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John 14:1-3, 25-27; Romans 8:31-39 In Memoriam 7 22 18

You will notice in your bulletin today that we are remembering Jim
Corrigan, who was connected to our church family over the last 10 years or so. In
his obituary, we read not only about his life in High Point, North Carolina,
Amherst, Massachusetts and Chicago, but that his family remembered his life at a
private graveside service in High Point. Many of us have been sharing stories
about James Alexander Corrigan, and asked for a community acknowledgement
of our love for him, and how we will miss him.
For this reason, the three scriptures I chose for our worship service this
morning are those most commonly used in memorial services: Psalm 23, and
verses from Romans 8 and John 14. They answer crucial questions about the end
of life: What? Where? And Why?
Psalm 23 names the What: the fear of death. The way death seems to
come upon us as a shadow. The way we are in a vulnerable valley, where evil
might be lurking around the rocks rising above us. When you and I are afraid to
name the inevitability of death, we come upon this unassuming Psalm that puts it
right out there – we are defenseless when we walk alone. We are at risk of dying.
The contrast in the Psalm is the image of the shepherd, threaded through
Hebrew Scriptures and the New Testament. Images of a caregiver who knows our
names, seeks us out, faces threats with a rod and a staff, and guides us to
refreshment and peace. The shepherd is the good shepherd (come to think of it,
I’ve never heard of any bad shepherds, really. Are there any shepherds who
neglect their flocks? Maybe that’s part of the point of calling God or Christ the
Good shepherd, to distinguish from the lackadaisical ne’er do wells running
rampant throughout history.) Good news, good shepherd.

Additionally, this Psalm slams the reality of death to the ground with the
phrase, surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life, and I will
dwell in the house of God forever. All will be well forever. Take that, death!
Chapter 14 of the gospel of John takes on the question: Where? Where will
I be after I die? John reports that Jesus said simply, “with me.” The insecurities
of being left behind and abandoned after the crucifixion were put to rest with his
promise, “I will seek you out and take you to where I am.” He never clarifies
whether this house of many mansions is anything like houses we live in or once
lived in. He never specifies if the streets are paved with gold, or if it is grass and
peat moss. The promise is that there is a place, and the exact location of the
place is not the point. For those of us who believe the place is among the clouds,
God is there. If we believe the only thing that happens after death is that we
decompose and return to the soil, God is there. If you and I believe there is no-
where beyond this current existence, God is there, too. The where is always
connected to the who. (no, not the rock band) “The Who” being God in Christ.
Finally, in Paul’s letter to the Romans, he is addressing the Why. Why God
responds to death with comfort, and to isolation with a place. Love. When we
despair over the possibility of being judged for our actions and the things we
neglect, Paul reminds us, If God is for us, who can be against us?” When we
experience oppression, or are caught in a web of systemic injustice as
perpetrators or victims, Christ intercedes for us. Despite our best attempts to
mess things up, Christ restores them again.
Most significantly, Paul speaks to the doubts of the people in Rome.
Remember this is the same man who was a persecutor of Christians. Earlier in his
life, he made it his obligation to seek out believers, capture them, torture them

and maybe kill them. This same man experienced a conversion – the least likely
person they could have imagined could ever have a change of heart, and it
happened. The story of Paul’s conversion on the road to Damascus – when he
was blinded by a light and confronted by God’s Spirit – is not a parable or an
allegory. It is an account of a radical change in a man’s life that called everyone’s
So Paul is now writing to the church in Rome, trying to reassure them as
they are being sought out, captured and tortured for their beliefs. The Roman
Christians aren’t sure if belief is worth it. They fear death. They worry about
being permanently separated from Paul, from their families, from their church
family, and from basic well-being. Paul is not gentle in his proclamation. He
doesn’t soft pedal the message of hope, restoration and reunification. He
declares: I am convinced, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor
principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor
depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of
God in Christ Jesus our Lord. God’s love bridges all valleys, all obstacles, all evil
and even death so that we are never separated. This man who had a life changing
experience is CONVINCED that this is true. THAT is compelling! Because of divine
love, the What of death is answered by a shepherd, and the Where of death is
answered by a place with God.
Through these scriptures, we are reassured that our brother in Christ, Jim
Corrigan, was and is with God. When we remember him, we think of the
wholeness of his life. In particular, we are struck by his many years of education,
the strong bonds of friendship that he forged with his classmates at Amherst
College, and the way he maintained those friendships through alumni gatherings

every year since his graduation. When we remember Jim, we are thankful for his
service to the United States through the Air Force, and his pride in that service.
We remember his professional success – I was surprised to read in his obituary
that he retired at the age of 84! Most of all we remember Jim’s warmth, his
gracious hospitality, and his gentle nature among us.
As the years took their toll, Jim’s memory began to fade. The names of
friends, stories from his home across the street from the sanctuary and from the
King Home slipped away. He wasn’t able to bring to mind scriptures and the
stories of God’s people. So we, as a community, carry those memories for him.
When we visited, we told him stories of our life together here, and the history of
our faith. We remembered for him the assurance that all will be well. We still
remember for him the promise that whatever place awaits us beyond this earth,
God will be there.
When loss of memory seemed to separate Jim from his past, and separate
us from him, we are reminded that we are the body of Christ, and nothing can
separate us from the love of God in Christ. We remember in the breaking of the
bread and sharing the cup of communion that we are always joined together with
Jim, with each other, and with God.
May we remember with joy Jim Corrigan’s life; and as we go forth as the
body of Christ, may we give glory and thanks to God for the gift of everlasting life.

John 14:1-3, 25-27
“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me. 2In my
Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If it were not so, would I have told
you that I go to prepare a place for you?3And if I go and prepare a place for you, I
will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be
25 I have said these things to you while I am still with you. 26But the Advocate,
the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything,
and remind you of all that I have said to you.27Peace I leave with you; my peace I
give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be
troubled, and do not let them be afraid.

Romans 8:31-39
31What then are we to say about these things? If God is for us, who is against
us? 32He who did not withhold his own Son, but gave him up for all of us, will he
not with him also give us everything else? 33Who will bring any charge against
God’s elect? It is God who justifies. 34Who is to condemn? It is Christ Jesus, who
died, yes, who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes
for us. 35Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress,
or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? 36As it is written,
“For your sake we are being killed all day long; we are accounted as sheep to be
slaughtered.” 37No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him
who loved us. 38For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor
rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39nor height, nor
depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love
of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.