Sunday, December 13, 2009

Our Eternal Hope

[This was shared during a menorial service on Saturday, December 12, for Bob, a member of our congregation who passed away suddenly last Monday.]

John 3:16
Philippians 4:4-9
1 Corinthians 15:19

I promised Bea I would make this brief.

Bob’s sudden passing has come as a terrible shock to Bea, to Bob’s and Bea’s families, to Bob’s friends, and to all of us who are part of the Saint Matthew Lutheran Church family. And there’s particular poignance to Bob’s death coming during the Christmas season, his favorite time of the year.

Just this past Sunday, barely twenty-four hours before we said good- bye to Bob, he was in the sanctuary of Saint Matthew for worship. When Bob shared the peace, he didn’t do it like some stoic old Lutheran, with a limp handshake and maybe eye contact. In fact, this past week, Bob wrapped me with his trademark bear hug, nearly picking me up off of the floor and momentarily taking my breath away. I had been heading back to the altar for the offering when I encountered Bob and he said, “You didn’t think you were going to get away without a hug, did you?” No, and I wouldn’t have wanted to!

On the previous Friday, my daughter and I ran into Bob as we walked to the bank. It was part of a day that saw him and several of you decorate the house-inside and out—for Christmas. He was having fun!

And now, under circumstances we couldn’t have imagined just a week ago, we gather not only to remember an accomplished, loving, compassionate man who meant so much to so many, but also to commend him to the care and keeping of the Lord in Whom he believed, the Lord Whose birth he so enjoyed celebrating.

No words spoken here today can fill the void left in the lives of Bob’s family and friends. You who mourn today have sustained a loss and the grief will never fully subside.

But this is a moment to remember an important truth. This life, with its joys and griefs, laughter and tears, is not our ultimate destination.

The Bible teaches us that when we die, we will stand before God. Those who have trustingly surrendered to the love and grace of God given through Jesus Christ will be with God forever. Jesus puts it this way in a famous conversation He had with a man named Nicodemus: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.”

When I re-read those words the other day, I couldn’t help thinking that Bob, who so loved Christmas, is now enjoying an eternal Christma with the Savior which none of us can even imagine right now!

Some people, you know, latch onto God because they think God is a good-luck charm who can help them get through times like these. God does want to help us through tough times. But the God revealed to us in Jesus Christ, Who came into our world on the first Christmas two-thousand years ago, wants to be more than a good luck charm and more than a crutch to help us through tough times.

He wants to be our God, King, and Helper, our Lord, Savior, and Friend for all eternity.

In the New Testament, the apostle Paul writes, “If for this life only we have hoped in [the God we know in Jesus] Christ, we are of all [people] most to be pitied.”

Today then, to sustain you through your grief and to give you a hope that never dies, I want to simply remind you to put your full trust in Jesus Christ.

Jesus is God in the flesh, the Christ Child Who came into our world to first, live with us, then to die for us, killing the power of sin and death over the lives of those who believe in Him, and finally, to rise for us, opening eternity to those who believe in Him.

Jesus also established His Church as a place where ordinary believers can share their joys and sorrows, worship and get to know God better, serve others in Jesus’ Name, hear God’s Word of hope and encouragement, and, among other things, share God’s peace with one another, as Bob so enthusiastically did this past Sunday morning.

I know that your grief is great. But God’s love for you and God’s willingness to comfort and help you and to love you for all eternity is even greater.

Today, grasp hold of the strong embrace of Jesus. Even in times like these, He has an endless supply of help and hope to share with you. Amen

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