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Death and the Second Coming November 9, 2014

Posted by sandhandrews in Sermons.
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1 Thessalonians 4:13-18

Proper 27

November 9, 2014


Focus:  God gives us life with Him forever.

Function:  That the hearers live every day as though it were their last.

Structure:  Problem-Solution-Implication.


Death and the Second Coming


College is a unique time in the lives of our young people today.  They’re actively searching for the kinds of experiences that will give them new thrills, new insights, new wisdom.  But it’s a process of trial and error.  We take risks, we make mistakes, and we learn from them.

When I was in college, we knew these things.  We realized, at some level, what we were doing.  And so my friends and I had a phrase that we often told each other.  In some ways it was a joke, but it was also a warning.  Whenever someone was up to no good, plotting shenanigans, or was about to do something really stupid, we would say to them, “Remember, there’s no cutting in line to see Jesus.”

Today is the opposite of last week.  Last week was a great opportunity to focus on life, to celebrate the gift of life that God gives to us.  And we did that, we had a guest speaker, Rev. Dr. Jim Lamb talk about life from womb to grave.  And we celebrated the lives of the ten men and women who are now with Christ in Paradise.

But today we’re focusing on death.  Death is part of the cycle of life.  We see it in the seasons, that as spring comes, we enjoy new life.  We plant gardens and crops.  We plant flowers that will bloom, and everything around us seems to be green.

And yet, fall comes.  The leaves begin to turn colors.  Grass becomes brown.  Plants wither and die.  And as fall gives way to winter, wildlife virtually disappears.

And for some 6000 years, God has been creating people, granting life.  And yet, in all those years, billions of billions of people have eventually died.  We’ve all lost people we loved and cared about.  Many of us have seen death.  As best as we can, we try to prepare ourselves for it.

My question for you today is simple.  I want you to think for a moment, and honestly answer yourself this question:  Do I believe I will die someday?  If I asked you to raise your hands, I wonder how many of you would.

But I’m not going to.  Because if you did, you might be embarrassed when I say you have the wrong answer.  Because we’ve made death something it’s not.  Death is not part of life.

But our language has done us in.  Much like the phrase “what goes up must come down,” our culture believes, “what lives dies.”  With the way that we see death, with the way that we talk about it, with the way that we view it as inevitable, it’s no wonder why we are where we are today.   Death is now viewed as normal.  More than that, death is now viewed as our friend.

One of the biggest news stories over the past few weeks is that of Brittany Maynard, a 29 year old woman with a severe form of brain cancer called glioblastoma.  The doctors told her recently that she only had another six months to live.  So she decided to take her own life on her own time.  And last weekend, she did just that.

She viewed death as inevitable.  To her, there was no alternative, no other option.  It was either die now while I’m happy, or go through pain and die in a few months anyway.  It’s no wonder she took the pills, she saw no other possible outcome for her life.

Too often, even in the church, even as Christians, we have the wrong view of death. We look at it as a solution to a problem, a solution to suffering and pain.  We say things like: “It’s good to die, because we get to go to heaven and be with Jesus.” We tend to make death a friend, instead of seeing it as the enemy it really is, as the penalty for being a sinner.

As CNN followed up on Brittany’s choice, they interviewed another woman who is suffering from the same glioblastoma brain cancer.  Maggie Karner opposed what Brittany did.  As part of the back and forth, the CNN reporter at one point said, “We all have this desire to die while we’re still the same person we’ve always been.”


That struck me…and I hope it struck you.  There’s not an ounce in me that has a desire to die.  Not even in the sense that the reporter meant it.  My body is running full force in the opposite direction of death.  Our God and Creator and Father is not the author and perfector of death.  He’s the author and perfector of life.  There’s nothing natural about death.

As Christians, we need to see death differently.  We need to think differently.  We need to live differently.  And our three Scripture passages for this week tell us why:  Christ is coming back.

Each passage has a different message to tell us about Christ’s Second Coming.  Our Old Testament lesson from the prophet Amos is a warning.  He was doing his job as a prophet, calling the people of God back to repentance.  His hearers had abandoned God.  They weren’t following Him, they weren’t repenting of their lives full of sin.  And so Amos warned them that they should not be seeking the Day of the Lord, for that day holds only darkness for them.

But our Epistle is so much the opposite.  Paul’s letter to the church in Thessalonica has a different tone.  He’s talking to followers of Christ.  The one problem he did have to deal with was pretty unique.  See when he told them Christ was coming soon, they took it literally, as they should.  But they took it so literally that they stopped working.  If Christ is coming back soon, why should we worry about the harvest?  Paul had to correct that.  He had to tell them that we don’t know when, just that He will.  So we work until then.

But there’s beauty in the part we read today.  Paul proclaims the good news that our Savior will indeed return, and that those who have fallen asleep will be raised to new life, and those of us who have yet to fall asleep will be caught up together with them with Christ.  There will be several generations of men and women who will never taste death…

Our New Testament reading from Matthew gives us another look.  It serves both as a warning, but also as a way of telling us what life looks like when we truly believe that Christ is coming back.  He records Jesus’ parable of the ten virgins.

In their culture, in that time and place, they had a custom that seems quite odd to us.  The groom played a game with his bride.  The groom and his men would wait at couple’s new home for any period of time.  The bride and her bridesmaids were to wait at her father’s home until the groom came.  But they were to be ready at all times.  He could come the first day; he could come at 2am.  He could wait a couple of months if he really wanted.

But eventually, he would come.  And when he was approaching the house, the person on watch would call out to the rest, “The bridegroom is coming!”  They would all grab their things and then accompany the groom and his men back to the couple’s new home, where there tended to be a large party that lasted for about a week.

This parallels so well to our relationship with God.  Christ is the groom.  We’re the bride.  We’re awaiting His coming, for Him to leave His home which He has prepared for us, and to come and get us.

In this parable, five of the bridesmaids were ready at the random time, five weren’t.  The five that were got to go to groom’s home and party.  The others tried to catch up, they tried to get in, but the groom told them, “Truly, I say to you, I do not know you.”  Christ then concludes the parable by saying “Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.”

The emphasis of the parable is that we, as the bride of Christ, are to always be ready, always prepared for His return.  When I was serving as a vicar, my supervisor, Pastor Eric Allyn always joked about this.  He always ate his dessert before his meal.  When pressed for the reason why, he would say, “It’s an eschatological statement of the Parousia, just in case Christ comes back in the middle of the meal, I want to have eaten the best part!”

We’ll hear others in our culture with good intentions tell us to live every day to the fullest because you just never know if it’ll be your last.  In some respects, there’s truth there, but not because of what they mean.  They mean you don’t know when you’ll die.

But as Christians, we live every day to the fullest in the firm belief that Christ is coming back.     We live every day to the fullest so that we’re prepared, so we’re ready.  We live every day to the fullest so that the Holy Spirit can work through us to create faith in others, so that there are more people at the party.

Like the Thessalonians, I don’t believe I’ll die.  I live every day, I pray every day, in anticipation of Christ’s return.  But unlike the Thessalonians, I keep working, to share the good news and to take care of my family and my community.  Because who knows, maybe the groom will come tonight, or maybe He’ll keep waiting for a while yet.  Either way, I will be prepared.



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