Pastor Shade was honored to preach at the memorial service for fallen classmates during his 35th Naval Academy Reunion, class of 1979, in Annapolis, MD. A full transcript of the sermon is below.
Pastor Burke Shade: We’ve all heard before what is commonly called the gospel, the good news being the proclamation of forgiveness of our sins through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and the receiving of that forgiveness through faith in Jesus.
Acts 16.31 is a good example of what I’m speaking about. When the Philippian jailor asked the Apostle Paul “what must I do to be saved,” Paul answered, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you shall be saved, you and your family.”
It is good news, no doubt, that there is forgiveness for man’s sins outside of himself, by faith in Jesus Christ.
But that news, salvation by faith, is not really new in the biblical story. It’s not really “new” when Jesus comes in history, when the Son of God, the second person of the Trinity, takes on human flesh.
In fact, way back in Genesis, when the world was young, Abraham was saved by faith. It says about him in Genesis 15.6, after God had showed him the stars at night and told him that his descendants would be greater than them in number, it says that he “believed the Lord, and he counted it to him as righteousness.” Abraham was justified by faith! Indeed, the Apostle Paul uses Abraham as the example of faith in Romans 4.
So what’s new in the gospel? What is new about the good news?
It is this: that Jesus is Lord, that he is King and Ruler of the world. What is new is heaven’s king being installed on the earth to rule the world. What is new is the fulfillment of all the prophecies of the Messianic Psalms, such as Psalm 2, 72, and 110, where Yahweh declares “As for me, I have set my King on Zion, my holy hill… The Lord said to me, ‘You are my Son; today I have begotten you. Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage, and the ends of the earth your possession’” (Psalm 2). Or from Psalm 110, “The Lord says to my lord, ‘Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool.’”
These are two of the most quoted Psalms in the New Testament, and they found their fulfillment in the ministry of Jesus. Remember the refrain of Jesus? “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand;” or literally, “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven has come near in me.”
Yes, Jesus dies as the Lamb of God; Yes, he is raised for the justification of those who believe in him. But, he also ascends into heaven forty days after his resurrection.
Why? To sit upon the throne of his Father, and to rule the world on his behalf. This theme of Jesus upon the throne of his Father is Paul’s joyous climax to the first chapter of his letter written to the Ephesians, where Paul states that God worked his great might when “he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church…” (Ephesians 1.20).
Jesus is Lord, then, in order to bless the world. Jesus is Lord, in order to bring the world into peace and joy by bringing it into the eternal fellowship of Father, Son, and Spirit, removing us from Satan’s kingdom of darkness, and bringing us into Jesus’ own kingdom of light and glory. That’s why we sing Joy to the World at Christmas: we are rejoicing in his glorious reign!
During his ministry on earth, Jesus bound Satan, and has been plundering his house ever since (Matthew 12). Proof that the kingdom of God had come upon them, and upon us, was his casting out demons by the Spirit of God.
But being Lord of all also means that Jesus is also the judge of all, as Paul made clear in his speech to the unbelieving Athenians in Acts 17. He spoke clearly and bluntly to them: “the times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead” (Acts 17.30-31).
This brings us to our fallen classmates, and the purpose for why we have gathered here, this morning, in God’s house. It is not only to remember their names and their faces and their achievements, but it is also to remember another fact: our fallen classmates have all met their Maker. They have all met their Creator; they have all stood before Jesus the Judge.
And so will you. You know this; you know you aren’t getting any younger; you feel it more every day, every morning, every evening. The ravages of time or disease or even accidents will someday take hold of you. You’ve known this since the day you showed up here thirty-nine years ago, when you first met and began to love these fallen classmates. For this reason, you need to reflect not only on their lives, and what you enjoyed with them, but also on their eternal lives, where they are now. That should lead you to think and reflect on your own life, your own beliefs, your own practices in accord with those beliefs, and your own death. And subsequently, on your own eternal life.
Where will it be? Are you trusting in the one true God, the one Savior and Lord of all mankind? Or in something else?
You should know by now that nothing else saves, that nothing else rules: all that man does fails. It is not permanent; not even military power, or military victories, last for long. Admirals and Generals and victories and even defeats come and go; they fade in time; they don’t last.
But Jesus is both God and man, and his rule will never fail, his kingdom will never end. Are you in his kingdom? Are you worshiping him? There is no way to the Father and everlasting joy and peace, beginning now and lasting forever, except through Jesus Christ. The Scriptures are clear, and so was Jesus, when he said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14.6).
A great pastor of the 16th century once remarked that men are scarcely out of the cemetery, scarcely out of a memorial service, before their minds forget what they have seen. Too quickly, he said, they leave the contemplation of the eternal to focus on the fleeting, or the temporal, or the trivial.
I call you this morning to heed his counsel; today, this weekend, as you look in the aging faces of your classmates, do not forget to meditate on what our fallen classmates have already experienced: either blessing and the saving judgment of Jesus the Lord, “well done, thou good and faithful servant,” or, “I never knew you, you who practiced lawlessness.”
Too much is at stake to fail to meditate on these things: your eternity, and the eternity of those who look up to you; not only your fellow classmates, not only your fellow military comrades, but also your business colleagues, your family, your children, and even by now, your grandchildren.
Look to Jesus, and follow him, even as the Apostle Paul followed him, giving up all that he had trusted in. Listen to how he puts it in his letter to the Christians in the city of Philippi:
“But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith—that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead” (Philippians 3.7-11).
That is my hope for you this morning. That is my message: that you, by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ alone, may attain the resurrection from the dead, and enter into the eternal fellowship of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.