Summary: Encouragement to a congregation of reluctant inviters to take invite cards and invite friends and neighbors to worship.
We’re continuing with the E100 series, and we have two weeks left. We’re actually extending the series one week due to Ash Wednesday and the 25th anniversary. But I’ll be preaching three sermons from the last two weeks of the E100 series. You can still grab a book mark it you’d like and read along with us.
Prayer for the people – for those who put themselves in harm’s way for the sake of others. Military, armed forces, law enforcement, firemen. Let’s pray. (Remember Mike, Chip, and Kameron)
Do you know what prompts a lot of people to consider following Jesus Christ? It is times of examination – those times vary in scale and scope. At the end of our life, we often face major examinations.
For Pete, it was a time for a major examination. I met him at North Austin Medical Center. He was about 32. He was a young “Dellionaire”. That’s what they used to call them. Lot’s of people who went to work for Dell Computers in the early 1990s were millionaires by the late 1990s. Those folks had the world by the tail – and Pete did. The career, the house, a beautiful wife, no kids – yet… And uh, he had been diagnosed with terminal disease.
I don’t remember much about that conversation. But I remember the lines, the sharp lines of worry around his wife’s eyes. They didn’t seem to belong there. And I remember him saying very angrily, “there must be options. There are always options.” And I also remember that they were Presbyterians – both of them – who hadn’t been to church since they were in High School. And oh man, they needed a source of hope that day.
Paul the apostle writes.
1Th 4:13 But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as those who have no hope. 14 For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. 15 For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16 For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. 18 Therefore encourage one another with these words.
The trump shall resound and the Lord shall descend, even so, it is well with my soul. I love this passage, It brings so many images to mind. The images inspire the creation of images. But it’s easy to be captured by them. What I love about this passage, most of all, is that it says we have hope in the face of death.
Hope. Hope is such a powerful thing. It shapes us. I thought I knew a lot about hope – but there was a season in my life when God taught me more about hope than I could imagine. It was when I learned that Heather was expecting a baby – and we began to look forward with hope to the day that our first child would be born. It was miraculous. It was frightening. It was wonderful. There was so much anticipation. There was a baby coming. And – and – this hope was heightened because at one point we thought we’d never have children. That made the whole things seem even more miraculous.
Paul was writing to Christians who needed hope. They were living in a pagan culture full of people who did not believe in Jesus. I want to draw your attention to verse 13. Paul talks about “those who have fallen asleep.” I suspect you fully appreciate that he was referring to people who’ve died. He wanted them to know what happens when people die so that they would not “grieve as those who have no hope.” He is saying to the Christians that the way they will grieve will be qualitatively different from the way the rest of the world grieves. For we, who belong to Jesus Christ, do not grieve like those who have no hope.
Quick aside – a very important aside. I’ve conducted many funerals. Lots of funerals. I haven’t encountered many, but every now and then I’ll encounter someone who says really stupid things at the time of death. Like, “I guess God just needed them more that we did.” Huh? A god who kills someone we love to meet his own needs. That’s not my God. How about this: “God just wanted a flower in his garden.” What a selfish god that would be! Or “Praise Jesus. She’s in Heaven! We should be happy.” Really? We’ll be reunited in Heaven – at the end of my life – I’ve now lost a loved one whom I will not get a hug from for the rest of my life and you want me to be happy? This passages says,