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Planning Sunday After an Unexpected Tragedy

Turning Our Hearts to the Gospel

We then sang It Is Not Death to Die,” another Sovereign Grace Music hymn adaptation. The musical tone was still subdued, but we began to turn our hearts to the hope we have in the gospel. Death is our foe and a result of the fall, but for the Christian, death is a doorway not a destination.

It is not death to die, to leave this weary road
And join the saints who dwell on high who’ve found their home with God
It is not death to close the eyes long dimmed by tears
And wake in joy before Your throne delivered from our fears 

That led into the modern hymnCome Behold the Wondrous Mystery.” We focused exclusively on the incarnation, life, death, resurrection and return of Christ, which form the substance of our hope in the midst of our sadness. It ends with the lines:

What a foretaste of deliverance, how unwavering our hope
Christ in power resurrected, as will we be when he comes

We were finally ready to sing of Christ’s triumph over death with faith-filled hearts. Sojourn Music’s “New Again was perfectly suited for that purpose.

Death is defeated, and Jesus reigns
Tell the world there is hope in His name
He pushed back the darkness, He conquered our sin
And Christ will make all things new again

Brian Chesemore then led us in a pastoral prayer, devoting the first portion to praying for Rebecca, her family, her extended family and those affected by Wade’s death.

Jesus, the Compassionate Conqueror

For the sermon, C.J. He skillfully, wisely and powerfully grounded us in the unchanging hope of the gospel, not only reminding us of Jesus’ authority over the grave, but spelling out specific ways we as the church can care for someone who is grieving. You can download or listen to the audio here.

Our final song was In Christ Alone.” We reminded each other that because of the cross, “the wrath of God is satisfied,” and that “from life’s first cry to final breath, Jesus commands my destiny.”

Before giving the benediction, C.J. took a moment to instruct the church to let Becca and her family leave the meeting first. It was one more way of pastoring both the Stephenson family and our members. C.J. then spoke these words from 2 Thess. 2:16-17 over us: “Now may our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God our Father, who loved us and gave us eternal comfort and good hope through grace, comfort your hearts and establish them in every good work and word.” We left more aware that Jesus himself will comfort us in our sorrow not only during the present circumstances, but for eternity.

Different, but the Same

We’re just beginning to care for the Stephenson family, and will continue to grieve with hope. But God encouraged our hearts this past Sunday in ways I find difficult to describe. It was a work only his Spirit could accomplish.

And yet as much as the circumstances of this past week impacted our Sunday plan, in many ways we did what we always do. We sang songs, prayed prayers and heard a message from God’s Word that displayed our sin, God’s mercy through the cross, Christ’s compassion, the sovereignty and wisdom of God, and the reality of heaven and hell. I’m grateful we didn’t need to teach unfamiliar doctrines or develop a new vocabulary to comfort people in their grief and point them to the glorious hope we have in Christ.

It’s a hope that sustains and strengthens us, even in our darkest hours.  

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Bob Kauflin currently has the privilege of serving as the Director of Worship Development for Sovereign Grace Ministries. © Sovereign Grace Ministries. WorshipMatters.com. Used by permission.