Connections 04.16.2023: The Hope of Christ in Grief

Acts 2:14a, 22-32

What’s the most powerful sermon you can remember? I remember one in particular. I was still in high school and had slept over at a friend’s house on New Year’s Eve. Early that morning, on the first day of the new year, my friend’s mother woke us and brought me the telephone. I heard my mother’s voice, informing me that a beloved thirty-year-old church member had died in his sleep. His young wife had come downstairs and found him dead on their couch. Later, we learned it was a brain aneurysm.

Grief threatened to swallow the church. Thor was vibrant and funny and quirky. His wife Teresa, the church pianist, loved hanging out with the youth group, and we all thought they had the perfect romance (as teen girls tend to think before they grow up a little). Everyone kept asking that age-old question, “Why?” We wondered if Thor had missed some of the possible signs. Headaches? Dizziness? Slurred speech? We worried about Teresa, alone in the house they had shared.

A few Sundays after Thor’s death, our pastor Bob preached a powerful sermon to help us with our grief and confusion. Bob didn’t yell. He didn’t pound the pulpit. He didn’t pace and sweat and breathe heavily. He spoke calmly and slowly. He let a few tears fall from his eyes. He stood and looked out at all of us and told us once again of the hope we have in Jesus Christ in spite of all the tragedy of this fallen world—that Jesus, too, was swept up into the tragedy and died just like Thor died and like all of us will die.

Centuries before, Peter also stood in front of a desperate, confused crowd and gave a powerful sermon. He assured them that, yes, Jesus had died—killed by the unlawful. But then he gave the word of hope that still rings down through the centuries: “But God raised him up, having released him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for him to be held in its power” (v. 24).

On that morning when we were so sad, questioning how such a young life could be so quickly snuffed out, our pastor Bob reminded us of the reason we still have hope. We will see Thor again, he told us, because of what Jesus did. Death will scare us, hurt us, and make us very sad, but it will never have ultimate power over us again.

A couple of years later, Teresa met a widower, and the two of them married, bonded by their shared grief and hope for a new life. They had two children together, who have grown into intelligent, caring adults. Last year, Teresa, an avid bicyclist, was killed by a vehicle that turned into her bike at an intersection. Once more, those questions of why rained down on all who knew her. And once more, the grieving have clung to the hope we have in Christ: we will never be held in the power of death because God will raise us up.


• What’s the most powerful sermon you can remember? What made it so memorable?
• What do you think it is like to preach a sermon to grieving people when you are grieving yourself?
• What do Peter’s words of hope mean to you? How have they rung true through the centuries since Jesus died and was resurrected?
• How can you share the hope of Christ with people who are grieving?

Kelley Land, a graduate of Mercer University, has been an assistant editor of Smyth & Helwys curriculum and books since 2001. In addition to this work, she is a freelance editor for other publishers and authors. She also regularly volunteers for Jay’s HOPE, a nonprofit serving families of children with cancer. Kelley enjoys spending time with her teenage daughters, Samantha and Natalie, her husband John, and the family’s two dachshund mix pups, Luke and Leia. She likes supporting community theater productions and is often found playing board games with a group of rowdy friends. She loves Marvel, Star Wars, Harry Potter, and Doctor Who. And she writes middle grade and young adult fiction for the pure joy of it.


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