Sermon 1/5/2018 “A time capsule life”

Preacher: Jo J. Belser
Location: Church of the Resurrection
Text: John 11:21-27
Day: Karl Boughan’s Memorial Service

“A time capsule life”

You are in a time capsule today, a literal time capsule.

You know what a time capsule is, don’t you? A time capsule is something we collect now and leave for people in the future to discover and use. A time capsule is usually intended to give future people (such as archaeologists, anthropologists, or historians) a glimpse into who we are and what motivates us to act the way we do. A time capsule is our intentional witness to the future, if and when we decide to create and leave this kind of witness. Not a legacy, but a witness.

If you were going to create a time capsule, what things and what information would you include? Undoubtedly you would include a photo or video of your family, those you love, and others who are important to you. You might include a recording of the music you love. You might tell what you did to earn a living, and what touched your soul when you got to play instead of work. You might include your conclusions about the purpose of “life, the universe, and everything,” or just why you thought you existed.

Karl Boughan is one of the things (most dear!) we place in our Church of the Resurrection time capsule today. Karl was one of the very best things about Resurrection. He came here, originally, when he was “four days dead,” like Lazarus in today’s gospel lesson. This might sound backwards to you. You might ask me to explain, pointing out that Karl didn’t die until last week. And I will tell you what Karl would tell you, if he could speak for himself today, that when he came here he was “lost,” that he was in that “lost decade” you might have read of in the biography of Karl’s life. He was “four days dead.”

And yet, Jesus loved Karl, just like he loved his friend Lazarus so long ago, just like he loves each of you, and me today: beyond measure. So, Jesus poked Will—a longtime member here, and pointed out to Will that it was cold, and Karl didn’t own a coat. So, Will gave his coat to Karl. Not an extra coat from his closet, but the coat off his back, literally; Will took off his coat and handed it to Karl. Karl was touched, and Karl returned. He didn’t dwell on this part of his story, but he made no secret of it, either. He wanted everyone to know that Christ Jesus calls sinners, not he pure, to repentance, just like he calls dead people, not the living, into life.

This dead Karl I speak of happened a long time ago, you understand. In recent years Karl was vibrantly alive, paying forward all that he had been given: his musical gifts, his love of learning, his awareness that not everyone who appears to be alive really is alive (but can be), that a little help can go a long way in providing hope, his rock-solid belief in Christ Jesus and his deep conviction of life eternal. And, over time, Karl’s belief in a far-away, all-powerful but unknowable God changed into a living relationship with Jesus Christ. He was wise and, for the most part, gentle. He spent a lot of time helping others. Karl wasn’t quite sure how and when it all happened, but something had happened to him over time, and his became a living, daily relationship with Christ Jesus. Not that we Episcopalians talk about such things much; it’s one of our failings. But we sing about them, and every hymn today is one that Karl loved deeply.

Do you believe that you will never die? (I do!) Like Lazarus’ angry sister Martha, who deeply grieved her brother’s loss, Karl believed that Jesus is the Christ and that, through him, he would never die. Karl had already received, had already experienced new life in Christ, you see, right here in this time capsule. Before the surgery to repair the damage to his neck from his fall, the most unimaginable outcome to Karl was not death, but the possibility that he might not be able to sing when all was said and done. And yet, shortly before he died, when he could speak at last, Karl merely expressed gratitude for all that had been done for him.

I pray that God has or will give you the kind of faith that Martha had so long ago, the kind of faith that Karl had. “Yes Lord, I believe that I will never die.” And, I will add, I believe that Karl is singing now, even more gloriously than he ever did here in his earthly life. Which isn’t to say that we are not grieving Karl’s loss. But we know, deep in our hearts, that we can’t really keep Karl in a time capsule. All we can do is rejoice that he found life in this life, before he died, rejoice that we were privileged to know him, and that he found life everlasting.

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