Sunshine Personified

The following is the meditation I was privileged to share at Karen’s memorial service. Sarah Harding made the video which also was shown at the service. Karen was precious to us. We will miss her dearly.

Today was a brilliantly sunny day and I couldn’t help but think of Karen. She was sunshine personified. How do you comprehend someone as wonderful as Karen? To really understand Karen’s life, you have to understand the gospel, because that’s what she lived for.

But the gospel is understood differently by people. Some see the gospel as a way to get one’s sins forgiven. Another sees the gospel as a way to get to heaven. Still others see the gospel as a philosophy of life or ideology or a message to spread. While it may be some of those things, none of those truly capture the full meaning of the gospel. The gospel is good news. But what kind of good news? Is it simply good news about not going to hell?

The gospel is good news that God is fixing what is broken about mankind. It’s good news that God loves people and wants to heal us and make us whole. He wants to see mankind again find happiness, love, and warmth in our relationships with Him and each other. And the good news is that He is making a way for this to become a reality – the New Creation. The gospel is first and foremost about the restoration of community.

I keep coming back to this thought: whenever I think of our work here I remember that it’s really about the specific people in our community, not about some ideal. I must have a zeal for them, for their welfare, for their uniqueness, for them as my friends. If I don’t have this, I truly believe I don’t have a whole lot to offer in the way of spirituality.

My experience has been as I’ve traveled quite extensively in the church is that the one thing that seems to be the hardest to do and the most neglected is radical commitment to other brothers and sisters. People will go to the end of the earth and live in crushing poverty, they’ll give lots of money, they’ll do almost anything other than fully pour out their life for another brother or sister. Commitment in the church just doesn’t seem that important. But the truth is, it is the key thing God is trying to do in the world and that’s why it is so aggressively opposed by Satan.

The church is a foretaste of the New Creation. As a church we are to model now the kind of relationships that will characterize the New Creation. That’s the key to understanding Karen’s life.

Butch told us about Karen’s life and said, “Karen loved God and people. Her smile brought joy to everyone she met. She tirelessly served people. She enjoyed birding, music, and reading, but her greatest joy was knowing, loving and serving people.” Karen’s life reflected the gospel message. She bet her life on the gospel. It was worth it to her. She lived that future reality in the now. The New Creation was dawning in Karen’s every action. Karen answered the prayer we pray every morning: Thy Kingdom come Thy will be done on earth as in heaven. She had caught a vision of this kingdom of love, believed in it, lived it, worked to bring it about. Karen lived this way and fully expected to keep living this way for all of eternity, and that thrilled her.

Karen’s life spoke. It pointed to a future hope. Her life gently urges us to rethink our priorities. What’s worth living for? What matters? Ambitions do not matter. Material possessions do not matter. Reputation does not matter. People matter. Real people. Specific people. In the end only relationships matter.

What can it profit a man to gain the whole world and lose his own soul? This isn’t about going to heaven and avoiding hell. This is about missing the thing that matters most in this universe, the thing that makes us human, the thing that gives meaning to human existence. Our soul is the center of who we are. We were made for relationships, for love, for friendship. If we center on things, center on career, center on achievements, we lose our soul.

God is all about love, about community, about people – knowing them, loving them, and serving them. The gospel is about the restoration of a community of mankind in love with the Trinity and with each other. It’s good news that God is creating a place where His family can be happy, healthy, and whole; a place where we can know, love, and serve each other – for therein is true joy.

Karen awaits us for the dawning of that New Creation. If she could be here now she would smile that incredible smile, and let us know that with Jesus she is making a place for us in that new New Creation.