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Summary: A sermon for All Saints Sunday.

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1 Thessalonians 4:13-18

“Concerning those who have Died”

By: Ken Sauer, Pastor of East Ridge United Methodist Church, Chattanooga, TN

A sick man turned to his doctor, as he was preparing to leave the examination room and said, “Doctor, I am afraid to die. Tell me what lies on the other side.”

Very quietly, the doctor said, “I don’t know.”

“You don’t know? You, a Christian man, do not know what is on the other side?”

As the doctor was holding the handle of the door; on the other side came a sound of scratching and whining.

When he opened the door, a dog sprang into the room and leaped onto him with an eager show of gladness.

Turning to the patient, the doctor said, “Did you notice my dog? He’s never been in this room before. He didn’t know what was inside. He knew nothing except that his master was here, and when the door opened, he sprang in without fear. I know little of what is on the other side of death, but I do know one thing. I know my Master is there, and that is enough.”

Is that enough for you?

In our Scripture passage for this morning Paul tells us that we must not grieve as others do who have no hope.

This does not mean; we don’t mourn!!!

My goodness, we live most of our lives along side a spouse or a sister or brother…

…and suddenly, they are gone!!!

It rips us to the core.

If a child passes away, it is even more horrific and devastating!!!

I shudder to even entertain the thought of what I would go through if something were to happen to Mary Ellen.

Most certainly, I would give my life for hers without thought!

This life is filled with tears, and many things which happen…well, they are nearly unbearable.

And often we are left with the wailing question of “Why?”

The horrendous devastation in Haiti.

Can you imagine being in the shoes of a person who has lost their entire family, along with their home—literally everything!!!?

Or what about the surviving family members who lost someone on September 11th.

We cry out in desperation: “Why?”

Is there any hope?

Is life just a cruel joke where we are the punch-lines?

In the Greek and Roman world…

…confronted by death, the world stood around in despair.

People met death with fear and bleak hopelessness.

A Greek poet wrote, “There is hope for those who are alive, but those who have died are without hope.”

On many a tombstone was written, “I was not; I became; I am not.”

How depressing!!!

And what about the folks who live in our day and time, but do not know of a Loving God or do not believe?

No wonder there are so many suicides.

No wonder there are so many blank stares!

Or worse still, what about persons who are so steeped in sin, so filled with guilt and remorse that they live with a shocking fear of death which nearly paralyzes them?

Paul reminds us in Romans Chapter 3 Verse 23, “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”

Which, in a sense, is a big relief because we are all in the same boat!

No one is any better than anyone else.

We all deal with similar fears, temptations, sins…

None of us have it “all together…”

But, but, Paul goes on in Romans 5:8 to say, “God demonstrates [God’s] own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

And that includes you, me and everyone else in this world!!!

There is no one whom God does not love with the same, unconditional love!!!

I remember a time when I had forgotten this most important fact.

I was in college, and I felt that my life was “missing the mark.”

Riddled with an inability to forgive myself and faced with a skewed understanding of God I felt utterly lost!

One day I was walking across campus, feeling very low when I happened to wander into the campus record store.

Coming from the speakers in the store was Billy Joel singing his hit song, “I love you just the way you are.”

At that moment, I stopped and listened…

…and a sense of Revelation ran across my entire self.

It was as if God were speaking those words to me.

“Ken, I created you because I love you.”

“Ken, I knew you before you were formed in the womb.”

“Ken, I know you better than you even know yourself.”

“And Ken, you know what? I love you just the way you are!!!”

“Don’t be so hard on yourself. I died for you.

You are mine!

Do you have a long way to go?

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