A Life of Grace

經文:Psalm 23(原文: 林皙陽牧師)

10-24-2010 1:30PM

Today we are gathered here because we wanted to remember Elder Chen. I have only known him for one year and one month, during which time he had been sick. I remember last year on September 20th, I was invited to teach adult Sunday School. That day, Sister Eileen was the organist. After the service I said to her, I really liked all the songs that she had selected. She introduced me to her husband, Elder Chen. My first impression of him was that he had a serene and steady heart. Sister Eileen said, “we are both from the Christian Church of Keelung, he is the nephew of Pastor陳獻平. This was all that I had known about him. But I am very honored to be able to bear witness to the faith he has had throughout his life.

Generally, when our lives are going well, it is easy to feel God’s blessings, but when we are chronically sick or when we are terminally ill, it is much more difficult to feel God’s grace. Elder Chen is the kind of person who can still experience God’s grace and love through the valley of the shadow of death. This is also why so many are gathered here in memory of him, because we can learn from his life, some priceless lessons about faith.Psalm 23 is beloved by Jews, Orthodox, Catholic, and Protestants. Compared to the other passages in the Scriptures, it describes more vividly the experience of the grace of God. This psalm is the witness written by King David’s suffering. He was a shepherd, so he used his own experience as a metaphor for God as shepherd and people as the sheep. The love of the shepherd is earnest, trustworthy. God never allows us to lack anything, nor will God let us be lost, and even if we are lost, God will find us and bring us home. When we encounter difficulties, dangers, or walk through the valley of the shadow of death, God is there to protect us. And this is why King David said, “surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.”

In the past two months, I have visited Elder Chen several times; twice at his home and couple times in the hospital. In his home, he always dressed impeccably, welcoming us with a smile. It was difficult to imagine that his body was carrying such pain. The first time at his home, as soon as we walked through the door, we saw a “Grace” card. He spoke with a smile, sharing his experiences. He said that he’s always been blessed with good health and God Has always treated Him with grace so that he has never been sick all of his life. This is something worthy of thanksgiving. He said that even though he is sick now, he continues to give thanks to God because this experience has brought him closer to God. Through this illness, his faith can grow.

Later, in August, he stayed at Cornell hospital. When we went to visit him, we saw that he had taken this card with him, to both thank God for God’s grace and also to understand that all we need is God’s grace to live.

At the end of September, Elder Chen went into the hospital again. We were in Taiwan at that time, so when we heard this news, we were worried. We could only pray for God to be with him, to heal him.

After I got back from Taiwan, I was working hard at getting the concert off the ground, as well as the Installation service, but I nonetheless was concerned about him, so I often went to the hospital to visit. Every time I went to Valley Hospital, I felt that he was getting weaker and weaker, though his peaceful and calm heart became more and more solid and stable, especially in his faith, which has never been shaken. His hope to God grew daily, and he never doubted or missed the love of his family and church friends.

On October 5th, when I went to the hospital to visit him, I asked if he wanted to say anything. He said, “God allowed me to live 74 years, the entire time filled with blessing and I am very grateful for that.” He wanted me to thank all of you. When he was the sickest, he never complained, only gave thanks, which is unparalleled and difficult.

On the 8th, my family, including my daughter Shirley went to the hospital to offer Holy Communion. At that time, his daughter and son-in-law were both there. There were seven of us. Immediately, Sister Eileen said, “oh! Seven! It’s a perfect number.”Indeed, the number seven in the Bible has always represented perfection, indicating that the soul has matured. After Christians are reborn from the Holy Spirit, life grows slowly and steadily until it has reached fruition. At that time, Elder Chen was no longer able to eat, so we only touched it to his lips, but during the time of silent prayer, we could all feel the presence of God, God had already received our praise and worship. At the end of the visit, when Shirley blessed Elder Chen, speaking into his ears, his whole person was radiating with peace and serenity, which moved me greatly. I knew at that time that Elder Chen had been in the arms of Christ, our Lord, enjoying complete and total peace, having won his battle with death because he was walking with our savior through the valley of the shadow of death and not fearful of the uncertainty of death.

Through Elder Chen, we have learned a valuable lesson in faith—that no matter the situation, good or bad, the grace and compassion of our Lord was always with him. The journey of faith is special. The more you believe, the more you will be able to experience God’s presence with you, and only for those who have walked through the valley of the shadow of death can testify to this.

Brothers and Sisters, I know that Elder Chen has already received the gift of everlasting life, peace, and comfort in heaven. Therefore, even though we are saddened and mourn his loss, we still must rejoice for him, that he has returned home into the embrace of God. Let us prayer together for his family, to ask that God’s peace and comfort be with them.