Most clergy will tell you that "things come in bunches." Right now, Good Shepherd has a bunch of serious illness and some deaths among parishioners and their loved ones.
What a gift we received in yesterday's Epistle,
I Thessalonians 4:13-18.
We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about those who have died,
We matter to God. God sent His Son, who sent His Spirit-filled apostles so that we would be "informed" about the hope of everlasting life. Turn down the volume on theatrical, churchy intonations of "brothers and sisters" and hear it in its original simplicity: because God cares about us, He adopts us and we are made brothers and sisters of one body and blood with Christ.
so that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope.
God cares about our grief - He "stores up our tears in His bottle" , He blesses those who mourn, He calls us to "weep with those who weep" - but He wants our grief to come from love and compassion, not futility and despair. He gives us a new hope in the midst of grief...
For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have died.
Paul here states the hope that fills his explanation of Holy Baptism. Because we are joined to Jesus, we can believe that death is not the final word. How important to understand our own baptism, and to lead others to the water of life in Christ. Like the people in our Old Testament Lesson, we need to renew our covenant with the Lord in order to receive its blessings.
For this we declare to you by the word of the Lord,
Our hope is revealed by God. It is not an emotional band aid the church made up to make people feel better. It is not a product of human theory and speculation. It is a promise from the mouth of the Lord.
that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will by no means precede those who have died. For the Lord himself, with a cry of command, with the archangel's call and with the sound of God's trumpet, will descend from heaven, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up in the clouds together with them to meet the Lord in the air; and so we will be with the Lord forever.
In answer to that ever-present question, "Yes" - you and your loved ones who have died in Christ will see one another again.
Therefore encourage one another with these words.
Let me say it again: this hope of eternal life is not a band aid or "closure." Paul does not write, "Console one another," he says "encourage one another". This is a call to activity - a living hope to share life with Christ now and forever. This is a call, as in our challenging Gospel, to "have oil in our lamps" and "be alert", seeking Christ at all times. And in so doing we are prepared, like the wise bridesmaids in the parable, to celebrate with Christ and all the residents of heaven forever.