“If I find within myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.” (C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, bk. 3, ch.10)
very newspaper in America carries an obituary page, which daily reminds us of our mortality. Yet we have within our souls a longing for more. Our deep desire for heaven is unappeasable and incommunicable. Could it be that today's Pre-Easter text, Jesus calling his friend Lazarus forth from the tomb, is meant more for us than for Lazarus?
I have always loved and admired Billy Graham. Perhaps it is because we were both born in Charlotte . A few years ago a group of prominent people invited him to a city wide meeting to honor him as Charlotte 's most beloved citizen. He hesitated to accept because of his advancing Parkinson's disease. In time he agreed because all of these people were friends.
He feebly began his remarks with a story of how Albert Einstein in his old age could not find his train ticket when the conductor came by. The conductor said, “Dr. Einstein I know who you are and I am sure you bought a ticket so don't worry about it!” However, as the conductor went on down the isle punching tickets he looked back and saw Dr. Einstein crawling on his knees looking for his ticket. The conductor rushed back and said, “Dr. Einstein we all know who you are please don't bother to look for your ticket anymore!” Einstein looked at him and said, “Young man, I too know who I am, what I don't know is where I am going.”
Having said this, Billy Graham said. “See this new suit I am wearing? My family has been asking me to go out and buy a new one and have been telling me that I've gotten slovenly in my old age. So, I bought this new suit for this luncheon and one more occasion. Do you know what the next occasion is? This is the suit in which I'll be buried. But when I'm dead, I don't want you to remember the suit. I want you to remember this: I not only know who I am, I also know where I am going!”
There is engineered within us a longing for more. We yearn for another world. This life is not enough; we have an unfulfilled appetite for Glory.
The New Testament points us toward a certainty of life everlasting. This Sunday's text tells the story of Jesus walking boldly into a graveyard and calling forth his friend from the dead: “Lazarus, come forth!” are immortal words that give credence to our hope. The old preachers used to say that if Jesus had not named the name of Lazarus, and had just said, “Come forth” that every corpse in the graveyard would have come back alive.
A friend asked me this week, “What will heaven be like?” My response was that “It will be better than this!” Marilyn and I have been invited to many beautiful homes with everything perfect. I sometimes say, “This place is so fine you won't want to give all of this up for heaven.” I have never had anyone say that they will not be willing to give it all up because we all have within our hearts a longing for more joy and happiness and perfect rest.
Last Monday our District Preachers' Meeting was held at Pleasant Hill United Methodist Church in Villa Rica, situated on Thomas Dorsey Drive . Today we close worship with Thomas Dorsey's famous hymn, written in 1932, soon after the death of his wife and infant son. It ends with the refrain, “Take my hand precious Lord lead me home.”
God took Thomas Dorsey by the hand and gave him a glimpse of Glory until he had written more than 250 gospel songs. He once stated: "My business is to try to bring people to Christ instead of leaving them where they are.” Indeed, Gospel Music, which he is credited with founding, is intended to build up our inward assurance of Glory. Indeed, sometimes good Gospel music can allow us to peek inside heaven's gate. And we often need that kind of encouragement.
All Christians can share in this inward confidence. C. S. Lewis was certainly no fan of American Gospel songs. He was a High Church Anglican, but he was given a heart felt assurance of eternal life. Indeed, lying deep in every human heart is the potential for believing, but our willingness to believe is the key that unlocks the vault.
King Tut will soon make a tour of Germany , after having toured America several years ago. Along with this 2000 year old mummy will be artifacts found in his Egyptian Pyramid which were meant to travel with him into their idea of afterlife. In every civilization there are indicators that record this universal longing.
On the last page of the sixth book of the Narnia series, Aslan the Lion King explains to the Pevensie children that all of them are, as they used to call it in the Shadow-Lands of earth, dead. But now they are permanent members of Aslan's country. All of their longing for heaven had been met. Likewise, Zacchaeus had tasted the same joy in heaven, but he was willing to allow Jesus to call his friend back to the limitations of earth for a few years so that the many that would see him alive after death. This was the Father's final witness to the people that this was indeed His beloved Son.
sermon synopsis by C. Robert Allred, Th.D., Pastor