Sermon for November 8, 2020

Video Transcript

Speaking Of Life 2050 | Pinky Promise Cara Garrity When I was a kid, my friends and I would often make promises to each other. If we really wanted to emphasize our commitment, we’d say things like “Cross my heart and hope to die” or we might extend our little finger and hook our friend’s little finger in a “pinky promise.” While we might change our minds about keeping regular promises, a pinky promise was not to be broken. This gesture showed we meant to keep our word. The Bible is filled with promises, though sometimes in the Old Testament, they’re called covenants. There are several examples of God’s faithfulness in keeping the covenants made with ancient Israel. There are also several examples of people who broke their covenant with God. What is fascinating is to note that the unfaithfulness of the Israelites did not affect God’s faithfulness to them. The Old Testament prophets express God’s grief over the broken promises made, but they always reassure God’s people that God will never break his promises to them. Jesus is the fulfillment of God’s promises. His resurrection, for example, gives us the promise that we will also be resurrected. Many wondered about this promise. The Apostle Paul wrote to the church at Thessalonica when they were wondering if God meant to keep his promise of resurrection: But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about those who have died, so that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope.  For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have died. 1 Thessalonians 4:13-14 (NRSV) The Thessalonians were grieving and asking big questions: What happens to our loved ones after death? What happens to us? These big questions were a way of asking God, “Are you going to keep your promise of resurrection?” And as we see in this passage, Paul affirms God’s willingness to raise us by giving us evidence: the very resurrection of Jesus. Jesus spoke about his certainty in God’s promise of resurrection before he died in John chapter 11: “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die.” John 11:25 Jesus believed in God’s ability to raise him from the dead, and Paul reminds us that the God who kept his promise of resurrection to Jesus will also keep that same promise to us. Pinky promise. May you live today in the security of God’s pinky promises, knowing that he is faithful, and Jesus is proof. I’m Cara Garrity, Speaking of Life.

Psalm 78:1-7 • Joshua 24:1-3a, 14-25 • 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 • Matthew 25:1-13

The theme for this week is hope and promises, which encourages us to consider God’s promises and allow them to fuel our hope. The “call to worship” Psalm reminds us to tell the generations of the “praiseworthy deeds of the Lord.” Joshua reminds the Israelites of the many times God delivered them and he encouraged them to base their commitment on this evidence of God’s faithfulness. This week’s sermon outline is based on 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18, where Paul addresses the big question about God’s promise of resurrection to us. Lastly, Matthew tells the parable of the foolish bridesmaids who weren’t ready, thus encouraging us to wait with hope, knowing God keeps his promises and is always perfect in his timing.

Hope and Promises

1 Thessalonians 4:13-18

When Amanda Messer was a little girl, her parents split up. She was “a daddy’s girl,” and on the days he was scheduled to come for visitation, she dressed up in her prettiest dress and waited by the front picture window to see him pull into her driveway. At first, he was always on time, and she so looked forward to spending time with him. Later, she waited…and she waited…and she waited, until her mother said, “He’s not coming. Go change your clothes.” Amanda didn’t understand it at the time, but her father struggled with addiction to alcohol and drugs. What she did understand is that her daddy did not keep his promises to her.

As an adult, Amanda was deeply moved by a coworker’s Facebook post where he talked about his father who had just passed away. Her coworker said that his dad was just an average guy, but his word was golden. He always kept his promises, and this prompted the son to encourage others to keep their promises by mailing out “promise cards.” These were cards people could fill out and give to others or use as a reminder of what they had promised to do. Amanda became a co-founder of this project in 2012, and over the past eight years, it has become an international nonprofit social movement called “Because I Said I Would.” As of 2019, Because I Said I Would has sent out 10.3 million Promise Cards to more than 153 countries, provided free online resources you can download, and offered character development programs to more than 150,000 students.

Amanda Messer’s story highlights the importance of keeping promises. We live in a world where promises are constantly being broken. Parents break promises, marriages fail over broken promises, businesses suffer due to broken promises. And let’s not get into how many promises are broken by elected officials. This has made it difficult for many to learn to trust. And that lack of trust is often carried over to people’s relationship with God. Many wonder, some ask, does God keep his promises?

Throughout the history of Israel, God’s people had been taught about the resurrection. Even Mary and Martha believed they would see Lazarus again—at some future time at the resurrection. They didn’t realize Jesus was the resurrection, the way, the truth.

Believers in Thessalonica were asking about God’s promises—in particular about the resurrection. Believing Jesus was going to return in their lifetime, there was concern about those who died in the faith. Would only those alive be changed? What exactly is God’s promise? And how do we know he will keep it? Paul answers both questions by reminding us how God keeps his promises through Jesus.

Let’s read the passage:

But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about those who have died, so that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have died. For this we declare to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will by no means precede those who have died. For the Lord himself, with a cry of command, with the archangel’s call and with the sound of God’s trumpet, will descend from heaven, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up in the clouds together with them to meet the Lord in the air; and so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage one another with these words. (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 NRSV)

What do we see in this passage?

The first thing Paul points out is that we need hope when faced with grief, loss, and suffering, all of which are part of our human experience. While normal, Paul reminds us we can move through and process them better if we have hope.

But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about those who have died, so that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. (1 Thessalonians 4:13 NRSV)

Then Paul connects our resurrection and the resurrection of those loved ones who have already passed with Jesus’s resurrection. That’s a key component of our faith: “In him we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28). We are united with Jesus in his death and in his resurrection.

For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have died. For this we declare to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will by no means precede those who have died. (1 Thessalonians 3:14-15 NRSV)

Paul follows this up by sharing details of this resurrection that clearly indicate it won’t be done in secret. It will be a big event with lots of reunions and rejoicing. Further, he emphasizes the promise that we will be with Christ for all eternity.

For the Lord himself, with a cry of command, with the archangel’s call and with the sound of God’s trumpet, will descend from heaven, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up in the clouds together with them to meet the Lord in the air; and so we will be with the Lord forever. (1 Thessalonians 3:16-17 NRSV)

Finally, Paul reminds us to share this promise with others—to give the encouragement of the hope they have in the resurrection.

Therefore encourage one another with these words. (1 Thessalonians 3:18 NRSV)

Application:

  • Jesus’s resurrection is proof that God keeps his promises. Through the resurrection we have been given new life, we are citizens of a different kingdom. Because God raised Jesus from the dead, and because we are included in Jesus, we can trust that God will raise us, too. This fuels our hope for the future and boosts our trust in God.
  • People need to be reminded of the hope of the resurrection. There is a lot of pain in the world. Sometimes we forget what our brothers and sisters around the world are going through. There is a need for hope; there is a need to know this life is temporary. We grieve with others, but we don’t grieve as those without hope. We know our hope is Jesus and we are called to remind others of that hope.
  • Jesus is the promise and shows us the importance of keeping a promise. Not only do we continually look to Jesus and help others turn to Jesus, we also know the importance of our word. Because we understand how hope and promises are deeply intertwined, we will remember how important it is for us to keep promises made to others, to give them hope and pass along the grace that God has shown us.

Amanda Messer’s story shows how one man’s broken promises affected his little girl, and we also saw how another man’s life of promises kept, though unremarkable in other ways, left a legacy of hope. God has given us hope by providing proof of our resurrection through our elder Brother Jesus.

For Reference:

The Importance of a Promise (Amanda Messer): runs 11 minutes


Small Group Discussion Questions

  • The Speaking of Life video talks about how as kids we used to emphasize our commitment to keeping our promises by simple gestures and phrases like “pinky promise.” Why do you think we felt the need to do that as children? What do you think a promise kept means to a child?
  • Amanda Messer’s story contrasts one person’s experience of being let down by a father with another person’s experience of having a father who always kept promises. Think back over your own life and share an experience when someone kept a promise to you even at great difficulty or cost to them.
  • Have you ever considered Jesus’s resurrection as proof of your own? What extra meaning does this provide the verse “In him we live and move and our being” (Acts 17:28)?
  • This passage links hope and promises together. What other promises of God have given you hope and comfort when you needed it?

One thought on “Sermon for November 8, 2020”

  1. Loved Amanda’s story and attached video. I guess the importance of a promise made is the promise’s weight (what the promise does for the one promised to). We can see this just from our human promises. Some of our decisions are based on other’s promises. How weighty are the promises that God has made. They never fail, that’s incredible! That’s something to hold on to. Thank you for bringing this point out so clearly. We can make decisions based on the promises that God has made. He is our perfect hope.

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