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Sunday, August 13, 2006

Your Own Personal Easter

Below is a sermon I will preach in about one hour at a memorial service for a grief support group that our congregation offers. I don't often post sermons on my blog, but this one is short so I thought, "why not?"

Stepping Stones Memorial
August 13, 2006
Text: John 6:35, 40

Then Jesus declared, "I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty. …
For my Father's will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day."

You are all here today because you mourn the loss of someone dear to you. In a sense, such loss is just part of life. People live and then they die. Sometimes they die young and sometimes after many years of life. But everyone faces their final hour eventually.

With modern medical advances and the decrease of infant mortality, we can almost fool ourselves into thinking that we are invincible, that we can cheat death, that we can cure what ails us.

Our culture’s incessant emphasis on youth and youthfulness only perpetuates the myth that death is something that happens to other people, not something we need to be particularly concerned about for ourselves.

Counselors agree that denial is one of the common early stages in the grieving process. But denial can also color the way we think even when we are not particularly grief-stricken.

One of the most refreshing aspects of the Christian religion is that it is realistic. The Christian faith does not say to you, “OK, just stick your head in the sand, just live in denial of death and you won’t get hurt.”

No, instead the Christian faith repeats the words of St. Paul, “The wages of sin is death” and the words of the prophet Ezekiel: “the soul that sinneth, it shall die.”

We live in a broken world populated with damaged people. And that brokenness is never more obvious than when someone we care about dies.

But that is where Jesus Christ intervenes. This is the number one most important fact you will ever face. Jesus gives life. Jesus Christ is the author and source of life for people steeped in sin and oppressed by death.

He says, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry and he who believes in me will never be thirsty.” Our Lord is not talking about bread for your belly, the kind of food that once you eat it you eventually get hungry again and have to eat again and again.

Jesus gives you sustenance for your spirit, life for your soul. Most people today are more earthly minded than they are heavenly minded, more concerned about their material well being than their relationship with God, more concerned about where they’ll spend the Labor Day weekend than where they’ll spend eternity.

But the invitation of Jesus is a wake up call to all people. He is saying that man cannot live on bread alone but on every word that proceeds from the mouth of God. He is saying that life is more than food and clothing, career and 401ks, possessions and acquisitions. For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and lose his own soul?

He suffered and died to pay the penalty for our sins. That is the meaning of the crucifixion. You’ve been died for. Your sins, your shortcomings, have been paid for in full by Jesus Christ. And His resurrection from the dead is a preview of things to come for all who are baptized into Him.

Jesus says, “For my Father's will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day."

He will raise you up. He will overturn the grave. Death will not have the final word. It will not have the last laugh. But you will laugh with inexpressibly joy when the Savior says your name on the last day and you stand up and ascend to heaven.

The Christian message proclaims the reality of sin and death and the grave. But even more emphatically the church must proclaim the resurrection of Jesus Christ, the first fruits of them that sleep. In other words, just as Jesus rose victorious from the grave, so also all who are in Christ by faith will likewise rise bodily.

Jesus is more than just the guru of the moment, the god de jour, a dispenser of good advice. He is life itself. And being literally incorporated into Jesus through baptism, we can each anticipate our own personal Easter. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

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1 comment:

The Beast said...

Bravo my friend.

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