Summary: This sermon deals with the issue of grief and how the death of a loved one impacts us and how we can make it through the this tough time by the power of the resurrection.
Janey and her husband, Larry, waved goodbye to their fourteen year old daughter Shannon and her friends on the morning of May 14. "The sun was just coming up. The pink light of dawn shined through her hair, picking up auburn highlights and creating almost a halo around her head," said Janey. "She was so beautiful."
Shortly after the girls left, Larry went to Tennessee to visit his mother. But late that night, hours after the group was expected back, Janey received a disturbing phone call: there had been an "accident." The voice on the other end said.
The accident was one that affected an entire community. This was the community that I lived in at that time. On May 14, 1988, a school bus full of children, teens and chaperones traveled down Interstate 71 to Radcliff, Kentucky, on the way home from a church outing at a Cincinnati amusement park. But in the town of Carrollton, Kentucky, a drunk driver, heading the wrong way down the highway in a pickup truck, slammed into the bus head on. The bus burst into flames, killing 24 young people and three adults.
When Janey reached the church, she found a barrage of news media trucks in the parking lot; and she knew that whatever had happened was bad. Inside the church, she found her daughter Shannon’s name on a list of missing people from the bus. Janey recalls that moment: "The mother of one of Shannon’s close friends came up to me, panicked, saying they can’t find our babies. They can’t find our babies!"
Perhaps the greatest fear I have, is for something to happen to one of my babies. My greatest fear is that something would happen to someone close to me, someone I love. Comedian Jeff Foxworthy once made sport of rednecks describing a tornado, and he said of one being on TV saying, "It was awful, we could have been killed, or even worse!" People thought it was funny because what could be worse than dying. Well, there is something worse, and that is losing not your own life, but the life of someone you love. Alice Matthews, of Radio Bible Class, defines grief as "the price we pay for loving."
Grief, is a word all of us know, because death is universal. Even at a wedding, we still mention it, "until death do us part." Because eventually we know, each one of us must release the hand of one we love into the hand of One we have not yet seen. But even in the stern silence of grief and death, God still speaks to each and every one of us.
If you’ll celebrate a marriage anniversary alone this year, he speaks to you. If your child made it to heaven before making it to kindergarten, he speaks to you. If you lost a loved one in accident, if you learned more than you want to know about a certain disease, if your dreams were buried as they lowered the casket, then God speaks to you this morning.
He speaks to all of us who have stood or will stand in the soft dirt near an open grave. And to us He gives this confident word found in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-14 in the Living Bible: "I want you to know what happens to a Christian when he dies so that when it happens, you will not be full of sorrow, as those who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and then came back to life again, we can also believe that when Jesus returns, God will bring back with Him all the Christians who have died"
This morning, I want us to take a look at a family who like many of you has experienced the grim reality of losing a loved one, but in the end will experience the life giving hope we know in Jesus Christ. My prayer today is that you will find not only hope and comfort through their story, and that this hope of everlasting life will not merely be just a topic of discussion for you, but an ever-present reality in your live. So let’s look at the story of Lazarus and his untimely passing.
John 11:1-3 reads, “Now a man named Lazarus was sick. He was from Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. This Mary, whose brother Lazarus now lay sick, was the same one who poured perfume on the Lord and wiped his feet with her hair. So the sisters sent word to Jesus, "Lord, the one you love is sick."
This family was very dear to our Lord. He had a unique personal affection for them. We know from the other Gospels that our Lord liked being in their home. It was a place where He could slip off His sandals and relax. But now the home of Martha and Mary is in disarray because their brother, Lazarus, was sick. And when someone in your home is sick, you know that your entire life changes. Everything else takes a back seat. You will spend your entire life savings just to ease the pain of the one suffering. Your career that you worked so hard for takes the back seat when caring for your loved one becomes your prime responsibility.