Summary: Sermon edited from other contributors--credit due them for many ideas--edited and woven together with a new theme--no "glib" answers to the question of death. Instead let us look to the assurance of the Holy Spirit--the initial installment of God's faith
Triumphing Over the Things We Fear—A Sermon for All-Saints Sunday
What is it that frightens us most about death? Is it worrying that we will miss the person who leaves us behind? Are we afraid that we will not be able to get along without the person we love? In many cases, yes, I'm sure. In other cases we may have important unfinished business with another person, a score to settle, an issue to resolve, a relationship to be repaired, and we fear that we will not have enough time to accomplish these things. Perhaps we have unfinished work and are afraid of not having enough time to finish the task. Maybe we still haven't asked for forgiveness from someone we have wronged, or told someone who needs to hear from us that they are forgiven. Or maybe we are afraid of death because we are afraid of punishment for our sins because we have not fully accepted God's plan of salvation. Death seems to finite—the end of the road—the end of possibilities, the end of opportunities, the end of healing, the end of building, the end of springtime and renewal. There are many reasons why we may fear death.
If any of this fits you, if you fear death for any reason, God has a message that He wishes for you to hear this morning.
Listen to God speaking to us through the Apostle Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians, chapter 15 verses 54 through 57. Here Paul writes: “When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: 'Death has been swallowed up in victory. Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?'”
The Bible tells us that even though we are dieing, the future for us remains for those of us whose life is in the Lord. For those of us who are Christians, the promise is that death is a transition, not a conclusion. After the winter of death comes a springtime of eternal life!
Listen again to these words from John who God inspired to write the book of Revelation. In Revelation chapter 21 we read: “God will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying, for the former things have passed away.” And, “He said to me: 'It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To him who is thirsty I will give to drink without cost from the spring of the water of life.'”
I think it is important for us to realize that even when it appears to us that the time has come when we can no longer do anything about the circumstances of our life, Jesus can still do something. The undeniable fact of death may stop us, but death does not prevent Jesus from working. Restoration of that which has been lost can still be accomplished. Every tear can be wiped away, not only for those whose earthly life has come to an end but also for those who remain.
One thing that God can do and frequently does is to use the death of others to transform those of us who remain. Losing loved-one's helps us come to grips with our own mortality, an essential step in preparation for eternity. On occasion people have expressed a desire to get to know Jesus better because of what they have heard at the funeral. This is one way God can use the death of a Christian to bring others closer to the way and the truth of Jesus Christ.
In today’s Gospel reading we read how it seemed hopeless for Mary and Martha. They had given up hope for Lazarus who had died. Listen to Martha in verse 39, “But, Lord,” said Martha the sister of the dead man... “he has been (in the grave) four days.” After four days she had given up all hope that Jesus would somehow turn the situation around. She knew that Jesus could heal someone while there were still alive, but she did not yet know that there is eternal life in and through the Lord. She saw death as the end—the end of opportunity, the end of relationships, the end of life, the end of hope.
Have you ever felt like Martha? Have you ever felt there is no hope... that the die is cast, the inevitable will come to pass and nothing can change what has happened? Think again! Through Jesus Christ death itself can be changed. Those of us who die in faith shall rise again with Christ on the last day and live with Him forever. This is the promise made to us, and it is therefore the hope that we must carry with us as we finish our days in this present life.