Life in the Church during the first generation after Jesus must have been a mixture of excitement, joy, sorrow pain, and confusion. Come to think of it, that’s a lot like life in the Church today. Still, in those first few years, as everyone was trying to work out what it meant to follow a man who had taught, healed, died, rose, and ascended to the right hand of God, it must have been like living on pins and needles every moment of every day. When would he return? How would it happen? Would we live to see that day? What should be do in the meantime.
Paul, writing to the Thessalonians, knows exactly what they are feeling. They want Jesus to come back today to set it all right, but he just isn’t following their time table. People are wondering if they should get married, bother having children, or even go to work. Most especially, they are watching as some of the fellow believers die and are concerned about what might happen to them when they die. So Paul sets out to ease their troubled minds. “We do not want you to be uninformed… about those who have died,” he writes, “so that you may not grieve as others who have no hope.”
It isn’t that, as Christians, we don’t grieve, but rather we grieve through the lens of hope. Or as our Prayer Book calls it, a “sure and certain hope in the resurrection” This morning at Saint James’ Church in Fairhope, Alabama, the faithful gathered to mourn the loss of a faithful servant, the Rev. Jack Miller. We sang words of joy and hope, we prayed prayers of thanksgiving and commendation, we heard the Scriptures read, and the word of God preached. We gathered, as the Rev. Keith Talbert so eloquently said, “because we belive.” We believe that through Jesus Christ who died and rose again, we have been redeemed, set free to enjoy the fruits of eternal life right here and right now, and that “God will bring with him those who have died.” We believe that life on earth has meaning, deep and beautiful meaning, and that life beyond this earth is the free gift of the God who’s love is so strong that nothing can separate us from it.
We believe. We have hope. We are the Lord’s possesion, the children of God.