“For when they rise from the dead, they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like the angels in heaven. And as for the dead being raised, have you not read in the book of Moses, in the story about the bush, how God said to him, ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob?’ He is God not of the dead, but of the living…” --- Mark 12:25-27
She was looking for help. She suffered from physical pain, emotional trauma from the suicides of both her husband and son, spiritual distress at being abandoned by other family members, and social anxiety at being judged by people who couldn’t understand her. After multiple suicide attempts of her own, she was reaching out in search of someone to listen, understand, and encourage her. “How is it you’ve gotten through all that?” I asked. “How have you made it this far without a support system?” “I believe in Jesus. He’s my support system,” she told me. “Without Him in my life, I wouldn’t be here.”
When people wonder why they should pay attention to a 2000 year old religion, or what difference the teachings of an ancient rabbi make in this modern world, here is an answer. Jesus makes all the difference. Not just the difference between getting up and going to church on Sunday or sleeping in – no, we’re talking ALL the difference – the difference between life and death. All the arguments about the failures of churches and the hypocrisies of Christians fall away in the light of the fact that Jesus came to love the world from death to life. Jesus is Lord and he loves you, and that makes all the difference.
It is said that when the Turkish hordes were threatening Constantinople, their armies beating at the gates about to take that great city, the Christians inside were holding debates about how many angels can dance on the head of a pin. Even today we are guilty of squabbling and complaining about inconveniences and arguing over insubstantial issues in the midst of people’s life and death struggles with doubt and sin. Somehow, despite the ways we distort his message and incompletely imitate his service to the world, in spite of our warped witnessing and inadequate ambassadorship to the Lord, Jesus still makes all the difference. Those who know him know the one who “came not to be served, but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45). For this above all, we are thankful.
Being the month of the Thanksgiving holiday, we are highlighting the theme of Thanksgiving during our 5pm Saturday Godify services in November. We will start off with our thankfulness for God’s creation on Nov. 3 and explore different reasons and opportunities for responding in thankfulness for what God gives us. On Thanksgiving weekend, I’ll be talking about thankfulness for one of my favorite things – food! – on Nov. 24. Please remember also that our annual “Home for Thanksgiving” service is Sunday, Nov. 25 – and we will be taking our 2018 “Family Photo” of everybody who joins us after worship that day. The following Sunday, December 2, is the first Sunday of Advent and start of a new church calendar year. We begin the 8:30am “Rise and Shine” services that day, and hold our annual congregational meeting at 11:30am.
November is also the month of All Saints’ – a holiday we celebrate on the first Sunday of each November, but it actually falls on November 1. All Saints ’ Day is when we remember that “great cloud of witnesses” who are the spiritual support group for all Christians, the communion of all people of faith alive or dead. As Jesus points out, even those who are dead are alive in Christ, for God is the God of the living. The Pharisees’ question to him about a picky technical point (in heaven, who will be the spouse of a woman married 7 times?) gives him the chance to cut to the heart of the matter – the dead will rise again in a new creation. We can count on eternal life with God through our faith in Jesus Christ. All Saints’ Day is our reminder of this – that all our loved ones who have died in Christ are not lost to us, but they surround us as an invisible community of encouragement and love.
This All Saints’ Day, Thursday Nov. 1 at 2:30pm, you are invited to join us in a special worship service as we remember all the saints, particularly the loved ones in our own lives who have gone on to heaven. You are encouraged to bring pictures or mementos that remind you of those special saints in your life. We will sing together, light candles and pray together, remember their life on earth and celebrate their eternal life with Jesus. All are welcome.
I encourage you to make use of these special November worship opportunities we are offering this month. Bring your thankfulness for the One who made you, blesses and keeps you now and in the world to come!