Sermon for Nov 6

By on November 6, 2016

Our Hope

Preached to Clark’s Chapel UMC on 6 Nov 2016

1 Thessalonians 4:13-5:11

NIV 1 Thessalonians 4:13 ¶ Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep, or to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope. 14 We believe that Jesus died and rose again and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. 15 According to the Lord’s own word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left till the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16 For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. 18 Therefore encourage each other with these words.

5:1 ¶ Now, brothers, about times and dates we do not need to write to you, 2 for you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. 3 While people are saying, “Peace and safety,” destruction will come on them suddenly, as labor pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape. 4 But you, brothers, are not in darkness so that this day should surprise you like a thief. 5 You are all sons of the light and sons of the day. We do not belong to the night or to the darkness. 6 So then, let us not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be alert and self-controlled. 7 For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, get drunk at night. 8 But since we belong to the day, let us be self-controlled, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet. 9 For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. 10 He died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with him. 11 Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.

 

Introduce / Establish Need

 

As you know, I do not preach politics from the pulpit.  And I’m not about to start!  But I’m pretty sure that come Tuesday evening or Wednesday morning, we will share in one of these emotions.  We might be happy because the candidates we were pulling for won.  We might be concerned because the candidates we voted for lost.  We might not care.  And I have a feeling that all of us will be glad it’s over, we hope.

 

I believe though, there is one other way we should approach this election.  And that is our faith and hope is not in our political leaders, but in the sovereign God we believe in.  We have an eternal citizenship and we should never forget that.  Our scripture text today is one that reminds us of the great promise that Christ will come again and in hearing this, we should be encouraged by the hope we have.

 

Into the Biblical World

 

If you are like me, you’ve been conditioned to read this passage as a description of the rapture, the joining of the living saints with Jesus.  One of my friends used to say, I’ll meet you here, there, or in the air.  But as I read today’s passage in context, I see a different angle for us to ponder.

 

In our text today, Paul addresses a big question of our faith.  What happens to the dead?  I’m surmising that in Timothy’s report, he tells Paul that they need answers to this very basic question.  This is a question that we continue to ask and why we preach words of hope at times of death.  There is no need for us to be ignorant about what will happen because we have hope.  And because we have hope, we do not have to be consumed by grief.

 

Paul’s teaching emphasis is on what happens to the dead.  We see that they are given priority access to Jesus.  When I fly, I envy those with good tickets because they get what is known as priority boarding.  They typically skip the line and go first.  They can be sure that their carryon luggage will be in a nearby compartment.  Airlines have figured out that people are willing to pay for this and so for $25-$50, you can get on the plane ahead of everyone else.  That makes sense if you are in the last boarding group and the plane is full!

 

Paul teaches that the dead are the first to join Jesus when he comes again.  “We believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him.  The dead in Christ will rise first.  After that, we will be caught up with them.”  Paul is emphasizing that the dead in Christ have not missed out; instead they will be given priority access to Jesus.  In saying this, he wants us to be encouraged that death will never separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus!  So be encouraged for your loved ones and be encouraged yourselves for we will all join Christ together!

 

Now that Paul explains with certainty that the dead in Christ will indeed experience resurrection, he turns his attention to how we shall live while we wait for the Lord’s return.  There are two big ideas in Paul’s explanation.  First, he reaffirms what Jesus taught about his return.  We don’t know the time or dates and that is not the point.  The point is that Christ will return and it will catch people off guard.  The analogy is that of a pregnant woman.  Though we can point to a due date, there is a window in which labor will begin suddenly.  We are in the due date for the Lord’s return, but we do not know the exact time.  But when it happens, it will be upon us.

 

The second idea is how we shall live in anticipation of the Lord’s return.  It shouldn’t surprise us and we should be alert and self-controlled because we know that the Lord will return for us, whether we are alive or dead.  In fact, he died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep, we shall live together with him.  As a result, let us encourage one another with this hope.

 

Into Our Experience

 

As we come together for Holy Communion, we will once again proclaim what Paul taught in the scriptures.  Christ has died, Christ has risen, and Christ will come again.  Quite simply, our hope is in Christ and his eternal kingdom.  That is why that come Wednesday morning, I will breathe a sigh of relief that the ugly campaign is over, and that my hope is not in people, politics, or government.  My hope, our hope is in the Lord.  May you be encouraged and live with this hope.

 

 

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