A sermon on 1 Thessalonians 4 v.13-18, first pubished in the Baptist Times on April 8th 2010

Sermon outline

 Most of us would sympathise with Woody Allen’s view that he is ‘not afraid of dying, but I don’t want to be there when it happens’.  The euphemisms we use, and the odd way we talk about the dead as if they were still here all reflect our inability to cope with the fact of our own mortality.  Christianity never encourages us to believe that as Christians we should not grieve, but rather that we do it differently. 

Firstly it brings a new realism to the whole process.  In addressing the Thessalonians Christians Paul calls a spade a spade and a death a death.  Since our faith is founded on a man who really died and really rose, there can be no deception about dying.  Christianity transforms grief only through first acknowledging its depth and agony. 

Secondly, as disciples of Jesus we look to a person who has gone through death and out the other side ahead of us.  For this reason death is not an utter end, and Christians grieve differently, rather than as if they ‘had no hope’ (v.13) 

When the day of resurrection comes at last, we are told that it will be orchestrated in every detail by Christ himself.  At his word, accompanied by the trumpet’s sound, the dead shall rise.

 Scriptural issues

 The disquiet amongst the Thessalonian Christians about the precise details of the resurrection shows a common human trait where we focus on the lesser details rather than the greater picture.

  • It is worth thinking about other occasions when the trumpet’s sound is heard in scripture – is it as a call to arms, the fanfare for a king, or the first note of judgement?

 

Current issues

  •  How do we show sympathy which truly respects the sadness of the bereaved but which honours our Christian hope?
  • In what contexts and what ways have you obeyed the instruction in v.18?

 

‘One of the great benefits of a Christian understanding of humanity is that it blows away the fluff and cobwebs of deception which wrap themselves round our heads when grieving is in the air.  Whatever the popular poem might say, death is not ‘nothing at all’, and must be treated with respect and met with hope.’

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