A Sermon On the Occasion of A Service of Witness to the Resurrection of Jesus Christ: In Memory of
WILLIAM EDGAR COXE (1958-2020).
Introduction to the Scripture
Psalm 18:1-2 is a special Scripture to Maureen, as it was to Ed. We can understand why it is so. For the passage is about the Lord’s provision for those who have come to a place when all else fails.
To the choirmaster. A Psalm of David, the servant of the Lord, who addressed the words of this song to the Lord on the day when the Lord delivered him from the hand of all his enemies, and from the hand of Saul. He said:
I love you, O Lord, my strength. The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.
Let us pray: Lord, May the words of my mouth, and the meditations of our hearts be always acceptable in Thy sight, O Lord, our Rock and our Redeemer; And May I preach as if never to preach again, as a dying man to d6ing men. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
When all else fails where do you go? When you have lost everything, what do you do?
For over three decades I have sought to provide a response to that question, to many people, from many backgrounds, and in many places across the nation and the earth. But, when you look into the eyes of one who is like your brother or sister—as Ed was, as Berlin is, as Missy is—it is different.
David wrote this after a very personal encounter with Saul who was trying to snuff him out. In his victory, as he did also in his defeats, David composed a hymn for the congregation to sing. He gives it to the Director of Music. That song was used of the Lord to speak to us. Where do you go when all else fails? I know I need to know. I suspect you do, too.
God has given us a passage through the courageous struggle of Ed Coxe. God has left a legacy of Himself with the life and home going of Ed and it is this: When all else fails there is God. And He is all we need. How so? Psalm 18:1-2 shows us three ways that we can have hope when all else fails.
The first way is this:
1. When all else fails there is God’s love.
One of the greatest differences between Christianity and the other religions of mankind is love. God has revealed himself to us as a God of love. He calls on us to love him. Jesus said,
And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment (Mark 12:30 KJV).
In Islam, for example, the concept of love, where present at all, is overshadowed by the concept of wrath and anger. In other religions, love simply not present.
What is interesting about this Hebrew word love, as it is used by David in the passage, is that this is a sentiment of deep compassion that in other places is used to describe love towards one’s wife or children. In other words, this is a kind of love that we all understand: a love that is born out of relationship. This is the kind of love it God calls for. The other remarkable thing about this passage is the object of David’s love is the covenant name of God, the name of God that Hebrews would not pronounce. The name itself was too holy to be uttered on human lips. This name of God was Anglicized in the King James as Jehovah. So, this love is relational, but the relationship is one that began with God. For God had initiated this covenant—a sacred agreement, made with blood—that he would provide for David in a way that David could not provide for himself. This Covenant of Grace is at the very heart of Christianity. You and I need this kind of love. For in receiving a love that will never let us go we are bound to respond, “I love you, Lord.” To utter those words is to confess a love that is literally out of this world, but a love that can be comprehended by all.
Where is the second reason why Psalm 18 is it destination when all else fails.
2. When all else fails there is God’s hiding place.
In the second verse of Psalm 18, King David, recalling his own dangerous days, when the mad king, Saul, sought the popular shepherd-warrior’s life, looks to God as his rock, fortress, and deliverer. To read this reminds one of Martin Luther as the great Reformer was being hunted by the popish armies of Rome and found refuge in a borrowed castle, made available to him by a German prince. It was there that Luther wrote that veritable anthem of the Protestant Reformation, A Mighty Fortress Is Our God.
How is it that someone would say of God that he is my rock and my fortress? The answer is that when trouble is hunting us down, like a hound barking at a hind, we need a safe place, a hiding place. In saying this, we remember the book and the movie by Corrie ten Boom, God is our hiding place.
The disease of cancer which Ed fought with undaunted courage until the very end of his life, a personal struggle in which his wife, Maureen, joined with a dogged determination, is a very public disease. I mean by that it is difficult if not impossible to go through treatments without others witnessing the loss of hair, weight loss, or other notable consequences of chemotherapy. In this sense, cancer is often a public adversity. And there comes a time when you get tired of being a public sufferer. The spirit becomes depressed, the mind overwhelmed, and one is tempted to scream, “Let me fight this thing in private, please!” In such times the soul needs a place of refuge. This is what David will teach us that God is our hiding place.
I wonder how many times, at three in the morning, surrounded by tubes and IV bags, blue-lit monitors lighting the face just enough to see the tear forming, did Ed and Maureen feel this enemy hunting them down. Yet, by their testimony, and by His Word, God was there. He was their hiding place.
You may not suffer from cancer, but from an outbreak of pride, or a very public divorce, or an ongoing battle with depression. In the darkest moments of your life, you need what God provides: a rock set up high, a refuge, a safe house, a hiding place. He welcomes you to enter that hiding place right now.
Thirdly, Psalm 18 verses one and two reveals not just a love that will never let you go, not just a hiding place, but a Person who is there for you, with you, and beside you:
3. When all else fails there is God’s Messiah, the Lord Jesus.
David cries out that in the life and death battle he faced, deliverance had a name. God is the Deliverer. When all else fails, God is just beginning to work.
The Apostle Paul, in Romans 11, tells us that the prophecies about the Deliverer pointed to the One he preached, our Lord Jesus Christ. Thus, St. Paul quoted Isaiah:
The Deliverer will come from Zion, he will banish ungodliness from Jacob”; “and this will be my covenant with them when I take away their sins.”
The Lord delivers those who cry out to him. God delivers us from the sin nature, that poisonous potion brewed at the fall of humanity which runs deep in the natal tributaries of our souls. The Lord also delivers from the actual sins that proceed from that foul nature. The 1662 Book of Common Prayer provides a General Confession that remains as powerful as ever:
Almighty and most merciful Father; We have erred, and strayed from thy ways like lost sheep. We have followed too much the devices and desires of our own hearts. We have offended against thy holy laws. We have left undone those things which we ought to have done; And we have done those things which we ought not to have done; And there is no health in us. But thou, O Lord, have mercy upon us, miserable offenders. Spare thou them, O God, who confess their faults. Restore thou them that are penitent; According to thy promises declared unto mankind in Christ Jesu our Lord. And grant, O most merciful Father, for his sake; That we may hereafter live a godly, righteous, and sober life, To the glory of thy holy Name. Amen.
Throughout our lives we look to God for delivery: From sickness, indebtedness, danger, depression, and more. However, until Christ comes again, we will each face the final trial, death. Yet, for the believer, death has been tamed. Death is a portal through which we must pass. There is no successful passage without the Savior Jesus Christ.
I remember the last time I was with Ed. Berlin chaperoned our wives, and my cousin, Lisa, led by their hostess and tour guide, Maureen, to see some of Los Angeles’ famous sites. Providentially, it was a perfect time for Ed and me to be alone. Ed immediately put in a tape of an old television series from1960s that we used to watch. But the black and white video and scratchy audio became the soundtrack for what became a time of private pastoral visit, or, perhaps, a time of confession, if you will. Ed reflected, pondered, and told me the story of his life, since we had parted years ago (only to be reunited by funerals; and one happy family vacation visit a few years ago), he began to tell me of hard things, hurtful times, and personal mistakes. After a while I placed my hand on his shoulder and spoke, “Ed, that’s enough here.” I reminded him of the gospel that we have heard throughout the lives. I put it like this:
“Christ lived the life we could not live and paid the price for our sins we could not pay. That truth is based on what could be called, ‘The Great Exchange’ that occurred on Calvary’s cross.”
As I spoke, Ed listened closely. Yet, I watched as he stared out through a bedroom window just across from the bed. I looked to see what he was seeing, but saw nothing remarkable. He was obviously in deep thought. Finally, he turned back to me and said, “Yep. That’s what I believe.”
With that simple affirmation of Christ and the Gospel, we turned our attention back to the TV. Soon, Berlin came back and the three of us laughed so much that we forgot what we were laughing at. That is a good place to be.
When Ed died and his body was prepared for viewing of family only, Berlin told me, “Mike, you know that little half-cocked smile that he wore on his face?” “Yeah, sure.” “Well, Mike, when I looked down there at his remains, I couldn’t believe it. He had that crooked smirk on his face! It was like he was saying, ‘I know something . . .wanna know?”
I immediately recalled our talk about the Gospel. I told Berlin, “I think I know exactly what he was thinking as he died. Ed was thinking, “I know something . . . I know about the Great Exchange. I know where I am going. And I know that Christ has already taken a stand for me. He is my rock, my refuge, and my Deliverer.”
When all else fails what will you do? Where will you turn? Who will you turn? My friend, Jesus Christ lived the life you couldn’t live and died the death that should have been yours. He offers eternal life as a gift to all who confess their sins, profess His Lordship, and find refuge in Him. I only remains for you to join Ed and affirm,
“Yep. That’s what I believe.”
In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.