richard knew the Truth, and the Truth set him free.
When Jesus first said that statement, people complained. They didn't want to accept any idea of their limits or short-comings – you can hear the defiance in the text- we have never been enslaved to anyone! Hear the indignance? And so often we wish to live in denial of our own limitations, pretend they aren't there, and we just end up making them worse. Richard didn't – he was a free man in Christ. He didn't feel the need to pretend he could do everything, he didn't feel the need to downplay his limitations – rather He lived freely and joyously as one redeemed by Christ the Crucified and blessed by God richly. He didn't live to prove anything to anyone – he simply was free in Christ.
Jesus explained what that indignance really is. Everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin. Now, please don't misunderstand, I'm not implying at all that Richard didn't sin. He could be cantankerous on occasion – even around the pastor – but again, that was something he was honest about. He didn't dwell in self-righteous bluster. He knew he didn't need to! Instead Richard dwelt in Christ. The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. Richard dwelt in Christ, and the love that Jesus had for Richard is what dominated and shaped the way Richard viewed his life. He could roll with things, accept them as they were – the Son set Richard free from His sin – and Richard was free indeed.
And Richard is free, right now, with His Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Not to get too sappy, but I don't know if I can think of anyone I've met who would enjoy being with Christ more than Richard, who would simply delight in it all more than him. And that's where he is. He is with His Jesus, and having a grand time with Him. And while we mourn that our time with Richard was shorter than we wanted or expected it to be, we rejoice for him. Richard enjoys his freedom moreso now than we have ever seen, he delights in Christ Jesus His Savior. God grant us His Holy Spirit, so that we are comforted in our grief, and so that we too will join with Richard in his joy and freedom in Christ Jesus for all eternity. In the Name of Christ the Crucified +