Tag Archive | John 14:3

The Final Enemy, DEATH, Is No More!

Matthew 28:1-10

If life has a way of killing dreams, Christ’s resurrection has a way of bringing them back to life.

Life has a way of killing dreams, doesn’t it? You set out with high hopes – for your schooling, your career, your family, and your golden years. You have plans, aspirations, and expectations. But things don’t always turn out the way you expected. Plans fall through. People let you down. You let yourself down. Suddenly the life you’re living isn’t the life you dreamed of at all; or you find yourself in a place you never expected to be.

But we can have hope.

Hope.  

What is hope, anyway? Wishful thinking? Naive optimism? “Hope it doesn’t rain,” we say. “Hope the sermon doesn’t go too long.” (That is wishful thinking!) Emily Dickinson tells us:

Hope is the thing with feathers that perches in the soul – and sings the tunes without the words – and never stops at all”.[1]

The dictionary tells us that hope is “a desire with the expectation of fulfillment.” So hope begins with a desire for something good, but then adds the element of expectation, of confidence. Without expectation, it’s just a wish. And wishes tend not to come true. When we hope for something, we’re counting on it.

But hope is more than a word – without it, we die. When a team loses hope, the game is over. When a patient loses hope, death is crouching at the door.

Viktor Frankl, an Austrian neurologist, survived years in the Nazi concentration camps. He noticed that prisoners died just after Christmas. They were hoping they’d be free by then. When they weren’t, they gave up. He learned that as long as prisoners had something to live for, a reason to press on, they could endure just about anything. But once they lost hope, they quickly died. Fyodor Dostoevsky said that “to live without hope is to cease to live.”

Bobby Knight has a different take on it. Bobby Knight is the legendary basketball coach who led the Indiana Hoosiers to three NCAA tournament finals; he was also famous for throwing chairs and chewing out officials, players, fans, and anyone in the vicinity. According to Bobby Knight, “hope” is the worst word in the English language. He says it’s foolish and lazy to tell yourself that “things are going to be all right.” They will only be all right if somebody steps up and does something.

Hope needs a reason. Something, or someone, that can get us to a better place. Without a reason, hope is just wishful thinking.

But for us, ‘hope is a who; hope is not a what, or a when, or a why. Hope is a “who.” Things don’t get better just because we want them to. They get better because somebody does something. Hope is always embodied in a person. Hope is a ‘who.” Somebody wise enough, strong enough, good enough, to get us to a better place.

And Jesus Christ is that someone. His resurrection proves that he is stronger than any setback, any failure, any loss, any disappointment – any fears. If life has a way of killing dreams, Jesus has a way of bringing them back to life.

That’s not to say we always get what we want, or that every bad thing can magically be un-done. Life doesn’t work that way. But it is to say that God can and will do something good with our future. Hope is the confidence that God can and will do something good. Hope is the confidence that God can and will do something good – in this life, and the life to come. Wherever you find yourself in this morning, whatever pain, loss, or disappointment you may be dealing with, God can do something good with it, or in it. That doesn’t minimize the pain or loss or evil of it. It simply means the story isn’t over yet.

In this life, we can find joy, beauty, forgiveness, healing, purpose, restoration, and the reality of God’s presence in our lives every day. In the life to come, we can look forward to reunion with those we have lost, the restoration of all creation, and to eternal life with God and one another in worlds beyond our imagining.

Hope isn’t wishful thinking – it’s confident living. It’s facing the future knowing that God can and will do something good, in this life, and the life to come.

Probably, the most unnerving thing in all our lives is the fear of death – we don’t what is going to happen, It is a fear that we will go into “nothingness’, a big black hole. What we are now and will become will disappear like dust in the wind.

We hope that it will be like Heaven, where we meet with our friends and family who have gone before us. That we will suffer no pain, have no disabilities, have no reason for weeping and mourning.

Fear of death is a morbid, abnormal or persistent fear of one’s own death or the process of dying; a “feeling of dread, apprehension or anxiety when one thinks of the process of dying, or ceasing to “be”.[2]

It’s a fear that somehow we will die before we have reached our hopes and dreams. . . that we will leave things unfinished. It can be irrational and often debilitating, keeping us from achieving our hopes and dreams.

But by Jesus” crucifixion and resurrection He conquered the most fearful thing of all – DEATH.

We have been promised by Jesus:

And after I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to myself, so that you will be where I am. (John 14:3)

Death can no longer hold us in constant fear!

If you should find yourself in a tough place right now, have the courage to stay in that place and invite Christ to meet you there. If you know who’s dealing with pain, disappointment, or loss – share hope with them. Ask them how they’re doing. Listen to them. Be with them. Pray for them. And when the time is right, point them toward the resurrected Jesus. Because life has a way of killing dreams, but Jesus has a way of bringing them,

and us,

back to life!

Phillip Brook wrote his “Easter Carol” reminding us that death is no longer:

Tomb, You shall not hold Him longer,
Death is strong, but life is stronger
Stronger than the dark, the light;
Stronger than the wrong, the right;
Faith and hope triumphant say;
Christ will rise on Easter Day.

While the patient earth lies waiting
Till the morning shall be breaking
Shuddering beneath the burden dread
Of her Master, cold and dead,
Hark! she hears the angels say;
Christ will rise on Easter Day.

And when sunrise smites the mountains
Pouring light from heavenly fountains
Then the earth blooms out to greet
Once again the blessed feet;
And her countless voices say;
Christ has risen on Easter Day.”.[3]

Jesus Christ is the death of Death!

Let us rejoice and be glad!

Amen
 
 
[1] Emily Dickinson, “Hope is the thing with feathers”, The Poems of Emily Dickinson, Edited by R. W. Franklin (Harvard University Press, 1999)
[2] Farley G.: Death anxiety. National Health Service UK. 2010, found in: Peters L, Cant R, Payne S, O’Connor M, McDermott F, Hood K, Morphet J, Shimoinaba K. (2013).
[3] Phillips Brook, “The Easter Carol”, Christmas Songs and Easter Carols (New York: E. P. Dutton & Co., 1903)

Delivered at In The Garden, Trinity Episcopal Church on Capitol Square, Columbus, OH; 16 April 2017

Getting Ready for Holy Week

Next week we begin the observance of Holy Week, one of the most sacred times in the Christian faith. With the arrival of Palm Sunday, we finally end the season of Lent, a time of reflection and repentance readying us for the celebration of the resurrection of Jesus.

We all have lots of things in our lives that impede us from fully embracing the salvation the Jesus gave us through His death and resurrection. Greed and hatred are in our hearts; we have not rid ourselves of other impediments to let us fully know Jesus. But we have one more week to take a look at ourselves.

As the Apostle Paul said:

    “I want to know Christ–yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death,” (Philippians 3:10)

We all want to live a life that is guided by Jesus. And we know that it is not going to be easy. And no matter how hard we work, we are never going to be as perfect as Jesus. But all He asks of us is to try.

    “I want to know Christ” (Philippians 3:10)

Said the apostle Paul. Did he mean that we ‘know’ Jesus in our head or in our hearts?

There is a big difference from knowing a fact or ‘head knowledge’; all our brains are full of facts, things we have learned throughout our life. Some we remember immediately and some take a while to remember. We know important dates, names of people who are close to us. These are stored in our brain.

But there is another type of knowledge; knowledge that exists in our hearts: things that tug at our soul, making us feel warm and fuzzy. That is the ‘know’ that Paul was talking about. It is intimate; a personal knowledge of God, of God’s love and our place in His world.

When we have that deep love of God and Christ, we have the desire and determination to follow Jesus. We want to live a life that shows others the love of God and Jesus. Each and every day we try to treat others as we are commanded in Matthew 7:12:

    “do unto others are you would have them do unto you”

And in Matthew 22:39:

    “love thy neighbor as thyself’.

This is the way to gain that inner knowledge of God and Jesus. And with that knowledge, we are assured of eternal life through the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus. We are assured by Jesus that He has

    “gone to prepare a place for us” (John 14:3)

So in this last week of Lent, we have one more chance

    • to draw nearer to Jesus,
    • to embrace the unconditional love that God offers us,
    • to prepare ourselves to be fully ready to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus.

We can do this through identifying those things that we want to change about ourselves. We can do this by

    • spending time in personal reflection of where we want our lives to go.
    • feeding our spiritual needs.
    • trying to fully live into the Golden Rule.

We have one more week. Just one more week.

Please join me in spending the remainder of this holy season of Lent in prayer, asking God to prepare our hearts to share and to receive the stories and truths that challenge each of us most. And celebrate the gift of eternal life.

Amen
 
 
Delivered at In The Garden, Trinity Episcopal Church on Capitol Square, Columbus, OH; 13 March 2016

The Final Enemy, DEATH, Is No More!

If life has a way of killing dreams, Christ’s resurrection has a way of bringing them back to life.

Life has a way of killing dreams, doesn’t it? You set out with high hopes—for your schooling, your career, your family, and your golden years. You have plans, aspirations, and expectations. But things don’t always turn out the way you expected. Plans fall through. People let you down. You let yourself down. Suddenly the life you’re living isn’t the life you dreamed of at all; or you find yourself in a place you never expected to be.

But we can have hope.

Hope.

What is hope, anyway? Wishful thinking? Naïve optimism? “Hope it don’t rain,” we say. “ “Hope the sermon doesn’t go too long.” (That is wishful thinking!) Emily Dickinson tells us it’s “the thing with feathers, that perches in the soul”.

The dictionary tells us that hope is “a desire with the expectation of fulfillment.” So hope begins with a desire for something good, but then adds the element of expectation, of confidence. Without expectation, it’s just a wish. And wishes tend not to come true. When we hope for something, we’re counting on it.

But hope is more than a word – without it, we die. When a team loses hope, the game is over. When a patient loses hope, death is crouching at the door.

Viktor Frankl survived years in the Nazi concentration camps. He noticed that prisoners died just after Christmas. They were hoping they’d be free by then. When they weren’t, they gave up. He learned that as long as prisoners had something to live for, a reason to press on, they could endure just about anything. But once they lost hope, they quickly died. Dostoevsky said that “to live without hope is to cease to live.”

Bobby Knight has a different take on it. Bobby Knight, of course, is the legendary basketball coach who led the Indiana Hoosiers to three NCAA tournament finals; he was also famous for throwing chairs and chewing out officials, players, fans, and anyone in the vicinity. According to Bobby Knight, “hope” is the worst word in the English language. He says it’s foolish and lazy to tell yourself that “things are going to be all right.” They’ll only be all right if somebody steps up and does something

Hope needs a reason. Something, or someone, that can get us to a better place. Without a reason, hope is just wishful thinking.

But for us, ‘hope’ is a who; hope is not a what, or a when, or a why. Hope is a “who.” Things don’t get better just because we want them to. They get better because somebody does something. Hope is always embodied in a person. Hope is a “who.” Somebody wise enough, strong enough, good enough, to get us to a better place.

And Jesus Christ is that someone. His resurrection proves that he is stronger than any setback, any failure, any loss, any disappointment—any fears. If life has a way of killing dreams, Jesus has a way of bringing them back to life.

That’s not to say we always get what we want, or that every bad thing can magically be un-done. Life doesn’t work that way. But it is to say that God can and will do something good with our future. Hope is the confidence that God can and will do something good. Hope is the confidence that God can and will do something good — in this life, and the life to come. Wherever you find yourself in this morning, whatever pain, loss, or disappointment you may be dealing with, God can do something good with it, or in it. That doesn’t minimize the pain or loss or evil of it. It simply means the story isn’t over yet.

In this life, we can find joy, beauty, forgiveness, healing, purpose, restoration, and the reality of God’s presence in our lives every day. In the life to come, we can look forward to reunion with those we have lost, the restoration of all creation, and to eternal life with God and one another in worlds beyond our imagining.

Hope isn’t wishful thinking—it’s confident living. It’s facing the future knowing that God can and will do something good, in this life, and the life to come.

Probably, the most unnerving thing in all our lives is the fear of death – we don’t what is going to happen, It is a fear that we will go into ‘nothingness’, a big black hole. What we are now and will become will disappear like dust in the wind.

We hope that it will be like Heaven, where we meet with our friends and family who have gone before us. That we will suffer no pain, have no disabilities, have no reason for weeping and mourning.

Fear of death is a morbid, abnormal or persistent fear of one’s own death or the process of dying; a “feeling of dread, apprehension or anxiety when one thinks of the process of dying, or ceasing to ‘be’”.(1)

It’s a fear that somehow we will die before we have reached our hopes and dreams. . . that we will leave things unfinished. It can be irrational and often debilitating, keeping us from achieving our hopes and dreams.

But by Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection He conquered the most fearful thing of all – DEATH.

We have been promised by Jesus:

    “And after I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to myself, so that you will be where I am”. (John 14:3)

Death can no longer hold us in constant fear!

If you should find yourself in a tough place right now, have the courage to stay in that place and invite Christ to meet you there. If you know who’s dealing with pain, disappointment, or loss—share hope with them. Ask them how they’re doing. Listen to them. Be with them. Pray for them. And when the time is right, point them toward the resurrected Jesus. Because life has a way of killing dreams, but Jesus has a way of bringing them,

    and us,

back to life!

Tomb, You shall not hold Him longer,
Death is strong, but life is stronger
Stronger than the dark, the light;
Stronger than the wrong, the right;
Faith and hope triumphant say; Christ will rise on Easter Day.

While the patient earth lies waiting
Till the morning shall be breaking
Shuddering beneath the burden dread
Of her Master, cold and dead,
Hark! she hears the angels say; Christ will rise on Easter Day.

And when sunrise smites the mountains
Pouring light from heavenly fountains
Then the earth blooms out to greet
Once again the blessed feet;
And her countless voices say; Christ has risen on Easter Day. (Phillips Brooks)

Jesus Christ is the death of Death!

Let us rejoice and be glad!

Amen
 
(1) Farley G.: Death anxiety. National Health Service UK. 2010, found in: Peters L, Cant R, Payne S, O’Connor M, McDermott F, Hood K, Morphet J, Shimoinaba K. (2013).
 
Prepared for In The Garden, Trinity Episcopal Church on Capitol Square, Easter Sunday