“But we do not want you to be uniformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. For this we declare to you by a word of the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. 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. 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. Therefore encourage one another with these words.” 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18
As we as a congregation face a time of mourning, we do so from a perspective of hope and also encouragement. As believers we do believe that Jesus died and rose again. As the song states, ‘Jesus lives and so shall I.’ As Paul states we do not grieve or mourn as others do who have no hope. We have hope. We rest in Christ. We know the truths of the Gospel. But we still feel the sting of death. And we still mourn.
“For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted; a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; a time to seek, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away; a time to tear, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; a time to love, and a time to hate; a time for war, and a time for peace.” Ecclesiastes 3:1-8
Life is full of seasons and times. Yesterday we both celebrated a one-year anniversary of one of our members being blessed with the gift of better and longer life because of an organ transplant, and also the loss of a dear friend, brother in Christ, and Ruling Elder to sickness. A time for both rejoicing and sorrow. And a time to remember who we are as the body of Christ that we can both rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep. A lot of our everyday life is bittersweet. We are constantly reminded that we live in a fallen world that is full of disease and hardship but also joy and triumphs.
As we face the day in day out ups and downs, trials and blessings of life we do so with the knowledge that we serve a compassionate, loving, long-suffering, merciful, God who understands us and has compassion on us.
“Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” Hebrews 4:14-16
In joy or in pain, let us fix our eyes on Jesus. He is that great high priest who understands what we face. He is able to sympathize with our weaknesses. He knows us. Those facts and those truths of Scripture do not take away our mourning. But they sure do affect how we mourn. We do so, looking to the one who has secured our salvation and who is the author of life and death. And we remember what we have to look forward to one day at Christ’s return.
“I tell you this, brothers: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written:
“Death is swallowed up in victory.” “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?”
The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.” 1 Corinthians 15:50-58