Summary: Our culture is pretty mixed up about death, and faces a whole series of ethical questions and dilemmas, and of a shift in our culture.
To Die Or Not To Die: Issues of Life At It’s End
Series: In But Not Of May 15, 2005
Before we take a look at today’s topic, issues of life at it’s end, which is part of our series of sermons addressing issues in our society from a Christian perspective, I want to acknowledge that this is a difficult topic. And it is a very personal one for many of you, who have faced or who are facing the death of a loved one. So, in sensitivity, I want to begin with a perspective by Henry Van Dyke, and then a prayer:
Gone From My Sight
I am standing upon the seashore.
A ship at my side spreads her white
sails to the morning breeze and starts
for the blue ocean.
She is an object of beauty and strength.
I stand and watch her until at length
she hangs like a speck of white cloud
just where the sea and sky come
to mingle with each other.
Then, someone at my side says;
"There, she is gone!"
Gone from my sight. That is all.
She is just as large in mast and hull
and spar as she was when she left my side
and she is just as able to bear her
load of living freight to her destined port.
Her diminished size is in me, not in her.
And just at the moment when someone
at my side says, "There, she is gone!"
There are other eyes watching her coming,
and other voices ready to take up the glad
"Here she comes!"
And that is dying.
by Henry Van Dyke, a 19th Century clergyman, educator, poet, and religious writer.
You and I live in the middle of our world, and our culture, with the encouragement from Romans 12 that we, in the Phillips translation “Do not let the world around you squeeze you into its own mould, but let God re-mould your minds from within”. In this series we have been taking a thoughtful look at issues like marriage, disaster, and life at its origins, beginnings, and in the living. Today we are going to look at end of life issues. How should we approach death? How should we view the suffering that often comes at the end of life? What does the Bible have to say about euthanasia, “right to die”, or doctor-assisted suicide?
Let’s build our foundation from Scripture. I’m going to run through these fairly quickly:
God Is In Control Of Death:
Rev 1:18 “I am the Living One; I was dead, and behold I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades.”
Job 14:5 “Man’s days are determined; you have decreed the number of his months and have set limits he cannot exceed.”
This Life is Temporary:
2 Pet 1:13-14 “I think it is right to refresh your memory as long as I live in the tent of this body, because I know that I will soon put it aside, as our Lord Jesus Christ has made clear to me.”
What Happens When We Die:
1 Thess 4:13-18 (NLT) “And now, brothers and sisters, I want you to know what will happen to the Christians who have died so you will not be full of sorrow like people who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and was raised to life again, we also believe that when Jesus comes, God will bring back with Jesus all the Christians who have died.
I can tell you this directly from the Lord: We who are still living when the Lord returns will not rise to meet him ahead of those who are in their graves. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven with a commanding shout, with the call of the archangel, and with the trumpet call of God. First, all the Christians who have died will rise from their graves. Then, together with them, we who are still alive and remain on the earth will be caught up in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air and remain with him forever. So comfort and encourage each other with these words.
A Christian View of Death:
There is an image in Scripture that describes death, which I am going to read next from 1 Cor 15. It is the image of a seed, and so I want to give you each a seed. This is a sunflower seed, and I want you to take it in your hand. I want you to touch it, hold it, reflect on how amazing a seed is. You take a seed, that tiny little seed, put it in the ground, and something beautiful and amazing happens.
1 Cor 15:35-57 “36But someone may ask, "How will the dead be raised? What kind of bodies will they have?" 36What a foolish question! When you put a seed into the ground, it doesn’t grow into a plant unless it dies first. 37And what you put in the ground is not the plant that will grow, but only a dry little seed of wheat or whatever it is you are planting. 38Then God gives it a new body--just the kind he wants it to have…