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A note from Pastor Unke

The End? In Jesus, it's only the beginning!

Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. 14 For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him.  -1 Thessalonians 4: 13-14
“Well, we know that she’s not struggling any more…she’s finally at peace.”
That common thought—expressed with resignation that the one who has died is no longer fighting disease—has some comfort to it.  No one likes to see someone they love struggling with disease or even the effects of old age.  From our point of view in this life, it seems like it would be better to rest in peace after a lifetime of ups and downs; trials and triumphs; depression and occasional joy; health and disease; all part of a in a continual decline that inches us daily closer to the END.  When life’s endurance race comes to a close, most of us conclude that there must be some relief from it all.  “Rest in Peace” even sounds a bit comforting, doesn’t it?
But when you dig a little deeper, seeing death as the END of life—even a difficult life—is not comforting.  It’s final.  It’s unavoidable.  When people see death as the END, it looms over every day of life.  Sometimes it comes at the end of lots of suffering and represents relief.  More often, though, it comes at a time when people don’t want it to come, when we’re not ready for the END, and comfort is hard to find.
Let’s go just one level deeper.  If people realize that death is the punishment for sin, as Scripture tells us, and a place of everlasting torment awaits the sinner, it is (quite rightfully) terrifying. 
But Easter changes everything.  “We believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus whose who have fallen asleep in him.”  Did you hear the comfort in that confession?
First…death is described as sleep.  This isn’t a wishful platitude that attempts to make death less frightening.  This is the Easter confidence to be able to say that death is not an END at all.  Death is not something that looms dark and ominous because we know that death has been defeated by the Savior, stripping it of its power over us and removing its sting forever. 
Then…knowing that death is not an END to our loved one (or to us), we thrill to know that those who fall asleep in Jesus will be brought with him to life eternal.  In that way, we can see death as the beginning of life in heaven with Jesus.  That’s an entirely different picture!
Is it any wonder that Paul reminds us Christians that we don’t mourn the way the hope-less people of this world do?  Yes, Christian funerals include tears.  Christians hurt when loved ones die.  Christians miss their loved ones and struggle with the new reality of life in this world without that person.  But Christians don’t face death without KNOWING that in Christ there is the certain hope of resurrection.  Christ’s empty tomb means victory.  That is why Christian funerals after long time suffering feel much more like a victory celebration than a gloomy memorial of someone at the END of their life.
Oh…and one more thing.  It may seem that there is “rest” from life’s troubles at the END of life to some.  But we Christians know don’t need to wait to be at rest and live in peace.  Christ’s EASTER victory does that for us too—today.  Rest in peace, Christians, because…
“we believe that Jesus died and rose again…  
With you--celebrating LIFE that never ENDS in Christ,     
Pastor Unke

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