"Prince of Peace"
by Akiane Kramarik
available at: http://www.artakiane.com/
5th Sunday of Easter Proper A5
Rev. Dr. D. K. Schroeder
John 14:1-14 Sermon
May 22, 2011
Hymns (from The Lutheran Hymnal):
14 "All People That On Earth Do Dwell"
391 "Blessed Are The Sons Of God"
39 "Praise To The Lord"
HEAVEN IS FOR REAL
TEXT (vs. 1-6): “[Jesus said] Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also. And whither I go ye know, and the way ye know. Thomas saith unto him, Lord, we know not whither thou goest; and how can we know the way? Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.”
Today is May the 22nd, 2011; and do you know what that means? Judging from the fact that you're still here, and I'm still here, and things are pretty much the same as they have been, means one thing is for certain. Radio crackpot Harold Camping was wrong again about his prediction about Christ's return and the end of the world. The reason I say "again" is because this isn't the first time that Camping has made a doomsday prediction. In 1992 Camping predicted that Christ's second coming would be on September 6, 1994; and guess what? It didn't happen then either!
Of course there were people who did in fact meet their Lord yesterday, but it was because they passed away like people do every day. This is a part of normal everyday life. It had nothing to do with Harold Camping's predictions.
Harold Camping is 89 years old, and claims to have studied the Bible for over 50 years. Camping is quoted as saying, "Beyond the shadow of a doubt, May 21 will be the date of the Rapture and the day of judgment".
For some reason, Matthew chapter 24 must not be in the Bible Harold Camping has been studying. In verses 23-28 Jesus says: "Then if anyone says to you, 'Look, here is the Christ!' or 'There he is!' do not believe it. 24For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect. 25See, I have told you beforehand. 26So, if they say to you, 'Look, he is in the wilderness,' do not go out. If they say, 'Look, he is in the inner rooms,' do not believe it. 27 For as the lightning comes from the east and shines as far as the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. 28 Wherever the corpse is, there the vultures will gather." Continuing on with verses 36 and 44: 36"But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only. 44Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect."
I can't honestly figure out how any legitimate student of the Bible could do what Harold Camping has done. His doctrine is so blatantly false and unBiblical, most Christians (and even many non-Christians) can see what an idiot this guy really is.
The real sad part of all this, is how many people have reacted to him. There were many people who quit their jobs. Then people began liquidating all of their assets and draining their bank accounts to buy advertising that warned people about the impending doom for the world on May 21st.
But as we all know, it's now May 22nd. And there are many people out there who are broke, unemployed, and even homeless because of Harold Camping. And I seriously doubt if he has his checkbook in hand, just waiting to help these people whom he led down the garden path.
This morning, I have two different topics I'm going to address, and base this on the words of our Gospel lesson for this morning. This is one of the best comforting and reassuring passages of the Bible; and if you read through John 14, you will immediately see how much theology and how much comfort is conveyed by the words Jesus speaks.
I said that I had two different topics for today. These are two topics that people have been asking me about over the course of the last several weeks. Harold Camping and his prediction is one of them, and it is probably the easiest one to dismiss--chalk it up to false teaching, or Biblical ignorance, or senile dementia, or whatever you want. The man is a crackpot, and it is as simple as that. But I really don't want to give him much more pulpit time today.
The other topic is about as far-removed from Camping as it could be. This is the story about a little boy by the name of Colton Burpo from Imperial, Nebraska, and the amazing story he has to tell. Both of these topics tie in very well with our Gospel lesson for today from John 14.
It was just before Easter when my mother called my attention to an article about young Colton in the Lincoln Journal Star. I read through the article with a great deal of interest; and after I was done, I clipped the article and saved it. "Here's a good sermon illustration," I thought to myself, and promptly put it aside until an appropriate time I could use it. And when this text came up in the assigned readings for this Sunday, I felt the time had come.
This past week, I went to Barnes and Noble to buy the book. I didn't have much trouble finding it either; there were several large displays promoting it. The book is slightly over 150 pages long, and it isn't difficult reading, so I read it in just a day in a couple of sittings. And then I happened to be listening to the radio on Friday, and Colton's dad, Todd Burpo was a guest on the Lincoln Live radio show, which is a segment on the KFOR noon news hour. The article, the book, and the radio interview were all very captivating. I also think that Colton's 12th birthday, which was on May 19th also had something to do with this promotion.
Now I don't think I've ever used the pulpit as a place for a book review. However, considering the subject matter of the book and the impact it has had upon people, I believe this is appropriate. And like I said before, it fits in very well with John chapter 14.
To give you an overview, Colton Burpo is the son of Todd and Sonja Burpo. Todd is a pastor at a small, theologically conservative Wesleyan church, who also runs an overhead garage door company, is a volunteer fireman and chaplain, and coaches sports as well. Sonja is a schoolteacher, and handles the business functions of the overhead door company. Colton has an older sister Cassie, and also a younger brother Colby who was born after Colton's incident in the book. Sonja also miscarried another girl in her first several months of pregnancy. Even though there have been trials and hardships, they are a happy Christian family who are dedicated to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
When Colton was a couple months shy of his fourth birthday, his appendix ruptured. And due to an almost fatal misdiagnosis, the poison spread throughout his small body. He was one very sick little boy.
As many of you know, I'm no stranger to a ruptured appendix. I had the pain and the cold sweats too; and if you remember back, I even preached that Sunday before my emergency surgery on Tuesday. But Colton didn't have my corpulent body to be able to shield the burst appendix with a roll of fat to help keep the poison localized. So as the poison spread throughout his small frame, he rapidly decompensated.
His parents rushed him from Imperial to North Platte, where they finally came up with a correct diagnosis. He was so far gone, that the medical staff didn't think he was going to make it. But even though things were touch-and-go, and he had to go through several operations and a lot of pain, he still recovered.
His recovery was miraculous, to say the least. But as fabulous as that was, we know that miraculous recoveries have happened to others too. The most awesome part of this story is what happened to Colton during his first surgery.
Colton first talked about what the doctors were doing to him and where his parents were during the operation, and what they were doing.
And then he reported going to heaven, and in his own way he was able to describe what it was like and whom he had seen there. He was able to talk about people who had died before he was born, he described some things about heaven that were way beyond what he had ever learned in Sunday School, and he even met his sister whom his mother had miscarried before he was born. He had never been told about his mother's miscarriage--what four year old could have ever comprehended what that even was?
I could go on for a while here. I know that my brief explanation of what happened to young Colton hardly does justice to the book. But it is one that I think you should definitely read. It's a real "page-turner."
In John 14, Jesus begins by telling his disciples, "Let not your hearts be troubled." Those are words we all need to hear and remember. At virtually every funeral service I've conducted, the words of John 14 are words that I use to comfort the family of a Christian who has been called to his or her heavenly home. A family needs the assurance that Jesus gives. Through faith in Jesus Christ, a believer is assured that there is a mansion, or literally a dwelling chamber awaiting them, where they will, as Psalm 23 states, "dwell in the house of the Lord forever." And then Jesus continues with a rather rhetorical question, "Do you think I would have told you this if it wasn't the truth?"
But still we doubt. For some reason, we still wonder whether this is really the truth. Doubt is what sin does to us. Satan wants us to doubt what Jesus plainly says is true. Satan does this to attack our faith and get us to going in the wrong direction. Satan wants us to think of heaven as being this mythical place in ancient lore, and see it as an empty promise and a meaningless hope.
But Jesus comes along and removes that doubt and fear. He wants us to know that through faith alone, he is our personal Saviour who has a personal interest in each and every one of us. In every way possible, he wants to strengthen our faith, because as we are told in our Gospel text for today, "No one cometh unto the Father but by me." Nobody can get into heaven and inhabit their eternal mansion apart from faith in Jesus Christ. Colton makes that statement rather strongly too!
Today I had two stories to share--one about the old heretic Harold Camping, and the other about a small Christian boy by the name of Colton Burpo. The two are about as far apart as they could possibly be.
Harold Camping espousing his terrible theology has done a lot to discredit the Christian faith and otherwise make a fool of himself. Who in their right mind would want to listen to someone who has single-handedly caused a multitude of people to be unemployed, homeless, and bankrupt? Who wants to believe a lie? Who wants to be shown to be a gullible fool? Do you think that perhaps Harold Camping is a tool of Satan, a false teacher, and a wolf in sheep's clothing?
On the other hand, the simple words of a small child can work wonders. His recounting of the beauty of heaven and the love of Jesus is the simple message of the Gospel. Jesus loves sinners the likes of you and me, so that through faith in him as our Saviour, we will indeed see heaven.
To be quite honest, I'm always very leery to direct people to someplace beside Scripture for hope. I treat any supernatural experience with skepticism, simply because God has given us his inspired and inerrant Word, as Paul says to Timothy, "to make us wise unto salvation through faith in Christ Jesus." The sufficiency of the Word is enough. So when I make the statement "Heaven Is For Real," I do so based upon what God has plainly said in his Word, and not because of Colton Burpo's experience. The promise is from Jesus my Saviour, and not Colton.
That being said however, I also believe that God can do anything, which includes taking a small boy for a visit to heaven. God causes things to happen in life that strengthen our faith, especially in light of the foolish prophecy of a doomsday prophet that never materialized.
It's tough for me to sit and analyze Colton Burpo's experience, especially since I've never talked to him or his parents. All I know is what I've read and heard. But still, if Colton's story brings people into God's Word and encourages them to study it diligently, and brings them into closer fellowship with their Saviour, then it has served a very noble purpose indeed. It's as Paul writes in Romans chapter 10 verse 17, "Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God."
This morning, I'm going to close with a few short interesting anecdotes from the book that caught my attention, which I shall paraphrase.
Colton went with his father to visit a retired pastor who was on his deathbed. After his father had prayed with the man and they were on their way out, Colton stopped and went back to the man's bedside. He took hold of the man's hand, looked him in the eye, and said: "It's going to be okay. The first person you're going to see is Jesus."
I've always contended that the sign of a successful ministry is to be with a Christian on their deathbed, and to have them die in peace, knowing their future in heaven is secure.
The next thing I'll share is when Colton was in the recovery room just waking up from his first operation. In his barely conscious state, he began yelling for his father. So the nurse went and got him and brought him in.
Later on, Colton was telling his dad about this. He said, "Well, the reason I was yelling was that Jesus came to get me. He said I had to go back because he was answering your prayer. That's how come I was yelling for you."
The final thing I'll tell you about, is what Jesus looked like. His parents showed Colton about every different artist's rendition of Jesus they could find. When he looked at them, he would say, "no, that's not right." There was something wrong with every one of them.
Then his parents heard about a young Lithuanian/American girl in Idaho by the name of Akiane Kramarik, who had begun having visions of heaven around the age of four. Her descriptions of heaven were remarkably close to Colton's. Interestingly enough, Akiane's mother was an athiest, so religion was never talked about in their home. They didn't have a television, and she didn't go to any type of preschool.
Even though Akiane was a little girl, she was becoming a remarkable artist. At the age of eight, she painted a picture of the Jesus she had seen in her visions.
Todd was looking at her paintings on her website (I have looked at them too, and they're absolutely incredible!). Anyway, when he came to the portrait of Jesus, he called Colton, now age 7, to come and look at the computer screen. "What's wrong with this one?" Todd asked his son.
Colton looked at it in utter silence. After his dad nudged him, he turned and looked at him and said, "Dad, that one's right." That's the picture on the front of your bulletin this morning. Remember an eight-year-old girl painted it. Incidentally, both Colton and Akiane commented about how pretty Jesus' eyes were!
"Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you....I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.”
To find out more about Colton Burpo and his experience, go to: http://heavenisforreal.org/