Goodbye Sam. Your faith has found a resting place…

I believe for many of us there are two main thoughts that come to our minds when we think of Sam.

One of them is music. We all know how much Sam loved music…and gave a large part of his life to developing a music ministry in this church. So it would be remiss for us to not incorporate music, especially music sang by his very own choir at his funeral.

This morning I have asked his choir; the St. Anthony Choral group; to help me deliver this sermon using a hymn that deals with the second primary thought we all have about Sam…and that is on the issue of doubt.

Sam was notorious for his endless questions about faith. In particular the Christian faith. For six years I sat next him….right there… and after each sermon, especially when I preached, he’d say to me, “Akua, you’re an engineer…a proper scientist…how can you believe this stuff when you have no concrete proof?”

I could never really answer the question to his satisfaction. But today his faith has found a resting place…and I believe answers to all his questions.

So with your permission, I will ask the St. Anthony Choral group to sing the first stanza of the hymn “My Faith Has Found A Resting Place”

My faith has found a resting place; Not in device nor creed; I trust the Ever-living One; His wounds for me shall plead

I need no other argument; I need no other plea; It is enough that Jesus died; And that He died for me

Many of us have been taught never to question our faith. After all, it is faith. Which by definition requires that one should believe without question.

But Sam, was one of the few who was bold enough to challenge the “I went to a Christian school and therefore I am a good Christian” stereotype.

He was one of the few people to dedicate himself to the church and yet openly express his doubts about the things he did not understand.

The world would call that fake. Evil even. And yet Christ in His lifetime showed us through the choice of the disciple Thomas, that this type of doubt…the doubt that questions and challenges and seeks knowledge and proof and understanding is a ministry on its own.

Surely, we don’t think Jesus was surprised the day Thomas declared to his fellow disciples that he would not believe in the resurrection until he saw and touched the risen Christ.

Jesus is God. From the very beginning He knew Thomas would express that doubt. It needed to happen to serve as a teaching moment for His disciples and for all of us.

God knew Sam. He knew Sam would have this doubt. The same doubt that most of us have. But Sam knowing he was transparent before God found no value in pretending before man. So he questioned.

Sam’s doubt, like Thomas’ doubt caused all of us to think, to read, and to research, in order that we could make countless arguments to him to try to convince him that God is real. That there is power in the Eucharist (Holy communion).

In all that praying and reading and researching and arguing…through the ministry of Sam’s questions…we increased our understanding and we increased our faith.

Thomas after a short while met the Lord Jesus Christ…who then proved to him that He is real.

Today, Sam, after a short life, has met with our Lord…and now needs no other argument.

The second stanza…

Enough for me that Jesus saves; This ends my fear and doubt; A sinful soul I come to Him; He’ll never cast me out

I need no other argument; I need no other plea; It is enough that Jesus died; And that He died for me

By God’s grace, in the last few years Sam came to believe in the power of the Eucharist, and regularly participated in communion. But for many years it was his tradition to never go to the altar for communion.

So one day I asked him, “why don’t you go for communion?” To which he promptly responded, “Because I don’t see any difference between the people who go for communion and those who don’t.”

Sadly, I’m sure most of us agree with him. But rather than make us sad, it should cause us to pause and think. Because it suggests that the church is failing or rather has failed to produce citizens who emulate Christ.

The problem is that, for many of us; good, moral, wonderful people; the church and not Christ has become our salvation. So we go to church, and we recite creeds that we’ve never bothered to think about…or we shout and bang cymbals without really understanding why. And at the end of the day we leave church feeling saved.

But, the Bible declares that Jesus would build His church. Nowhere does it suggest that the church is the salvation of God. When we come to understand that our salvation is in Christ and not in buildings and priests then we too can confidently sing “Enough for me that Jesus saves; this ends my fear and doubt”

As we bid farewell to our brother Sam, the question we must ask ourselves is this, “on what does our faith rest?” Is our faith in our church? Is our faith in our priest…our ‘man of God’? Or is it enough that Jesus died and that He died for us?

The third stanza…

My heart is leaning on the Word; The written Word of God; Salvation by my Savior’s name; Salvation through His blood

I need no other argument; I need no other plea; It is enough that Jesus died; And that He died for me

I’m sure many of us can genuinely say as the hymn says, “My heart is leaning on the Word; The written Word of God” However, I suspect there are many more of us who find the Bible tedious to read. If not down right boring. All the ‘this person begat that person,’ the long difficult names, not to mention the seemingly contradictory positions of God. It’s a difficult read.

As a result we often take one of two positions:

Either we play along like we understand in order not to appear strange. Or evil. As if God is fooled.

Or we take a hard position against the faith. We refuse to serve God unless someone can explain to us why God did not stop the slave trade, or why the Bible says we should pay tithes…or why God allows the war in Syria to rage on the way it does.

But Sam took an interesting middle road. He made no bones about the fact that many things in scripture made no sense to him. He didn’t care what people said. However, his doubt and his lack of understanding did not prevent him from serving his God.

Sam could have taken his musical gift anywhere. He could have started a boys band like the Beatles and made millions of dollars touring the world. Instead he decided to start an all male choir to sing praises to the God he struggled to understand.

Countless souls have been saved through these young men and even though Sam is gone, the fulfillment of the great commission; to win souls for Christ; will live on through these men and those they train after them.

Today Sam is silent, and can ask us no more questions, but the legacy of his life leaves us with one more question…and it is this…

How many of us, fire breathing, tongue speaking, Bible believing, daily mass attending Christians can attest to a legacy like his???

The fourth stanza…

My great physician heals the sick; The lost He came to save; For me His precious blood He shed; For me His life He gave

I need no other argument; I need no other plea; It is enough that Jesus died; And that He died for me

Sam, fell ill and we of course ask the question, if Jesus is the great physician…why didn’t He heal Sam?

The Bible says in 1 Timothy 3:16, “Great is the mystery of godliness.” There is a mystery to tragedies like this. And we don’t know the answer. But I’m sure Sam with all His questions, will not fail to ask God.

Today we are at a loss as to why such a brilliant light should be snuffed out so suddenly.

Smolenski’s – where Sam had lunch everyday – is changed forever. The last time I was there, I naturally looked to my left as I walked through the door because that’s where he always sat. And much to my chagrin, I saw a couple sitting there enjoying their lunch…oblivious to our pain. I almost asked them to move.

Today Tina and the children; Kevin & Audrey; have a quieter, emptier home.

A very different Christmas looms ahead of all of us, with no Sam rushing around setting up equipment for various carols nights and Christmas parties, not to mention weddings and engagements.

But just as earth is quieter without Sam, heaven is that much more vibrant as they welcome him.

This time instead of frantically running wires and setting up speakers…he will join the chorus of angels…surrounded by what he loved most…music.

It is my prayer that we will learn from Sam’s stubbornness. And serve God even though we have no answers…placing our faith in the words our Lord spoke in John 16:22 when He said, “Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy.”

May these words and the words of Sam’s favorite hymn, “Through all the changing scenes of life” be our comfort as we say goodbye to him.

Through all the changing scenes of life; in trouble and in joy; the praises of my God shall still; my heart and tongue employ.

O magnify the Lord with me; with me exalt his name; when in distress to him I called; he to my rescue came.

The hosts of God encamp around; the dwellings of the just; deliverance he affords to all; who on his succour trust.

O make but trial of his love; experience will decide; how blest are they, and only they; who in his truth confide!

Fear him, ye saints, and you will then; have nothing else to fear; make you his service your delight; your wants shall be his care.

To Father, Son, and Holy Ghost; the God whom we adore; be glory, as it was, is now; and shall be evermore.

In the name of the Father, the Son & the Holy Spirit. Amen.

10 thoughts on “Goodbye Sam. Your faith has found a resting place…

  1. I have still not recovered from how I felt listening to this. God knows Mhiw many times I’ve read through it.
    To say I was moved or touched by this sermon is an understatement.
    Indeed you are a rare gem
    May you stay forever blessed
    Rev’d Akua

    Liked by 1 person

    • Wow! I’m humbled. It is all just by the grace of God. Please always keep me in your prayers that God will continue to give me the words to say. Thank you for the encouragement and God bless you


  2. Your sermon has really made me ponder. I ask myself which direction am I really going. Though I go to church I’m not a member of any church I don’t belong anywhere really.

    Liked by 1 person

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