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These are difficult days that bring us together this morning. We’ve come together this morning to remember and celebrate the life of {Individual’s name}. There are many things about the Christian tradition that I grew up in that I do not like but one that I do is how we referred to days like this - Promotions to Glory. We know that {Individual} is not really in the grave but instead is in God’s capable care. Ecclesiastes tells us that this is inevitable in life that there is a season for everything under heaven.
Ecclesiastes 3:1–8 CSB
There is an occasion for everything, and a time for every activity under heaven: a time to give birth and a time to die; a time to plant and a time to uproot; a time to kill and a time to heal; a time to tear down and a time to build; a time to weep and a time to laugh; a time to mourn and a time to dance; a time to throw stones and a time to gather stones; a time to embrace and a time to avoid embracing; a time to search and a time to count as lost; a time to keep and a time to throw away; a time to tear and a time to sew; a time to be silent and a time to speak; a time to love and a time to hate; a time for war and a time for peace.
For {Individual} the pain and struggles that accompany much of this life is done. It is now for each of us to wrestle with the emotions and pain that follow the passing of a dear family member or friend. It is interesting that the world would try to tell you not to grieve. The Diagnostic and Statistics Manual of Mental Disorders 5, the world’s standard for diagnosing and treating mental illness and related issues, would try to say that if you’re feeling “detached” following the loss of a loved one that you are most likely depressed and that you should contact a mental health professional for treatment. Thankfully we have a book that helps us deal with our grief by first putting it in perspective and then also giving us permission to grieve. I want to take just a few moments this morning to look at what the Apostle Paul had to say to a hurting and fearful church regarding this issue of those who have died and the hope that we can have even while we grieve. If you have them, please turn in your Bibles with me to and we’ll be looking at verses 13-17 this morning.
1 Thessalonians 4:13–17 CSB
We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, concerning those who are asleep, so that you will not grieve like the rest, who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, in the same way, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. For we say this to you by a word from the Lord: We who are still alive at the Lord’s coming will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the archangel’s voice, and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are still alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord.
Let’s pray and then we’ll open up these comforting words to see what they have to say to us today.

Grief Is Okay - and you’re okay if you grieve

Paul starts off this section with an intriguing statement “We do not want you to be uniformed”. It is interesting because throughout the early portions of the letter Paul has been telling the Thessalonians just how well informed they were. Ten times in this short four chapter letter Paul uses the phrase “you yourselves know” or “as you know”. He has even gone so far as to tout the appropriation of the Gospel demonstrated among the Thessalonians in their love for one another and their own carrying on of the faith following Paul’s rapid departure. In Paul writes “This is why we constantly thank God, because when you received the word of God that you heard from us, you welcomed it not as a human message, but as it truly is, the word of God, which also works effectively in you who believe.” So it is interesting that there would be something regarding the faith that the Thessalonians would be uninformed about. This could even be more than just your run of the mill ignorance - in Paul intimates that this form of ignorance is actually sinful. Commenting on this portion of the verse Charles Spurgeon once wrote “The more we Christians know of our religion, the better for our peace and happiness”. But what is it that Paul is so intent on making sure that the Thessalonians are informed about?
He says that he wants them to be informed regarding those who are asleep. This was the common way of referring to those who had died. The significant issue here is the deep concern the Thessalonians continued to hold for those who had died. The Thessalonian church was experiencing persecution that led them to believe that they could have possibly missed the rapture of the church and yet one of their concerns was for those among them who had passed away. This is indicative of the deep, emotional relationships that church shared with one another - that they would be so concerned with the future state of those who were among them that they would even be concerned that they would somehow miss out on the rapture or be resurrected later and be of lesser status in Heaven. So Paul writes this section to alleviate these fears. But what he says to them is very important and especially important to us at this moment in time.
He doesn’t tell them to put away their grief and get on with life. He doesn’t give them some spiritual platitudes that provides assurance for their loved ones and then moves on. He says that “you will not grieve like the rest”. It is a beautiful notion that grief is an acceptable, even a normal, emotion for us to feel. Paul is telling his friends that it is okay to grieve a loved one who has passed away. That this is a natural part of life. Grief is a natural outgrowth of our love for an individual, the purest expression of loss.
It is important to note that even Christ grieved. In Jesus is informed that his dear friend Lazarus is sick and near death. Instead of rushing to his bedside or, as He had done for the Centurion’s son and the Synagogue leaders servant, merely pronouncing Lazarus well, Christ delayed His arrival until after Lazarus had died. As He approached the grave and saw the grief of those who had known and loved Lazarus we get a picture of the tenderness of Christ’s emotions. records “ 33 When Jesus saw her crying, and the Jews who had come with her crying, he was deeply moved in his spirit and troubled. 34 “Where have you put him?” he asked. “Lord,” they told him, “come and see.” 35 Jesus wept.” This is beautiful. Just think about this for a second - Christ already knew what He was going to do for Lazarus. Earlier in the chapter He had told His disciples that Lazarus had fallen asleep and that He was going to “wake him up.” He had just assured Martha that He was both the resurrection and the life. And yet, when He sees His friends grieving He is so moved in His spirit that He grieves as well. Yes grief is a natural part of life.
33 When Jesus saw her crying, and the Jews who had come with her crying, he was deeply moved in his spirit and troubled. 34 “Where have you put him?” he asked.
But Paul doesn’t stop there. He says that we shouldn’t grieve as the rest who have no hope.
“Lord,” they told him, “come and see.”
35 Jesus wept.
Christian Standard Bible. (2017). (). Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers.
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