Sermon – November 5th, 2023
Hope Lutheran Church, Port Coquitlam BC
Text: Matthew 5:1-12; 1 John 3:1-3; Revelation 7
Theme: “Life before and after death”
Intr – If you would make a list of forbidden topics for daily life conversations, where would you start?
– politics? / -Sports / -Other people’s life? / -Sexuality?
Here I think we may have found one. Death has become such a dreadful topic that euphemisms were created to keep the word at a safe distance. “Passing away, passing on; going to a better place”, and others. Are you comfortable talking about death? Maybe you aren’t, maybe a little. Or just on some occasions, like funerals. Perhaps it’s easier when it is a distant report than when it is close to home. Perhaps it’s less difficult when it is somebody whose absence in this world won’t be felt at all compared to a dear loved one.
The Church has a date in its calendar where we talk more specifically about death, whether we like it or not. And I would say: there is no problem if we do like. Not the way you like your favourite dish or your favourite spot by the lake, but liking in terms of two main causes:
-It is unavoidable for all of us. It is a necessary talk.
-It is the point we look forward to. Death. Or better, to life after death. When we Christians talk about death, we are underlining life. We can only live when we die. All Jesus’ beatitudes in Matthew 5 point to that: “Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven.” There is life after death.
But not only that. We can never forget that there is life before death as well.
1 – WHAT DEATH IS NOT
First, it is always good to remember what death is not. Our culture is filled with different notions about it, being many of them completely off the mark. Here are some examples:
–You don’t become a star in heaven. After death, we continue to be who we are.
–You don’t become an angel. Angels and human beings are two distinct categories of God’s creatures.
–It is not a synonym to “going to a better place”, since there is also a worse place where to go, when faith in Christ is not present.
–People who died can’t look down after us. I think if we could talk with them, they would say: “No, I can’t take care of you properly. Look to Jesus, He is the one who can do it!”
–Death is not the end of life. We will live forever.
–Death is not a friend. It is our worst enemy.
2 – WHAT DEATH IS
Now, what death is from a Christian perspective:
-Ceasing of bodily life on this side of heaven.
–An appointed time for us to leave life here and to go to be with Jesus. To die means to have your soul and your body set apart from each other. The body is laid to rest, returns to dust. The soul is alive and rests in Jesus.
–The wages of sin. This is the reason why everybody dies. This shows that little children need Baptism, since the fact that they may die reveals that they have sin, and they need forgiveness.
One thing we should remember though is that when we die life eternal in its full sense has not begun just yet. Our soul is already immortal, so it doesn’t even die. The body dies and waits for resurrection day. Life eternal, as we Christians teach it, will begin on the Last Day. For not only our soul was redeemed, but our body as well. We will enjoy the blessings of eternal life with our body and soul. That means that when we die, we go to heaven. But then from there, on the last day, body and soul reunited will live forever in the New Earth and new Heavens as the Bible promises.
Speaking of heaven, on All Saints’ Day we think especially about those who are already there in Christ. The saints in heaven. They are people who have gone through the process of receiving the wages of their sin. Their bodies were laid to rest. Their souls are resting in Christ waiting for the last day. We are not supposed to pray to them, or expect any “help from beyond”, what we do is to render thanksgiving to God for their life in Christ.
3 – WHAT OUR LIFE IS
As Christians, we believe there is life after death. But we can’t forget that in Christ we have a life before death too. While we are still waiting for our permanent home in Heaven, we live this life before death as sinners who are saints saved by Grace.
Jesus describes this life in the Beatitudes. He talks about faith in action. Jesus shows some aspects of this life as saints in Christ here on earth. The tone of those Beatitudes is set right off the bat by Jesus, as Martin Luther puts it: “his is a delightful, sweet, and genial beginning of his sermon. For he does not come, like Moses or a teacher of law, with alarming and threatening demands; but in the most friendly manner, with enticements and allurements and pleasant promises.” But note well: “But He shows with these words that no one understands this unless he is already a true Christian.” 
As we live life before death with our faith in action towards the World, we are called “blessed”. Why so? Because actions are fruits of a living faith. When you live your faith active in love, you know that is a living faith, connected to Him. You live life before death in the perspective of life after death. In Matthew 5 we see Life before and after death coming together in one sermon by our Lord.
Blessed are those… life before death
For theirs is…. Life after death
Jesus unite life before and after death as one thing, one life only. As he said in the Gospel of John “Whoever believes in Him HAS eternal life”. As Paul said, “to live is Christ is to die is gain”. Death is gain only we our life is Christ. Our life before and after death is one and only: life in Christ, with Christ and to Christ.
4 – LIVING FOREVER
Christ has killed death. We are blessed in Him, we have life in Him, a new and full life. But still, facing death in this life is not an easy thing. Especially, when by our human standards, someone was too young, or went too early, as we say. When we must be separated for a while from our loved ones, while we await the blessed reunion on the last day. You may feel uncomfortable and unease with death. That is normal. If you don’t like death, you are a human. For those times, the promise of the Life that never ends resounds from God’s Word, and especially in today’s readings:
1st John: 2 Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. 3 And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.”
Revelation: a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb.
Jesus: “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God… Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven.”
Another way to look at it and be comforted:
Text: “Time of a life”
Grandpa passed away at the age of 91 years old. For nine decades he brightened the lives of many people around him.
That lady had the end of her life in her late fifties. Throughout all those years she certainly brought smiles to loved ones’ faces and was able to impact lives with her being.
The young man died before the age of 20. It was a very hard and painful moment, however, it was almost 20 years of a life where he brought joy to his parents, his family, to many.
The couple, after hearing the baby’s heart on the seventh week, received the news in the ninth that the pregnancy would not continue.
How long does a life need to exist to bring joy to our lives? 70 years? 7 months? 7 weeks?
Jesus Christ lived about 33 years on Earth to fulfill His mission and to become the most important person in our lives. He not only makes us smile and brightens our life, but He also brings happiness in its full sense and state. And it doesn’t take Him more than a second to make this certainty take hold of our heart.
When we think about those hearts that leave us to depart to Heaven, He brings the news that really comforts us: human time is specific; God’s time has no end. Whether it is seven days or eight decades that you have lived with someone, when you and that person are connected to Him through faith there is an eternity ahead of you – with way more than a smile. There is life after death. There is life before death.
We don’t know how much time we have left with our loved ones. But we know that we can enjoy every second as a present and thank God for the time a life lasts before death. What matters most, more than the time of a life, is how God brought his blessings through it. And that in Christ, life doesn’t have an end. We will live forever in God’s New Earth and New Heaven.
Cc – There is a cartoon that got it right in two sentences. One character says, “We will all die one day.” And the other replies: “Yes, but on all other we will not.” We know what death is. We don’t like it. That’s why is so comforting e promising to know what life is. Who life is. Jesus Christ. Death has no longer power over us. We are blessed saints who live this only and one life in Him.
He assures us: yes, we will all die one day. But we will live all the others. On this side of heaven. And on the other side as well.
 Somebody has once observed that we live in the opposite of the Victorian era — when sex was a forbidden topic and death was a daily one.
 Romans 6:23
 Philippians 1:21
“Here the evangelist with a formal stately preface declares how Christ disposed himself for the sermon he was about to deliver; that he went upon a mountain, and sat down, and opened his mouth; so that we see he was in earnest. These are the three things, it is commonly said, that mark a good preacher; first, that he take his place; secondly, that he open his mouth and say something; thirdly, that he know when to stop.” Martin Luther. Commentary on the Sermon of the Mount http://www.godrules.net/library/luther/37luther1.htm Visited Nov 1st,2019
 Martin Luther, web link cit. “Then there would be plenty of money forthcoming to build a good road, and every one would boastingly glory how he had heard or read the very words that the Lord Christ had spoken. O what a wonderfully happy man would he be held to be who should succeed in this! That is just the way it surely would be if we had none of our Savior’s words written, although much might have been written by others;”
 Martin Luther, web link cit.
 John 3:16; 36
 Phil 1:21
 I John 3
 Revelation 7
 Matthew 5