Hello Church Family, this is Pastor Phil!
Imagine for a moment a time in your life when you had to wait for something or someone. Maybe it was a race you were running, and you were just halfway through and it didn’t feel like you would ever make it to the finish line. Or maybe it was waiting for that next grade in school to happen, like 6th grade, 8th grade, High School, or college. Maybe you were waiting for that engagement or that wedding day to come, and it felt like it was going to take forever to get there. Maybe it was waiting for a child to be born and that expectation that feels like it’s never going to end. Life is filled with these moments and I want you to take one of those moments and remember what it was like when the expectation was over, and the moment finally arrived.
You felt a sense of accomplishment or fulfillment. Maybe just the thought of FINALLY! You were filled with joy and surprise. You strangely didn’t feel any different at the moment, but life had irrevocably changed. Maybe it wasn’t what you expected at all.
Then, life changed. In small ways, big ways, unexpected ways, and completely new ways, life after that moment changed completely and there was no going back.
For a human life, the end goal is life after death. Death is not the end or the goal, but the line that is crossed from one stage of life to the next. Like the finish line at the end of the race or the breeching of the baby’s crown during birth, death is that transition from one reality of life to the next.
When a human life crosses that line and moves to the next stage of life, they have moved to a new journey and a new adventure, still of course connected to the people in their past and formed by the life they lived, but it’s still a new journey and a new adventure, and life for them (and us) will never be the same.
We who are still on the first side of that finish line don’t get to see what they are experiencing: the journey, the excitement, the adventure, the beauty, the life lived beyond death. It’s hard to imagine, sometimes to even believe that’s it’s real, that life after death—but that’s only natural. Just remember those before times in your life, before the finish line, before the next chapter, before the birth. That future after the finish line so often felt completely unreal, like it didn’t even exist, or you couldn’t even imagine what it might be like. But then it came, and you couldn’t remember living any other way. Just because we are on the first side of the finish line does not make life after the finish line any less real, we simply haven’t experienced what that part of life is like. But they have. On this All Saint’s Day we remember our brothers and sisters in Christ who have crossed that finish line and are even now experiencing the adventure, the beauty, and a life they get to live out eternally in God’s presence.
For us, it is an end to a way of living, but for them it is a beginning to a new way of life. When we think about our loved ones who have passed into Glory, we look at the loss and our own loss in that change. But, today, take a moment and look at the victory they have won at the finish line. Life is not easy, and the race is hard. This life is filled with dangers and temptations, illness and brokenness, hurts and pains, and so much that throws a life off course. It’s not easy living this life. It can be so, so hard. But when they make it, when they cross that finish line and receive their crown, it is a reason to celebrate the hard-fought victory that they are now living in. We, their loved ones, who are on the sidelines watching them run the race and finally, through blood, sweat, and tears, cross that finish line. We cheer for them. “Great job” we cry! “You made it!” “Congratulations!” “We’ll see you on the other side. Don’t worry we’ll be there soon.” It is a celebration of another life that has entered life.
Here’s the image. Watching my children when they were learning to walk was so much fun. The rolling, crawling, holding on to furniture, driving their little toy fire engine, and then finally, walking. Me, with my arms outstretched, and them with their little toothy grins, wobbling into my arms. Best feeling ever.
For our Brothers and Sisters in Christ, they are the children finally being embraced by their Heavenly Father’s loving arms. After rolling, crawling, holding on to furniture, driving their little toy fire engine, walking, running, and then flying into their Father’s arms. Wow, can you imagine the joy they feel at that moment as their Heavenly Father embraces them and welcomes them to their next chapter in life. Best feeling ever.
See what great love the Father has given us in naming us the children of God; and such we are. For this reason, the world does not see who we are, because it did not see who he was. My loved ones, now we are children of God, and at present it is not clear what we are to be. We are certain that at his revelation we will be like him; for we will see him as he is. And everyone who has this hope in him makes himself holy, even as he is holy. I John 3:1-3
For now, we cannot see past the finish line at the joy that awaits us, but our brothers and sisters in Christ are already living in their new life and see their savior Jesus, face to face. While it is a time of change and loss for us on this side of the finish line, it is also a time of celebration, congratulating our loved ones who are on the other side of the finish line and are enjoying the life they have been given. But a time for us to look forward to our own moment past the finish line and that life to come that is so hard to imagine now, but which we will get to fully live afterwards.