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You Die Then What

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You Die--- Then What?  (Today)

McMinnville FUMC             “All Saints”    November 2, 2008

Luke 23:39-43 (NLT)
39 One of the criminals hanging beside him scoffed, “So you’re the Messiah, are you? Prove it by saving yourself—and us, too, while you’re at it!” 40 But the other criminal protested, “Don’t you fear God even when you have been sentenced to die? 41 We deserve to die for our crimes, but this man hasn’t done anything wrong.” 42 Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your Kingdom.” 43 And Jesus replied, “I assure you, today you will be with me in paradise.”

 


You Die--- Then What?  (Today)

McMinnville FUMC             “All Saints”    November 2, 2008

Luke 23:39-43

Three buddies were discussing death and one asked the group, “What would you like people to say about you at your funeral?”

After thinking about it for a moment, the first buddy said, “He was a great humanitarian, who cared about his community.”

The second guy nodded his head in agreement and said, “I hope someone will say that I was a great husband and father, who was an example for many to follow.”

The third friend said, “Well, at my funeral, I hope someone looks at me and says, ‘Hey he’s moving!”

Today is All Saints Sunday.  It is the day when we pay honor and respect to those who were members of our church fellowship who have died this past year.  The roses at the front of the church is a reminder of all those we have loved and have died.

Quite honestly, there are those who do not like “All Saints Sunday.”  They dislike it because in their mind it is about death and most of us prefer to deny death.  We do not like to reflect on those who have died because it forces us think about our own death and that is depressing.

In reality this is one of the reason why we need to have a day like today.  It is important for us to remember our loved ones but it also allows us to state loudly and boldly that Christianity is not about death.  Instead it is about life.  We are not celebrating death, we are acknowledging the Christian’s victory over death.  All Saints Sunday is a celebration of life, of eternal life!

Jesus comforted the grieving Martha at Lazarus’s death by saying,

Jesus told her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Anyone who believes in me will live, even after dying. Everyone who lives in me and believes in me will never ever die. Do you believe this, Martha?”

(John 11:25–26 NLT).

For the believer, death is not the end but the beginning.  Faith sees beyond death and grasps God’s promise of eternal life.  “I tell you the truth,” Jesus said.  “He who believes has everlasting life” (John 6:47).  Death is necessary.  It is a door to Heaven.  We celebrate with those who have gone on before.

One day I was visiting in a Nursing Facility and had to wait a few moments before I could see the person I was visiting.  So I sat down in a waiting area and there were a group of folks taking part in a activity.  The facilitator was asking the group different “getting to know you” type of questions.   She asked one gentleman, “Albert, if you could go any where in the world you wanted, where would that be?”  The gentleman didn’t miss a beat.  He gave a one word response, “Heaven.” 

This is Christian faith.  This is what “All Saints Sunday” is all about.

There is one question I hear quite often especially following a funeral.  The question, “When a Christian dies, were does she go?”  This is an important question and it is not a new question.  In writing to the church at Thessalonica , Paul writes in 1 Thessalonians 4:13 (NLT)
            And now, dear brothers and sisters, we want you to know   what will happen to the believers who have died so you will       not grieve like people who have no hope.

We must keep in mind that the first century Christians believed that Jesus would come back during their lifetime.  When Jesus did not return and members of their families and friends started dying, they were concerned about the destiny of their loved ones, and we can be sure, they were concerned about their own future.

Apparently the Thessalonians were getting worked up about the matter.  Paul did not want to see them grieve unnecessarily.  He believed apart of their fear was rooted in a lack of knowledge.  In the old King James Version it reads, “I would not have you be ignorant about these things.”  Paul believed that Christian knowledge can overcome fear. 

The Bible teaches that Christians will be with Jesus the instant we die.  In Acts 7:59 as Stephen was being stoned to death for preaching the gospel that he looked up and said, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.”  In 2 Corinthians 5:8, the Apostle Paul stated that he even longed for death because he knew it would usher Him into Jesus’ presence.  He wrote, “2 Corinthians 5:8 (NLT)
             Yes, we are fully confident, and we would rather be away from     these earthly bodies, for then we will be at home with the Lord.

When we die in the Lord, our soul goes to be with God.  The part of us that is housed in these physical bodies go to be with Jesus.  When I was a child, first learning to pray, I was taught to say something similar to many of you: 

Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep;

If I should die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take.

As Jesus hung on the cross he had a conversation with one of the thieves dying beside him.  The man said to Jesus, “Lord remember me when you come into your kingdom.“  Jesus promised the thief on the cross, “Today you will be with me in paradise.”

Clarence McCartney, a late minister of the First Presbyterian Church of Pittsburgh, once preached a sermon in which he held an interview with the thief who died alongside Jesus. The last question he asked was, “And what is best of all there, Thief? Sum it all up for me, if you can, in a single word.”

The thief replied, “The best of all is Jesus. To be in Heaven is to be with Him.  That is what He told me in that dark and fearful hour on the cross—‘Today you will be with me in paradise.’  I can tell you nothing more wonderful about Heaven than that.  You will be with Christ.”

Where do we go when our body dies?  We go to be with Jesus.  That is the good news of the Gospel.  That is the joy of Easter.  This is the hope that leads us to celebrate the home going of “All the Saints.”

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