Summary: What we believe about death and resurrection affects more of our lives than we think. This is a controversial subject, but it needs to be discussed and understood. Why is this important and what actually happens when we die, according to the bible?
This sermon was delivered during Evening Song at Holy Trinity, Ayr, Ayrshire, Scotland on the 6th November 2016; Holy Trinity is a Scottish Episcopal Church in the Dioceses of Glasgow and Dumfries.
Please join me in a short prayer from Psalms 19:14, and ” Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of our hearts, be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my strength, and my redeemer. Amen.
Tonight’s readings are contrary to last weeks reading on Zacchaeus, wherein the subject or topic of death and the life thereafter is not well known, nor is it readily discussed. In fact it is a very difficult topic as none of us has died, went to heaven and returned to tell the tale, except that is, for Jesus. …
No other religion, no other religious creator has ever claimed to have conquered death, yet most religions have their own afterlife, that is if they believe in an afterlife, but the subject of death is not for the faint hearted, … as some of the answers are simply not what we want to hear, so be prepared. … So in that light, feel free to disagree with me, … do not get upset, I will respect your views, however I will be basing everything I say, as I do in all my sermons, on what the bible says, and not what I want to believe.
So here goes, … I will start by saying that it is becoming more obvious, and more understandable that many people today, in this modern scientific age, simply refuse to believe in life after death. We hear it more often, they tend to say things like, an afterlife cannot be proved, when we die, we die, and that is it; … they force themselves into believing that “what they see is what they get”, and conclude that they must make the most of it.
And this worries me, because it becomes increasingly difficult to encourage these people to believe in a God who rose from the dead, instead … they develop their own religion or non religion, which centres on themselves, with everything else being a matter of conscience.
Personally speaking, I find this attitude difficult to take, because I believe that it takes more faith to deny the existence of a God, than it does to accept that there is a God in heaven; … and if we were to suddenly deny the existence of God, then our whole philosophy of life changes. … Without our Lord, we would totally ignore the rights of others and start living purely for ourselves, … and, I can say without contradiction, that I have lived that, but I thank God everyday, that I will never live like that again, because when we take our minds of ourselves, the world open up for us. … You see, our attitude towards our God, or another God, or the non existence of God, … is fundamental on who we are, and how we live our lives. Our attitude and values in life as Christians therefore, are based very deep down within us, ... we believe in a joyous life after our death, … and this then seriously sets us apart from other religions.
Now you will be saying, most religions do refer to an afterlife, an alternative heaven, and you are right, … whether it be a Nirvana, or Jannah, or a Valhalla, or an Elysium or a Tir Na Nog, or what ever; they all have a heaven of sorts, (and there are thousands of them), and like us, their belief in their heaven, determines how they live.
One of the extreme examples that you know off is the Muslim terrorists who believe that they will be given 72 virgins in Jannah, the Muslim heaven, for certain acts of terrorism, … and I say this to help you understand that whatever we believe about heaven, … controls what we do in this life; it this therefore is a serious topic.
Now, I am going to slip in a wee gospel message here, … all these other religions, all of them, have a similar way entering them, and that is normally by living a good and wholesome life, or doing some kind of good or heroic deeds, or some kind of charitable works, whereas in Christianity, … and in only Christianity, … we believe that the only way to enter heaven is to acknowledge Jesus as our Lord, … our believe in Jesus gets us into heaven, and not by striving to impress our Lord by our good works.
I love Acts 2:21 which says, “And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved”. We will enter heaven because of him, or not at all, … there is no other way.