To my sorrow, I experienced the death of a very good friend this week; one whom I have known for more than fifty years. He had cancer and thought he had beaten it twice, but it came back in places where the medico’s couldn’t win. m
As I did the ring-around to inform others in an effort to help his wife, everyone found it hard to believe this guy had passed away. In fact, one of them became quite emotional on the phone in his disbelief.
I want today's message to remind us all of what belief and faith in Jesus Christ does in regard to what lies before us in the afterlife.
I will quote an old book I picked up about twenty years ago for $1 in a second-hand bookstore. It is titled Funeral Sermons by Lutheran Divines and was written in 1918, a specific time in history when WWI was still being fought and the Spanish Flu was already in full flight. There were many funerals.
The book was given to a minister on the 24/11/1920, almost 100 years ago this year, and two weeks after Armistice Day. It has riches for the hearer.
“The creator has given us affections and so it is natural to love each other. We are happy in the exercise of affections. To be surrounded by congenial spirits, by wife and children, to love them and see them love each other is one of the purest forms of human enjoyment.
But who will describe our heartaches when these bonds of affections are violently sundered by death? Tears flow unbidden. They are our only natural relief. Whether people be believers or unbelievers, they feel this pain; yet there is a vast difference in their mourning. St Paul is not a stoic who, in stolid indifference, gives up his weeping. He does not seek to restrain us from weeping. He knows we cannot refrain from it without doing violence to our nature. But he asks us not to mourn as those who have no hope.
When worldlings stand by the coffin they are comfortless and their mourning borders on despair; but when Christians stand by the coffin and the grave they have hope. Even amid the gathering darkness, there is a rift in the clouds and a ray of light from a better world that cheers them. They mourn with hope.
The source of our comfort is the Bible. It was given that through its comforts we might have hope. In cases of affliction, men comfort each other; but human comfort is vain. The only balm for the wounded heart is found in the Word. May God help us to apply it to your wounded hearts.”
Funeral Sermons by Lutheran Divines
1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 reminds us of a believer's hope.
13But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope.
14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him.
15 For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep.
16 For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first:
17 Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.
18 Wherefore comfort one another with these words.
Paul represents death for the believer with such a beautiful term. Verse14,“them also which sleep in Jesus.’
There is something terrifying about death. We’ve all seen enough of it. It leaves us empty, cold and distraught from the loss. But believers hold the promise of further life in their hearts. Not only do we experience the joys of Salvation while we live, but that joy continues when we pass on. No other promise is like this one. No other offer in life transcends death, and we know it to be true because it is offered by our maker.
As I went through this week, I pondered on all the times my old mate and I got together and when I bought him his first Bible 32 years ago, and then his second one just two weeks before he died. I'll certainly miss him.
Whatever discomfort you are experiencing now, whatever weeping, whatever trials or tribulations however severe, put them in the hands of the Comforter, even unto death. Our Lord is a present help in times of all trouble, of all mourning, of all despair. The Bible says to lay our cares upon him and he will care for us. Do that.
Today's prayer: Dear Lord, thank you for your comfort and healing power. Help me to lay all my cares in this life upon you, but to also remember that your promise of eternal life is as true as life itself.