Our community was rocked these last few days by the death of a local pastor. A church grieves. The pastor of a church I attended this morning, informed the congregation, he and a few members attended the five thirty service of the grieving church last evening to pray for them. As Paul said, when a part of the body hurts, we all hurt. He changed his sermon to offer hope and inform his flock how to tend to those they know are stunned.
I'm using what I gleaned from this service this morning. I hope, as always, it helps someone going through a difficult time. Many of my friends have noticed lately, the valley times for Christians seem so much deeper than we ever remember. I often times, half joke, I want to go back to when life was hard, because it seems immensely harder now than those "hard" times.
First, the prayer of confession plucked at my heart:
"Heavenly Father, you have redeemed us by your Son so that we may participate in your mission. We believe O God that it is your will to send out your people into a lost world to proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ. You do this so that many may come to know you. Forgive us when we are silent about your Son. Forgive when we keep our faith to ourselves. Forgive us when we do not live intentionally for the gospel. Remind us of the joy that we have in you so that we will desire to see that joy in others. May we be silent no longer. We pray this in the name of your Son Jesus Christ. Amen."
He's excited about missions and what is happening in Sierra Leon. They changed to Evangelical Presbyterian with a strong mission focus. Two leaders believed in Jesus and now they are also telling their people about Jesus. This denomination plants churches in America, too, with a new one in Youngstown, Ohio.
Then this minister changed his message for today for his congregation to help those who mourn. He listens to the Holy Spirit. Jesus has the final Word for depression, "It is finished." He has the last word on all things.
A theme in my life lately is to fix my eyes on Jesus. I hear it over and over, through songs, the Bible and in my head. He brought up Psalm 122:1 and 2, one of my favorite Psalms. Mom would quote it as we drove through the mountains of Pennsylvania. "I look to the hills, from whence comes my help. My help comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth."
His sermon was Four Hopes, we can communicate with Love. Based on John 11: 1-37
1) Hope, Jesus knows us intimately. Jesus counted Lazarus, Martha and Mary as close friends. He enters our world and sits with us.
2) Hope in Jesus' Sovereign plan. He knows what is happening. Nothing catches Him by surprise.
3) Hope in Jesus righteous anger. I had written about this years ago in my journal, when my cat of fifteen years died. When her life breath left her body, even though she looked dead before, she was not the lovely cat, anymore. Death left her ugly. Jesus was emotionally stirred at the death of His friend.
a) Anger with sin, sickness and death that takes over this world. He couldn't wait to fulfill His plan to put an end to this. I thought of how often, the Gospels record: Jesus set His face like flint towards Jerusalem, (and the cross.)
b) Anger with unbelief.
So when Jesus wept, the Greek word is different from the Jews weeping in that chapter. Jesus shuddered.
As I worked on this thought many years ago when Princess died, I also noted Psalm 116:15, The Lord's loved ones are precious to Him; it grieves Him when they die. Death was never what God intended for His creation. It was never in the plan.
4) Hope in Jesus' Glorious Victory. Jesus sings over us. Though Heaven and Earth will pass away, His Word stands. (Makes me want to shout!) The minister then pointed to Revelation 20: 10, 14 and Revelation 21:3-4. The devil loses. As Carmen sang many years ago, when the devil brings up your past, you just remind him of his future. The devil and death are thrown into the lake of fire for all eternity. Also 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18, the dead in Christ rise first, then we will join them in the air.
With all this hope to remind our grieving friends, we can walk joyfully.
Why do we want to hide this truth? Why would we not want to share this joy? I think of the song of children- This little light of mine, I'm gonna let it shine.
There is tragedy in this world, over and over. We can shake our fists or we can think of the four hopes and walk with joy. I chose joy, for these trials are only light and temporary. Take heart in Jesus' words on the cross, "It is finished."