Thursday, March 06, 2008

Hope in the face of death

The midweek Lenten services have been on the great "I am" statements of Jesus as recorded in the book of John. Last night was "I am the resurrection and the life." In a week when I and many in the church are still mourning the loss of a fellow brother who was laid to rest last week, the word of Christ preached in the sermon last night was once again a comfort to me. Even more so that this Sunday, March 9th, marks the 8th anniversary of my own father's heavenly birthday. Following are the last two paragraphs of last night's sermon.

"This, dear friends, is our sure and certain comfort and hope both when we mourn the death of a loved one and when we face our own mortality and death. Our Jesus is the Resurrection and the Life. Whoever believes in Him, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in Him shall never die. Your loved ones who died with faith in Christ are not dead and gone, nor do they simply live on in your memory or in the people and projects they loved. They are alive in Christ, and dwell with Him in joy and peace this very minute. And you will see them again in soul and body on the day of the resurrection of all flesh. For on that day, Jesus shall stand at their graves and cry out in a loud voice, "Friend, come out." And they shall awake and arise just as surely as Lazarus did.

The only question is, "Do you believe this?" And may you answer with Martha, and thus have joy and peace even in the face of death: "Yes, Lord; I believe that You are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world. I believe that You are the Resurrection and the Life. And thus I know that both I and my loved ones who believe in You will rise again on the Last Day." In the name of Jesus. Amen.

Yes Lord, I believe. Comfort me in my sorrow.

Two of the verses of the hymn sung at my father's funeral:
"I know that my Redeemer lives;
What comfort this sweet sentence gives!
He lives, He lives, who once was dead;
He lives, my ever-living head."

"He lives to silence all my fears;
He lives to wipe away my tears;
He lives to calm my troubled heart;
He lives all blessings to impart."

Two of the verses of the hymn sung at Jim's funeral and then again as the closing hymn last evening:
"I fear no foe with Thee at hand to bless;
Ills have no weight and tears no bitterness.
Where is death's sting? Where, grave, thy victory?
I triumph still if Thou abide with me!"

"Hold Thou Thy cross before my closing eyes:
Shine through the gloom, and point me to the skies.
Heav'n's morning breaks, and earth's vain shadows flee;
In life, in death, O Lord, abide with me."

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