Monday, March 9, 2015

How do You Deal with the Fact You Will Die?

    I would like to begin my sermon this morning by saying something rather provocative; although it may not be provocative to many of you here this morning.  Everyone is seeking salvation.  Now, there might be some who would say, “I am an atheist, I am not seeking salvation.  I don’t believe in God or an afterlife or anything like that.”  Still, I say, even you are seeking salvation.  You just don’t realize it.

    Before I push on any further, let me say, this is not my thought.  I’m not the one who came up with the idea.  In fact, there are many, many who are smarter than I; are more famous than I; and who are much wealthier than I who have said the exact same thing.  In fact, I’d like to read a quote from one of those folks right now.

    Not too many years ago, a gentleman by the name of Luc Ferry wrote a very good little book titled, A Brief History of Thought: A Philosophical Guide to Living.  Mr. Ferry is a french philosopher and secular humanist.  This means, he is an agnostic bordering on atheist.  His book was very well received, and at the very beginning, he says this:

    I suggest that we accept a different approach to the question, “What is philosophy?’ and start from a very simple proposition, one that contains the central question of all philosophy: that the human being, as distinct from God, is mortal or, to speak like the philosophers, is a ‘finite being’, limited in space and time.  As distinct from animals, moreover, a human being is the only creature who is aware of his limits.  He knows that he will die, and that his near ones, those he loves, will also die.  Consequently he cannot prevent himself from thinking about this state of affairs, which is disturbing and absurd, almost unimaginable.  And, naturally enough, he is inclined to turn first of all to those religions which promise ‘salvation.’

    I hope you caught what Ferry was saying.  If you didn’t, let me try and help you.  Basically, we are the only species that knows we are going to die.  We are the only creature on this planet, that we are aware of, that can think about the fact that we are going to die.  And it is disturbing.  It is absurd.  It is quite difficult for us to imagine it and wrap our heads around it.  Salvation, for Ferry, becomes our ability to cope with our mortality.  Somehow, some way, we need to solve the problem of death, and I would submit to you that we haven’t exactly done a very good job of it.  Even in the church, we haven’t done so well.

    Some of you here this morning might question me on that one.  You might say, “Well, pastor, I believe in God.  I believe in Jesus, so I’m not worried about death.  I’m not worried about what will happen to me when I die.”  I hear you loud and clear, and the first part of this sermon isn’t necessarily directed at you.  Perhaps you might find your toes being stepped on in a few moments though.  Hang in there.  A few of you might have come to that place in your lives where you look at death and you compare it to all the trials and tribulations you are going through.  You might welcome it. 

    That may sound a bit morbid, but I learned a valuable lesson from my grandfather when he was dying of cancer.  I remember taking him to radiation, and it was literally burning him from the inside out.  He was in pain and agony.  When we got back to his house, I remember him clearly crying out from his bedroom, “Why is it so hard for a man to die?  Why is it so hard for a man to die?”  At that point in his life, death was preferable to the misery he was going through, but my grandfather wasn’t afraid of death.  He knew what was on the other side.  Many today don’t.  Including many who consider themselves Christian.  Many, many are still seeking salvation.  Everyone does even if they are not aware of it.

    You might tell me right now, “Okay, pastor, you’ve said that twice.  You’ve said that everyone seeks salvation even if they aren’t aware of it.  Where is your proof?  Where is your evidence that even those who do not believe in God are seeking salvation?”

    First, I gave you Luc Ferry’s quote from a guy who is really, really smart and well accepted in his area of expertise.  Now, I turn your attention to how we in society act.  I will submit to you that we are deathly afraid of death; consciously and unconsciously.  How so?  Well, as they say, “Actions speak louder than words.”

    Think about this for a moment: why do we spend billions upon billions of dollars on health care?  Why does this industry keep growing and growing and growing and making more and more off of procedures, drugs, and other such things?  Why was there such an uproar and still is an uproar surrounding health care in our nation?  Why do we consider health care a right?  Why do we spend hundreds of thousands, even millions of dollars on procedures and treatments for people who have incurable diseases?  Why?  I’ll tell you why.  The healthcare industry is working to stave off death as long as possible.  The healthcare industry is working to keep death at arm’s length and stave off the inevitable because every second we draw breath, according to them, is precious.  Some believe we should fight for every last minute of life we have on this planet because death is the enemy.  We must keep it at bay.

    Think now about this: why do we have the department of homeland security?  Why, since 9/11 have we given up many of our individual rights to the government?  Why do we subject ourselves to body scanners, pat downs, and other such things in airport security?  Why have we become accustomed to the government scanning our emails and listening in on our cell phone conversations?  Why have we spend countless billions, even trillions of dollars to keep us safe?  Here’s why: we want to be safe.  We want to ensure that no terrorist will come along and bomb us and rob us of our lives.  We will give up our freedom to stave off death.  Our lives are too precious.

    Here’s another one: why are there so many items available to help you look younger?  Why do people spend millions and millions of dollars on make up; hair coloring kits; shampoos that prevent you from going bald, and other such things?  Why is the health food section in stores growing larger and larger?  Why do we focus on exercise and eating healthy?  Why do folks tell us to avoid fast food, sodas, sugar, and anything that actually tastes good?  Because, it will kill you, and you don’t want to welcome death any earlier than you have too, right?

    There is more we could say about how we spend our money.  Let’s talk a moment about how we spend our time.  Why are we so busy?  Think about this deeply for a moment because I know what some of you will say.  Some of you will say that I’m busy because I have to do so many things.  I have to get the kids to all their activities.  I have to get my work done.  I have to attend these meetings.  I have to attend these events.  There is so much to do and so little time to get it all squeezed in!  Let me stop for just a second and say two things.  Number one: no, you are not required to do all those things.  You choose to do them.  We all choose to do them.  If something is a priority in our lives, we make time to fit it in.  Retired people say this all the time: I wonder how I got so much accomplished while I was working?  You got so much accomplished because these things were important to you!!  That’s the reality of life.  If something is important to us; we find the time to do it!  So, if that is the case, why do we fill our calendars up with so much stuff.  Why is everything so important?  Why do we make sure we are at all our children’s events?   Why do kids have so many events these days?  Why are there so many options of things to do?  Why are there so many fundraisers and activities on the weekends?  Why do kids’ sports now last all year?  Here’s why: we want to squeeze as much as possible into our lives.  We want to value every single second of every single day because...because we only have a limited amount of time.  We only have a short period of time here on earth, and we have to make the most of it.  Our time is valuable because one day, we will no longer have any time.  We will die.  Our busy-ness is directly related to our view of death.

    Do you see why I say everyone seeks salvation?  Everyone seeks to stave off death?  Everyone seeks a solution to the problem of death through healthcare; through safety; through diet, exercise, and trying to look younger; through filling up every waking moment so that we cram as much into our lives as possible.  We are busy trying to obtain our salvation by fighting off death!!

    And where is it leading us?  How do most of us feel at the end of a given week?  How do most of us feel late Saturday night after the kids’ or grandkids’ baseball game?  How do most of us feel after going to one more fundraiser? How many of us find ourselves full of energy?  Full of joy?  Full of vim and vigor ready to tackle one more thing? 

    That would be, none.  Well, maybe my vision is clouded.  Maybe I’m wrong, but I sure as hell don’t see anyone full of energy; full of joy; and full of happiness.  I see folks just trying to survive.  Just trying to get through one more thing, but scared to death to say no to anything–or check that–to say no to the right things so that they can actually find salvation and have their lives transformed.

    If you noticed, every example I used earlier are examples of us trying to save ourselves.  Every example is us trying to spend money, or use our time to stave off death on our own.  We are trying to obtain salvation by our own efforts and our own strength because we think its all up to us.  We have been convinced that we can attain salvation on our own and defeat death if we just try harder, just spend more money, just make ourselves look younger, just find the right doctor, just keep ourselves busy so that we don’t have to think about it.  We think we can do it all on our own, but the truth of the matter is: we cannot save ourselves.  We cannot spend enough money.  We cannot put in enough hours.  We cannot avoid death forever.  Eventually, it creeps in on us, and we have to face it.  And we have to face the fact that we are unable to obtain our own salvation.  We have to face the fact that our salvation can only come from outside ourselves.

    The ancient people knew this.  They knew it much more readily than we do.  They did not have all the trappings of technology to keep their minds occupied.  While they were farming; while they were tending their flocks, they were forced to think.  Death was ever around them as infant mortality was high.  People only lived into their 40s or 50s.  They understood that death was right on their doorstep, and they had to wrestle with it.  They knew that salvation must come from something outside themselves, and they searched for it.  They searched for someone or something to bring them salvation.

    1 Peter chapter one beginning at verse 10, “Concerning this salvation, the prophets who prophesied of the grace that was to be yours made careful search and inquiry, 11inquiring about the person or time that the Spirit of Christ within them indicated, when it testified in advance to the sufferings destined for Christ and the subsequent glory.”  The prophets searched and searched.  They knew that one day salvation would come.  God had promised such salvation to them.  And they wondered what it might be.  They wondered how it would be enacted.  They had some inkling through what God had revealed in their prophecies, but they wondered how long it would be in coming.

    Verse 12, “12It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you, in regard to the things that have now been announced to you through those who brought you good news by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven.”  God revealed to these prophets that they were not going to see this salvation.  They were the heralds.  They were the ones getting things ready for us.  God was using them to say, “Get ready.  God is acting in history, and He will act with some very good news.”

    And what is that good news?  What is the Gospel? 

    For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son so that all those who believe in Him should not perish but have eternal life.  For God sent the Son into the world not to condemn the world but that the world might be saved through Him.

    God acted decisively through Jesus to bring about our salvation.  It was done purely and solely by Jesus who lived the life we should have lived and died the death we deserved.  Jesus made things right between us and God on the cross, and then at the resurrection showed us what the end result will be.  For those who trust in Jesus, we too will be resurrected because Jesus’ righteousness has been bestowed upon us.  Death is defeated.  Death has lost its sting–not by anything we did or can do, but by everything Jesus did.  Salvation is accomplished for you, on your behalf at a great cost, not to you, but to God.  God died for you while you were unlovable to bring about your salvation.

    When this enters into your heart, you start learning to say no to all the things that promise you salvation.  You start saying no to all the busy-ness, and you start saying yes to worship.  You start saying no to saving yourself through your job and work, and you start saying yes to loving God and your neighbor.  When your heart is convicted that death is only a threshold into eternal life, you realize you have all the time in the world.  No longer does fear drive you.  No longer do you have to squeeze every minute out of life.  No longer are you driven by safety and security.  You are now free because you are bought with a great price.

    Some of you may wonder why I include John 3:16-17 in every sermon.  You may wonder why I keep hitting it over and over and over.  You may wonder why I keep telling you God died for you when you were and are a sinner to obtain your salvation.  Here’s why.  Angels long to look into these things.  The Greek word there is a bit stronger than long–it’s usually translated lust–an unsatisfied desire.  Angels lust to look into the Gospel–into God’s saving action on behalf of you and me.  It’s that mind boggling.  It’s that wonderful.  It’s that liberating.  Jesus has obtained your salvation for you when you did not deserve it.  Live into that freedom.  Amen.

20 comments:

Unknown said...

There is a certain arrogance in Frery's quote concerning consciousness, in that he ASSUMES omniscience, and presumes to evaluate the "Known world" from a position of knowledge. Kevin, you know, sometimes all the book smarts in the world is insufficient for true comprehension of an issue. I think that such an assumption is not only arrogant and outdated but dangerous. It seems to line up quite nicely however with the world view of some religious zealots...

In answer to the question posed in your sermon title, it is in fact an issue with which I have a certain amount of familiarity, over the past several years. But Since you are the man with the book learning, the degree and all the answers I defer to you....

Carl

Kevin Haug said...

Carl,

Your snarkiness and arrogance come across beautifully. Thank you for commenting.

Unknown said...

Sorry, was I being too real?
You and I just live in different universes/realities, with VERY DIFFERENT world Views ...

I didn't mean to be snarky, but the reality I have been living in the past several years seem so different from your hypotenuse/ hypothesis.

Carl

Kevin Haug said...

Carl,

Too real? Hardly.

You forget something, my friend. I deal with death on a regular basis. Can't even begin to count how many folks I've walked with through that very dark valley. Just recently lost a dear grandmother who doted on me regularly. I understand very well your pain and frustration at the lost of your beloved wife, but that pain does not excuse your behavior.

Yes, we share very, very different worldviews--which is very intriguing since we both claim to be Christian. Theoretically, this means we have a common worldview; however there are more than a few things which do not match.

Unfortunately, your rather painful wounds prevent you from thinking through implications of what I put forth (and you actually didn't do much to reveal your own worldview) and instead of arguing the points, you choose to go off on ad hominem attacks.

Pardon me for calling you on it.

Unknown said...

Peculiar my friend....
Ad Hominem? Really?

Might I suggest adding MALT_O_MEAL instead? :-)
I suggest this in part, because I am living within 35 miles of the MALT-O_MEAL HQ.
They make breakfast cereals...
I am not now, nor have I ever called into question your relationship
with the Almighty
YES, our differences in life Experience and world view are great. I find it amazing that even within the Lutheran appendage on The Body of Christ, such diversity exists But My God is Gracious, and merciful, Slow to anger, and abounding in Steadfast LOVE.

Oh, I know Kevin, you speak with great fervor and Conviction of your personal experience with God, his Love and seeing "The LIGHT", apparently in a way few others, with the possible exception of the Apostle Paul, Mohammed, John Wesley, and John Smith, and a handful of Martyrs over the past two Millennia have.
I have little Doubt, that this is true, for you speak with certainty and conviction! Congratulations, and Good on you! I am happy For you!

Now, if we can get beyond the petty insults, might I suggest that NOT ALL of Mankind is concerned about their diet and Health simply because they fear getting old and Dying?

SPECIOUS KEVIN, SPECIOUS...I Can Not deny your experience, but maybe you ought to get outside of TEJAS more. There may be some of us out here who, in Fact are NOT AFRAID of DEATH, and ARE NOT IN FACT packing as much into our daily schedules as you suggest but unlike the unenlightened and unaware, and despite the proliferation of petrochemicals used in the production and preservation of certain "FOOD PRODUCTS" these days, some of us outside the State of TEJAS, may prefer to eat food the way God gave it to us, without a lot of preservatives, extra added sugars and processing, NOT Because We Give a Tinkers DAM About prolonging our Lives, as you suggest, but maybe, just maybe, because we are don't like the way we feel when we consume "FOOD PRODUCTs" COULD IT BE THAT WE JUST PREFER NATURAL FOOD? YOU KNOW THE WAY IT USED TO BE GROWN AND EATEN, BEFOREADM MONSANTO AND TEXACO started Messing with our food.... Oh But I digress.


Can you come Down off of your throne, And out of your Pulpit, and just be real, and Talk to me, you know like "mono y mono" man to man, sans the pomposity?
Yeah, I know Nitschke, Raymond, right ? your Philosopher friend, he wore #66 for the Packers, in The 60's.Right? :-)

For Some of us Lutherans outside of the Lone STAR State, the KOCH BROTHERS , ADM and TEXACO do NOT make up the HOLY Trinity. This is a shock to you, I suspect, but it is OK KEVIN, God is Real, turn from your false god's and repent. There is still time to save your soul and get into heaven. Trust me, I will See you there....

L'Chaim!

Carl

Kevin Haug said...

I love the maturity of your commentary, Carl. It gives me hope for humanity.

As far as I can tell, you accuse me of painting with too broad a brush, and that is a fair criticism. However, perhaps if you decided to look beyond the borders of your own reflection, you would see that the tenor of society is just as I have described. How the vast bulk of people are acting is just as I describe. And even though you claim to not fall into any of the categories I expounded on, I have the bulk of psychology and other such matters which say that if you get a visceral reaction out of folks, you have hit very close to home.

Unknown said...

Nice try,
It does happen occasionally that people are NOT persecuted for their beliefs, be they Christian, Jewish or Hindi,but rather their charming arrogance and charming personalities. Just my experience with the self described "RELIGOUS" of the species.

Marinate on that one, for a moment if you will. Further, I am aware of the tendency for certain professional paid Christian to conflate their personal opinions and experiences, with the will of GOD.

L'chaim

Carl

Kevin Haug said...

Yeah, nice try yourself. Just remember, I am not your father. You seem to have a few unresolved issues toward him.

Unknown said...

Oh dear,
Over The past 60 years, I have had incredible exposure to the Clergy CLASS, Lutherans generally though not exclusively. My issue is neither with my Earthly nor with my HEAVENLY Father, for that matter. My BS/Pomposity detector is rather with the pomposity of the Clergy class in general, that oozes from some of your writings.

No more insults or word games
please...

L'Chaim!

___Carl

Kevin Haug said...

You may call it pompous. That is your prerogative. I call it promoting the Christian faith and showing unequivocally what sets it apart from all the other worldviews around. I am tired of those who have tried to hijack the Christian faith and make it something it is not. Let's put you to the test right now: is Jesus the only way to the Father?

Unknown said...

Pride goeth before the Fall. Proverbs

The higher they fly the farther they fall.

Carl

Kevin Haug said...

I have already fallen, Carl. I've been broken because of my pride and thinking this church thing was indeed all about me. It cost me. Now, I realize Who it is all about. It is ALL about Jesus.

Now, answer the question please. Obfuscation no longer works on me.

Unknown said...

Well let me see here,
As I recall I think some quoted him as saying "no one Comes To the Father , but by me..." But then that is in the same book that tells you that The Earth is 6000 years old. and your great hero was further quoted as saying That the Final Judgment Day would come before all his followers had died. So I don't know the answer to your question. You connect The dots,... You pick up the pieces....

Tell me then, oh though great Swami/Rabbi/Teacher, who is Jesus talking about in John 10:14? Could it be the Muslims? Could it be the Lutherans, or Catholics? Or maybe babies who died before they were baptized?


Carl

Kevin Haug said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kevin Haug said...

Carl,

You still have an eighth grade biblical literacy if you still believe those things are accurate.

#1. The Bible doesn't say the earth is 6000 years old. That was calculated by some using the genealogies; however even early Christian theologians said the earth was older.

#2. Jesus said there were some who would not see death before they saw the Son of Man coming in his kingdom. Immediately after this, Peter, James, and John went to the mount of transfiguration where Jesus was revealed in glory coming into His kingdom. You fail to read in context.

#3. Jesus Himself tells us who those other sheep are. Those who listen to His voice. Who listens to Jesus' call? Who follows Him? Are those who reject Him as The Good Shepherd part of the flock? By definition, no. And a good Muslim wouldn't consider him or herself a part of the flock either. Our beliefs are mutually exclusive.

I can understand your hesitation in committing to a definitive answer, especially given your tendency to deal with seventh grade Christian theology. But there is much deeper stuff out there if you choose to grow.

Unknown said...

Snarky, Condescending,and elitist? qui moi???

The same persons who taught me that the earth is 6000 told me that Jesus is the only way to the father. Hard to know sometimes what is truth and what is a BALD FACED DOGMATIC LIE.

YOu my friend are a shiningly wonderful example of Christian Love and purity. Such an amazingly humble Christian witness. No Finer example of a Lone Star Cowboy Cleric, (And he wears a Stetson...) A Self made man, incredibly fond of his creator....

Yippie yi yo,Ki-ya....

Is that a real poncho or Is that a Sears Poncho?


Carl

Kevin Haug said...

Obviously you continue to wish to make this about me and my personality instead about serious study of Scripture. Instead of responding to any point of interpretation, you make it about me? Instead of challenging your own worldview, youtake comfort in pointing out another's shortcomings?

I fully admit I am a very, very poor example of what it means to imitate Jesus. I fall extremely short of what it means to be a disciple. No one has nor will anyone likely mistake me for Jesus. I am too damaged. But I am actually glad for this. If I could live that kind of life (I once thought I could) I wouldn't need a Savior. If I could live that life, I could tell others to look at me and to work as hard as me. I could look down my nose and hold in contempt those who didn't achieve as I did. And I would never get people to the only One who did live that life. Only Jesus lived the perfect life. And only Jesus died for the world. No other person or god has done that. Which is why He is the only way to the Father. You can call me arrogant or pompous for proclaiming this. You can call me hateful and un-Christian. To a great extent, you are right, but that will not stop me from pointing to Jesus who died for the world, for you and for one as poor as me.

Unknown said...

Kevin, Kevin, Kevin, Chill dude. You are better than all this. Wasting your time and energy, insulting my intelligence, your own dignity and wasting the time you could use to enrich your marriage, and family life. This behavior is Beneath a man of GOD.

Right now you and I are locked into a pissing contest. Don't you see, right now you are So EGO involved That you find it necessary to insult me.

Are you sure that you have stopped falling?

You are in my prayers Kevin.

Carl

Kevin Haug said...

You are right, Carl. You are not worth my time. (Shakes off the dust.)

Unknown said...

Kevin,you seem upset and highly ego driven..

I am glad we finally reached consensus...

L'chaim

Carl