May 29, 2011 ~ Memorial Day Sunday

John 14:15-21

“A Life Well Lived Is A Life Well Loved”

Franklin Circle Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)

Rev. Allen V. Harris

To hear this sermon podcast, click here:  110529SermonPodcast

Just this past week I was talking to a neighbor of ours on the street.  Jim was walking his new dog and I was walking home from church.  It was one of those brief five minutes between gully-washing thunderstorms we’ve had recently.  Even though I’ve known Jim and Suzie for most of the eleven years we’ve been in Cleveland, and I even officiated at their 25th Wedding Anniversary Recommitment Ceremony, there was a major part of Jim’s life about which I did not know.  He proceeded to tell me.

Some years back Jim noticed when he woke up in the morning a swelling in his gums behind his molars.  It didn’t hurt at all, and was barely noticeable, so he went on to work.  His work takes him on the road to visit clients, and while with one of his clients he happened to mention the swelling, which had not gone away like Jim expected it to.  After describing it to the client, who was also a friend, the client got very serious and instructed Jim to stop everything and get to the Emergency Room immediately.  Jim thought he was joking, and so laughed it off.  His friend became quite insistent, and as Jim resisted more and more, he physically took Jim’s notebook and other belongings and informed Jim that he would not let him have them back until he had gone to the hospital.  They began to exchange words until finally, Jim realized that nothing would calm his out-of-control client and friend except going to the hospital, which he did.

The first indication that something indeed might be serious about his condition was that once the admitting nurse heard his condition, Jim was put on a gurney and into an E.R. bay without his filling out all of the admitting paperwork.  Within a few minutes the entire E.R. staff was around his bed and a doctor was examining him. Another doctor was called from the hospital and upon examining Jim declared, “We’ve got 90 minutes.”  Jim asked, “90 minutes until what?”  “Until you die, unless we address this immediately!”  Jim was completely astonished, shocked, unnerved, you name it.  He had a staph infection, and the general public doesn’t understand how serious staph infections are, but Jim suddenly did!

Now, the rest of the story is actually what Jim wanted to tell me about.  It’s about how the doctor gave him a choice, either to prepare for surgery and push the time limit or come into his office and have him take care of it “with just a little discomfort.”  As the story goes, Jim opted for the latter and quickly found out, when a sharp blade was literally jabbed into the back of his mouth and the infection vacuumed out, that the doctor was using a euphemism when he said “a little discomfort.”  Besides leaving his fingernail marks in the doctor’s office chair, shocking a completely horrified nurse, and a future of gum degeneration, Jim’s story is one of healing, hope, and survival.  He is alive and well today thanks to the unwavering insistence of a friend.

Now, why this story on Memorial Day weekend, after hearing the scripture read where Jesus tells us that he will not leave us orphaned but, if we keep his commandment to love, we will be given a comforter?  I offer Jim’s story because it reminded me of the thin, thin line between life and death, and the necessity for all of us to live lives fully every single minute.  As I chatted with Jim on the sidewalk that night, my breath was taken away as I imagined what I would or could do in ninety minutes to bring closure to my life.  Some folks are told by their doctors they have days, weeks, months, years to live.  Some folks are gone in an instant.  But, for some reason, thinking of 90 minutes from now as the end of my life is very, very sobering.  1 p.m. Sunday, May 29, 2011…

Jesus, in his famous farewell speech in the Gospel of John, tells his disciples to “keep” his “commandments.”  And, recalling another conversation back in Matthew 22, we recall which is the greatest commandment of all of them?  To love…  To love God, love one another, love yourself… Just love.  With all your heart, soul, and mind.  Some add “strength.”  With every fiber of your being, Jesus is saying.

Today, as we remember those in our church, our lives, our community, our world who have died this past year, and beyond, we will try our best to remember everything we can about them as if, in some way, we can keep them alive within us by remembering what they did, what they said, who they were to us.  But, you know, the mind is a fickle thing and forgetting things is as natural to the human mind as is remembering.  But we needn’t worry, because the most important thing about a person’s life is not found in the details of who they were.  It’s found in one thing only, and that’s the very same thing Jesus was most concerned about his disciples remembering when he left.  It’s the love we leave behind when we’re gone.

I learned this lullaby called “Everything Possible” from the magnificent gay acapella quartet, The Flirtations, but Fred Small wrote and sang it in the early 1980’s.  The essence is contained in the lines of the chorus.  I hear Jesus talking to me, to us, in this:

You can be anybody you want to be

You can love whomever you will

You can travel any country where your heart leads

And know I will love you still


You can live by yourself, you can gather friends around

You can choose one special one

And the only measure of your words and your deeds

Will be the love you leave behind when you’re done (1)

The details of life are important… to us.  But to God, to Jesus, to the Spirit, to history… the most important thing is simply to love.


(1) “Everything Possible,” Words and music by Fred Small. (c) Copyright 1983 Pine Barrens Music (BMI). From the album, Everything Possible: Fred Small in Concert (Flying Fish #625). Available from Small Potatoes at (800) 788-6043.

To hear The Flirtations sing this on YouTube, go to:  (It is also saved on the Franklin Circle Christian Church YouTube Channel as a favorite)

To read the lyrics, go to: