Worshipping in the Wake of Death.

((from Steph))

A week ago a friend of mine lost his battle with cancer.

I remember the day I heard of his terminal diagnosis—it was late afternoon some Sunday in December. A close friend called to tell me and urged me to pray for a miracle.

Memories flooded my mind as I stood in shock but soon after, questions bombarded.

How could this be?

Why him?

This cannot, actually, be real. This cannot be how this story ends… right?

I remember hanging up and my body hitting the carpet in a big ball of tears. In that moment, I pleaded with God to heal him! To do a miracle only God could do! I was heartbroken, not only for my friend, but for his wife and three daughters.

This past Sunday, nearly a week past his funeral, I entered the sanctuary of our church in Indianapolis to find his wife sitting near the front waving at me to come sit with her. We hugged, she cracked a joke, and I was instantly struck by her presence, one of strength, peace and hope.

Always courageous in faith, my dear friend has been someone I’ve admired near and far for years. This day was no different. As the service started we entered into a time of worship, and there I stood next to my friend who had just lost her husband, and all I could hear was her voice singing songs of praise.

It was beautiful. And convicting.

There we stood, singing words that proclaimed God’s goodness and love. Words that spoke of resurrection and redemption. Words of sacrifice, hope, and thanksgiving.
The entire worship set that day was bathed in the hope we have in our resurrected Christ—each lyric weighted with the tension of death and life. And despite any anger, fear or grief my friend may have been wrestling with in that moment, she chose to sing.

Through her singing, my friend was choosing hope. By choosing to worship despite her circumstances, my friend was proclaiming her allegiance and trust in our God.

The word ‘hope’ in the Old and New Testaments means in its fullness ‘a waiting, an expecting and a trusting in the covenant love of God.’ To hope means to wait in full expectation of a God who, through his very identity being love, is making all things new.

In his writings to the church in Corinth, the Apostle Paul reminds the Corinthians of the importance of the resurrection and its centrality to our hope into eternity. Paul writes,

“For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures and that He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. After that He appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom remain until now, but some have fallen asleep; then He appeared to James, then to all the apostles; and last of all, as to one untimely born, He appeared to me also… Now if Christ is preached, that He has been raised from the dead, how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, not even Christ has been raised; and if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is vain, your faith also is vain. Moreover we are even found to be false witnesses of God, because we testified against God that He raised Christ, whom He did not raise, if in fact the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised; and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied.” 1 Corinthians 15:3-19

The church of Corinth at this time was wrestling with many things, one of which was the reality of Christ being raised from the dead. Some were even teaching that it did not happen. In this moment, Paul is admonishing the church. He is boldly proclaiming the importance of the resurrection—that without Christ’s death AND resurrection, there is no hope—for we, then, are still in our sin.

How often do we forget the resurrection by the way we live our own lives? How often do we negate the power of the cross by attempting to hope in our own power, strength or talents through self-preservation? How often do we also fall into the stronghold of control, working to perfectly orchestrate our lives so as to avoid pain, discomfort or disappointment and speed up the process of the wait? How often is our hope, really just a masked anxiety of the future; a desire for our individual wants to be fulfilled so that we can, finally, be happy?

Hope isn’t about being happy. It’s about being complete.

We have to ask ourselves what we are waiting for, and why. Do we, truly, trust in the goodness and faithfulness of our God who demonstrated his love and loyalty to us through his death and suffering on the cross?

Because if we do, our hope takes on new meaning and new shape.

You see, hope is about much more than us as individuals. Hope is anticipation and acknowledgement of the ever-present and ever-coming promised covenant we, as the people of God, have with our King. Hope is belief that someday His kingdom, wrapped up in love, restoration and peace, will be in full reign and that through Jesus Christ, we are welcomed and called to take part.

Hope is, and always will be, about the blood of Jesus.

It is only when we come to terms with this fact that we will be able to lift our hands and hearts in praise and adoration despite any circumstance in which we find ourselves. We can have hope because we know that brokenness, suffering and pain are not end of the story.

My friend lives this. Her worship that day is evidence. Her hope is in something greater than the hopes of this world—it is in knowing that in the end, all will be made new. One day, every tribe will confess and every body will be healed. One day, justice and reconciliation will rule. One day, all will be renewed to the ever-unfolding goodness God intended from the beginning.

What are you waiting for in your life? What are you hoping and trusting God to do with and through you? Are you able to praise God as you wait, trust and expect of him? To what degree do you truly believe him to be good and faithful? How does the lens of our resurrected Christ transform this area of your life and why?

Be blessed, knowing that our God of love is near to you in your hope today and forever. For our waiting, expecting and trust in our risen Christ is not in vain!

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