The Way, the Truth, and the Life
A Celebration and Remembrance of my grandmother
Sermon delivered by Minister Shirley Lin on 28th June, 2008 （In Chinese, translated by Ken Sun）
"I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really knew me, you would know[b] my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him." John 14：6-7
Today is a hard day. It did not seem to be that long ago that I was just giving my sermon about my grandparents at their 80th birthday party. The things I learned from my grandmother is a list that can go on for pages. I could go on, but I won’t, because today is a day for remembrance.
We have lost someone we love dearly and deeply. We have lost our wife, our mother, our grandmother, our companion, our friend, our teacher, and our example. There is a missing piece in our hearts. The place she held in our hearts cannot easily be replaced.
My grandmother is a daughter of God, above and beyond anything else that defined her. Yes, I know I say this in the present tense, because I know that she still is and will always be a daughter of God. She has always in her life lived for God. She loved Jesus with her whole heart, her whole mind, and her whole soul. She loved Jesus so much that she could not help but pass this love to her children, grandchildren, great grandchildren, neighbors, and parishioners.
I remember when we used to call home, she would always answer the phone and ask how our spiritual lives were. One time, we talked about a particular hymn that she taught us when we were little. Neither I nor Doug could remember the song, so she began singing it over the phone. It was a blessing because it reminded me of how much time she spent on sharing her love of her faith with us, not because she was obligated to do so, but because she could not help but do so. Every fiber of her being was connected deeply to her faith and the expression of that faith, especially in hymns and prayers that she passed on to all of us.
In Christ, she found comfort and solace throughout her life. Christ spent a lot of time suffering not just on the cross, but before it. From going to the Garden of Gethsemane to pray, alone to being arrested, tried, and tormented as He carried His cross to Calvary. The time that Christ actually spent on the cross was incredibly short, considering the kind of slow and torturous death on the cross that typically took days. It did not take long for death to come upon Christ, but this is a blessing in itself. The triumph of God was not in slow death, but death itself. The ultimate victory for A-ma was not in her suffering, but in her return to her Saviour in Heaven.
My cousin Joe wrote all of us an email detailing what had happened that fateful night. He said, “Grandma probably had a feeling that she was going to the Lord since shortly before the ambulance arrived, she called for grandpa to come next to her and to give her a hug. She had even picked out the clothes she wanted to wear when she passed away well in advance of today.”
She had been ill for a long time. She had been sick for as long as I could remember. Like Christ, she had carried her burdens visibly for a period of time, but like Christ, she had the support of God, her Father. Through it all, she bore the burden with grace. And God was there to support her in her death, making it a swift event. Joe said that “Right when the ambulance arrived at around 1：10am, she stopped breathing and slumped into grandpa's arms. It was quite sudden since a minute before this, she was still talking.” That was her good bye. She said her goodbyes, as Jesus had cried out, and she was taken out of this world.
For the past month, I have been in Holland, Michigan, learning about the reformed tradition. I read the Heidelberg Catechism for what seems to be the first time in my life. Question one of the Heidelberg Catechism struck me quite hard. It has stayed with me and I have found truth in this simple answer.
Question One： What is your only comfort in life and death?
Answer： That I am not my own, but belong, body and soul, in life and in death, to my faithful Saviour Jesus Christ. By His Holy Spirit He also assures me of eternal life and makes me heartily willing and ready from now on to live for Him.
This is the basis of our reformed belief and while this is the first time that I really thought about this question, I truly believe this statement. What’s more, I can see that this was the way that my a-ma functioned. She lived wholeheartedly, with her body and soul, for Christ. She spent a lot of her time studying the Scriptures, praying, and even playing hymns on the piano when she was healthy. She lived her life always in gratitude to God for everything she had. Though there are times that she must have been frustrated with her health, she still never complained about the situation.
A few years ago, she began to tell me that she was prepared for death. She told me that she was ready to be reunited with Christ. So, I know that she, in death, is reunited with her Saviour whom she loves so dearly. She has spent a lifetime being faithful to Him because He has saved her from the evils and temptations of this world.
While she has spent the last few years telling me that she was ready to go, I was not ready to let her go. I am still not ready to let her go. I know I’m not the only one. And I know that it is more important than ever to remember the lesson that she taught us：
That we, with body and soul, both in life and in death, are not our own, but belong to my faithful savior Jesus Christ… and we are sincerely willing and ready, to live for him.
There can be no greater teacher than she for this particular lesson. I know that I am standing here because of her influence in my life. I know that I am getting ordained because she showed me that a woman can devote her life to God. Even this day, when we say goodbye to her physical body, her spirit is still among us, still singing hymns to us, still encouraging us to be faithful to Christ, who, in His faithfulness, has received her into His Kingdom.
Christ said that He is the way, the truth, and the light. A-ma always knew this. She lived this, and she has gone into His light, forever. While we are greatly saddened and heavily impacted by this incredible loss and we feel the large hole that is left behind, we know that we are not alone. We are never alone. Not only is Christ faithful and always present, but A-ma is with us in spirit, in our memories, in the prayers we say, and the hymns we sing. I am grateful for all she has taught me about my faith. I, and I’m sure you, too, will always miss her.
May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all. （II COR 13：13）