Tag Archives: eternal life

Martha Thompson Story

Disappointed Martha

Martha Thompson faced a family crisis.  Her brother was gravely ill, near death, and she turned to someone she trusted.  She asked for her pastor to come, to pray with them.  Martha really loved her pastor and thought he was someone very special, very close to God.  His prayers for the family had always worked in the past and his ministry would be critical for her brother’s healing. 

 Unfortunately, the pastor was out-of-town.  Being the resourceful person that Martha was, she found out where he was vacationing and sent word that he should come right away.

This pastor loved Martha and her family.  He had spent time at their home, eaten at their table and laughed at their jokes.  But after he got the message, he did not come back to town right away.  He deliberately delayed two days before coming.

And by the time he arrived, Martha’s brother had died, a neighboring pastor had done the funeral and the brother’s body had been in the grave for four days.  Needless to say, Martha and her sister Mary were a bit ticked with their pastor.  When they heard he was in town, Martha marched right up to him said,

Jesus, if you had been here, my brother Lazarus would not have died.” John 11:21

This is the point where our lives intersects with the Biblical story.  When we face disappointments, trials or set backs, we wonder where God is.   What happened to Jesus?  Isn’t Jesus suppose to protect us from such pain and grief?

What amazes me is Jesus’ response.  He reminds her of the resurrection, the hope of eternal life.   Martha responds that such a hope is in the distant future, not much comfort now.  Jesus then gives an incredible promise, a fantastic promise: I am the resurrection and the life (John 11:25).   Not in the future, “I will be the resurrection,” but right now, in the middle of disappointment, pain and sorrow.  I am the resurrection and the life.

Then to demonstrate the power of his promise, he raised Lazarus from the dead.  

Jesus makes the same promise to everyone who believes in him.  Either this is the promise of a crazy man, or the Son of God.

I get goosebumps when I read this story, especially now that I am serving Resurrection Lutheran Church.  

How have you experienced Jesus’ promise of resurrection and life?

Pie in the Sky?

I like pie

I remember an Andraé Crouch song from my childhood, titled “If Heaven was Never Promised to Me.”  You can hear the song here.  Crouch makes the point that our faith in Jesus offers so much in this life that we don’t need to focus on the “afterlife” or heaven to see the value in our faith.  To know that I am “good enough” as I am, to experience God’s joy, love and forgiveness, to have a purpose in living and to share in the fellowship of God’s people, these all bring value and meaning today as I live on this earth.  I can experience vibrant life in Jesus now.  Heaven is simply the desert.

 This focus on the presence has been the primary focus of my pastoral preaching and teaching, except in one key area: funerals.  Prior to my coming to Resurrection, I did a rough calculations of how many funerals or memorial services I had preached at St. Andrew’s.  It was over 500.  And each one was the opportunity to preach God’s promise of eternal life beyond this life.  

My funerals always have a celebration of the deceased’s life, but the celebration truly hinged on the promise that Jesus had prepared a place for her (John 14: 3) where she is now fully alive and free.  Though the sermon would touch on the deceased and her life, my primary message was always for the family and friends gathered. I invited them to trust Jesus and his promises as they grieve the death.  God’s promise of a new heaven and the new earth (Rev. 21) is for all who trust in Jesus.  Funerals give us an eternal perspective.

Preaching about the future glories of heaven is often described as “pie-in-the-sky” preaching, because it places all the rewards in heaven while we suffer though hardship here on earth.  But M. Scott Peck is right, “life is difficult.”   We all experience hardship, pain, and injustice here on earth.  The promise of God’s new heaven and new earth is that God “will wipe every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more, for the first things have passed away” (Revelation 21:4)   Gehard Forde once responded to the “pie-in-the-sky” charge by saying, “What’s the matter?  Don’t you like pie?”   I do.

How does the promise of heaven impact your faith?