Since the second Sunday of June, we have explored the stories and theological meanings of our favorite hymns and sung them together as closing each worship service. And today, we are already looking into our last favorite hymn. Beginning with “How Great Thou Art,” we reflected on an African American spiritual, “I Want Jesus to Walk with Me,” a contemporary praise, “How Great Is Our God,” and the classics, “Blessed Assurance,” and “Great Is Thy Faithfulness.” Are you enjoying this sermon series so far? Through this journey, I hope those hymns may resonate within our own stories of faith and our own melodies of grace as we continue to make our beautiful polyphony of grace here with the guidance of the Holy Spirit…
If there is one word that every little kid loves to use other than “no,” it would be “why.” They throw countless why-questions at their parents and teachers. “Why can’t we get a puppy?” “Why is the sky blue?” “Why can’t I have ice cream right now?” The funniest why-question I’ve ever received when I was a Sunday school teacher was, “Why do you have hair coming out of your nose?” Oops! Judy Arnall, a parenting expert says, the “why stage” of development isn’t about misbehaving or annoying parents. It’s what happens when children’s brains exercise their imagination and creative thinking. So the question of “why” actually shows a significant leap in brain development.
But when children advance from the why stage to the next stage of development, do why-questions ever go away? Perhaps, they would ask less questions, because they have certain answers from their experience and learn how to find answers as their intellect grows. But look at us. As grown-ups, can we say that we are now free from asking why? No, we can’t. It looks like we only have different sets of why-questions. And even worse, questions we ask in our adulthood are more complicated and hard to answer, because they are more about our life and existence. Why do I live? Why do I exist? Why is my life such and such? It’s truly difficult to answer these why-questions especially about the reason for life.
Then, when we have those in-depth why-questions about our life, how do we find answers? In what way? We might get some help from great achievements of human mind like philosophy and science. And we might get some wisdom from our friends and someone we respect and trust. Yes, they may provide us with quite good rationales of life. But even though those rationales are meaningful to us, we know they are not enough to discover life’s purpose behind its reality. Why? It’s simply because we are humans, and the way of human mind has certain limitations. So here, we better come up with a different approach, a different way to find answers. And the other way we have is the way of faith. This way tends to be disregarded and considered archaic in this world of advanced science and technology. However, as a Christian, I am confident that this is the way. This is the only way that assures us of the ultimate reason for life.
Our Christian faith simply affirms that God’s everlasting love for us is revealed in the person of Jesus Christ. And he is the answer to the why-questions about our life. Through our faith in Jesus, we get to know the truth that we are beloved children of God. With love, God created us in God’s image. And by grace, God saved us even when we were yet sinners. So why do we live? It’s because we are called to live our life in God’s love and abundant blessing. We cannot even measure how much we are loved and how priceless our lives are. Please remember, Jesus died on the cross and rose from the grave just for our lives, for our new lives. The first verse of the hymn “Because He Lives” tells us exactly about this reason for life. “God sent his son, They called him Jesus, He came to love, Heal and forgive, He lived and died, To buy my pardon, An empty grave, Is there to prove, My Savior lives.” Through Jesus Christ our Lord, we are called to God’s love. Each one of us is personally called to the love that gives us new life, new hope, and new purpose and meaning of life.
The authors of the hymn are the two of the longest-lasting performing couples of Christian contemporary music, Gloria and William J. Gaither.
It is said they wrote the hymn based on the answer to their own why-questions of life. It was when they were expecting their third child, they saw many social upheavals in the sixties. Drug traffic, assassinations, racial tensions, and threats of war monopolized the headline news. And Mr. Gaither was very ill and the couple went through a very hard time. Ms. Gaither recalls the time when they asked to themselves, “Why do we give birth to a child into such a world like this?” “Why should we let our child face the uncertain future?” But facing these why-questions, the Gaithers experienced a mysterious moment of divine assurance. Ms. Gaither says, “At a moment, suddenly I felt released from it all… the assurance of the risen Christ blew across our troubled minds like a cooling breeze in the parched desert… Gradually, the fear left and the joy began to return. I knew I could have that baby and face the future with optimism and trust. It was the resurrection affirming itself in our lives once again. It was life conquering death in the regularity of my day.” With this answer, they wrote, “How sweet to hold, A newborn baby, And feel the pride, And joy he gives, But greater still, The calm assurance, This child can face, Uncertain days, Just Because he lives.”
Because he lives, not only because he died on the cross for us, but because he lives for us, we know we can live our new life in Christ, the life that is everlasting. In today’s Gospel reading, Jesus assures his disciples, “Because I live, you also will live.” The chorus of the hymn gloriously sings, “Because he lives, I can face tomorrow, Because he lives, All fear is gone, Because I know, He holds the future, And life is worth the living, Just because he lives.” Yes, because he lives, we know that we will also live. Because he lives, we know that our faith in God will never go in vain. Because he lives, we know that the true love can overcome any suffering and death in this world. Because he lives, we know that God loves us and calls us to love God and love one another. Because he lives, we have unending hope for the future.
Sisters and brothers in Christ, Jesus has risen and freed us from our sins and liberate us even from the power of death. He has risen and assured us of the worthiness of our life. So let us never cease praising him who gives us the ultimate reason for life. And let us live our life in all confidence of God’s everlasting love for us. Why? Because he lives, just because he lives. Amen.
Pastor Earl Kim