1545 – "Hidden in Plain Sight"

well this is the All Saints sermon the Sunday after all saints since time did not permit me to preach the sermon last week and us have sufficient time for the lord’s table and on any sunday when we are at the lord’s table I that is the heart and center of our worship service so I am preaching last week’s sermon today and here is the scripture and it’s from the seventh chapter of the Gospel according to the Blessed Luke soon afterwards Jesus went to a town called nain and his disciples and a large crowd went with him as he approached the gate of the town a man who had died was being carried out he was his mother’s only Son and she was a widow now we are to understand when we hear this that in that day that means this woman was probably left alone ah and without support women could not go out and get a job and make a living as they can today they were dependent as they grew older on their families he was his mother’s only son and she was a widow and with her was a large crowd from the town the whole procession the mourning procession moving through the gate probably toward the burial place when the Lord saw her he had compassion for her and said to her do not weep then he came forward and touched the bier and the bearer Stood Still that’s an interesting sight isn’t it they were walking along in procession he comes forward he lays his hand on that beer beir on which the body was laid it just laid his hand on it and the procession stopped they stopped and he said young man and he said words which had not been spoken before in the history of the world to any dead person at least not from anybody with the authority to say these words and make it happen but we keep in mind now if our Lord says we are alive we are alive young man I say to you rise the unmanned SAT up and began to speak and Jesus gave him to his mother those are interesting words also fear seized all of them and they glorified God saying a great prophet has risen among us and God has looked favorably on his people this word about him spread throughout Judea and all of the surrounding country this is the word of the Lord thanks be to God and I suspect indeed that this word would spread throughout Judea and all of the surrounding country one who was dead is now alive again and back with his mother that’s the kind of thing that will get the gossip going what is the gospel what is preaching but gossiping the gospel as one prominent Methodist minister once said he said we need to gossip the gospel about the one who can take the dead and make them alive again physically spiritually and in every way I was a I saw dr. mary neal on television the other day i don’t know how old mary neal

is now she’s probably in her late 40s still looks fairly young people in their 70s are looking fairly young to me now but she does look fairly young she had this experience I suspect in her mid 30s could even be in her early 30s she had she had four children she’s a she’s a medical doctor a surgeon of some kind and she was telling her story on TV I’ve seen her more than once on television she wrote a book to heaven and back I will warn you that today’s sermon is composed almost entire entirely of events from near-death experience is because heaven is an experienced reality there are people who want to argue and say it’s not there it’s not real but when you talk to people who say well I’ve been there and I know it’s there it’s like someone trying to say well you know I’ve heard about Chicago but I don’t believe Chicago is real and then you meet somebody who’s been to Chicago and say well yes there is real Chicago I’ve been there heaven is the same kind of thing and mary neal has actually been to heaven she has she was kayaking with her husband in South America on vacation when her kayak got hung up at the bottom of a waterfall and she was pulled underwater and she knew she was in trouble immediately and she she prayed a prayer that in that circumstance I would not pray now she was a praying person she did not she was not a terribly religious person because she thought that actually religion was a was a kind of a Sunday kind of thing not an everyday kind of thing but when you’re when you’re under under the water in your kayak and you can’t get out a lot of people are going to have the presence of mind to Despres I’ve told you this story before Richard Pryor who was not known as a terribly religious man the comic Richard Pryor he was a genius but not a terribly religious man he was the story got corrected later he was actually freebasing cocaine and he set himself on fire and he ran out the front door of his house and was running down the street in flames and it says now let me tell you this he was stoned Johnny Carson he said I discovered that when you’re running down the street and you’re on fire you do not call your publicist he said you do not call your banker he said you don’t even call your influential friends he said I discovered that when you’re running down the street and your own fire you call on God the Son of God the mother of God anybody you can think of that might have any influence with God you call on them right then and whether you’re a religious person or not you’re going to need help well well this this woman knew she needed help and she with the prayer she prayed was not something i think that would immediately come to my mind i would get out the words god help me that’s not what she said she said Lord let your will be done which is a remarkable thing for her to pray under these circumstances she could feel her legs breaking at least one leg breaking uh she didn’t feel a lot of pain and then after a while she felt no pain at all and she felt her her cell her soul that which is the real you and me pull away from her physical body and suddenly she found herself in the presence of spirits and she said these were not these were not people like her granny or her uncle or aunt or mom or dad or anybody and her mom and dad may still be living these were spirits like people that she had did not know but felt like she had known forever and they were so happy to see her she said there was there was laughter there was rejoicing she said there was even dancing she said we danced with joy all of us together there and it was feeling like a great great reunion and she said

these spirits began to lead me and I saw us approaching a great hall a magnificent hall and she said I knew this was the place where I would have the opportunity to make that final decision about whether I wanted to spend the rest of eternity with God or not and she said I could not wait I was so excited she said now you think that everybody would choose to spend that eternity with God but actually I think there are some people who do not i was reading about the movie star Joan Crawford I was reading about people’s last words celebrities last words Steve job his last words and he was not a religious man but his last words were these oh wow oh wow oh wow Bob Hope’s last words were these his wife asked him where he wanted to be buried he said surprise me he got in one last punch line before he died Joan Crawford’s one of her servants was standing by her bed as she was dying Joan Crawford was not a lord forgive me and Joan Crawford if you’re listening she was not known as a particularly lovable person if you if you think I’m not telling the truth just ask Betty Davis who also it was not a particularly lovable person they made a movie together and it’s a wonder they didn’t both kill each other on the set whatever happened to Baby Jane Jane Joan Crawford’s last words were these and she said them to her servant who was so concerned about her that she began to pray for her and Joan Crawford cursed and said don’t ask God to help me what came after that for Joan we really don’t know what kind of choice she was going to make in the future we don’t know but for mary neal she was she was overjoyed with this opportunity she was about to have to say to God I I want to stay here forever and then but then she was aware that a kind of sadness had come over this group of spirits who were around her a kind of kind of sorrow the the joyful atmosphere had suddenly changed to something quite different is it possible to feel sadness in heaven well I think definitely so you’re not going to be unhappy about heaven in all of the hundreds and hundreds of near-death experiences that I have read of people who have encountered heaven I’ve never read a single one in which anybody was disappointed there is nothing about heaven that will be disappointing everything about heaven is over-the-top gracious over-the-top loving over-the-top welcoming we sing that him I can only imagine when we lose people but the truth is we cannot imagine what heaven is like and I do think that we can feel sorry but it’s always going to be sorrow not for those who are in heaven but for people who are left here I know there are people who continue to have concern for their families here there are people who continue to sorrow that there are people in this world who do are not living their lives in accordance with what we know is God’s will and i think in heaven we can feel that kind of sorrow and feel that kind of hurting we can join with the Lord in his carrying of the world’s burdens and I think some of that goes on anyway a Down spirit had come over the these spirits and she soon knew why because the one who was leading them the lead spirit said you’re going to have to go back it’s not your time there’s more work for you to do and she said she replied in the way that any sane person would have pot replied she said I’m not

either she said I’m not going back this is so often the case here she was she had a family and four children that she loved and she’s saying I’m not going back why does God make heaven seemed so distant because we all would want to be there we couldn’t live in this world if we knew what heaven was like all the time how you going to keep them down on the farm once they’ve seen la how are you going to keep people in this world well he’s told us to stay here and he’s uh he’s he’s put his word against our taking our own exit but we can all can’t spend our lives longing for something that we can’t have here which is longing for heaven we can look forward to it she said I’m not going back and they said yes you are so this is the point where we talk about our having free will when God has a purpose for us in this world when he wants us to stay here his will is going to override hours I think one thing that we could play pray to the Lord and I think we would feel good about doing this is to say let your will override mine let you will override mine because your will is going to be the right one and she found herself headed back for this world and she entered into her earthly body again for the next week or so she said it was like she was in two worlds she continued to commune with those spirits uh talking with angels she said she was in and out of it as far as consciousness was concerned and in and out of it in and out of that world she said the thing they talked about were the big questions of life why do good people have to suffer why do bad things happen to good people heavens answers to those questions are always going to satisfy always I read about a woman who was Jewish and she had never wanted anything to do with God because if God existed she said he could not be good because she had lost all of her family in the Holocaust she was angry much of her life and during her near-death experience and this takes quite a bit of nerve I think during her near-death experience she confronted God and she was that God was there before her that light that grace and her she had brought her anger and she brought up those questions that she had for God about the Holocaust about suffering in this world and she said his answers were satisfying to her heart we know God loves us we know there’s hurting in the world we also know that all things shall be well and all manner of things shall be well they had conversations about the great questions and sometime during this whole period something was revealed to her I’ve looked at her book I don’t know whether she mentions this in her book or not because it actually happened on the day that she finished the manuscript she was told and I am astounded that heaven revealed this to her she was told that of her four children she would lose her oldest son I believe his name was Willie she would lose him and she was not given to date and she said when she got back in this world she prayed every day that this part of what she learned would not come true her experience was in 1998-99 ten years after this experience her son was killed in a car accident someone was distracted on their cell phone and ran into his vehicle and as a teenager 17 I think he was he was killed she knew of course

when he died that he was simply in that place she had not wanted to leave she did not question God’s lo she did not question God’s faithfulness these questions no longer came up because she knew the first reality is that God loves us the first reality is that whether we live or whether we die we are safe first reality is that we belong to God and nothing nothing nothing st. Paul tells us can change that so in this great loss and I can see her the warning God had given her had prepared her heart for something she did not want to see coming but God and his graciousness had prepared her for it even though it made for some difficult years this is the reality that we live in we spend a little of our time here in this world among friends and among family most of most of eternity well how much is left over really it’s gonna seem like all of it is that consider who you are consider who we are we are people that God has put in this world intentionally knowing knowing that we’re going to have to look around and work and try to find him again but wanting us to live in this world and learn what we can learn here and above all learn to love and learn to trust him learn that our lives are not our own but they belong to him I try to remind myself of this every day and lo and behold I forget it over and over again I get distracted from it I know you will too but still let this simple understanding abide in our hearts and let it determine let it determine how we are feeling when we’re feeling our worst let’s simply remember that we are here with a purpose and that God loves us and that we belong to God and God will never let us down and let us go this has got to make a difference in our living when we get discouraged as it’s got to make a difference in our living we belong to God who makes no mistakes and who loves us forever and has provided for us from the beginning of our existence forward and what do we mean by forward for eternity safe in God’s grace join me in prayer gracious Lord we thank you for this assurance that we have then not only as Jesus hours but we are his both now and forever and he knows what to do with us about us and forests so why Lord should we ever be discouraged in Jesus name we pray amen I give special thanks today for two of my family members who are with the Lord in heaven today would have been my mother’s birthday she died in 2002 and later in the week would have been my father’s birthday he died in 1974 so I give thanks for them today this is our time of giving and thanksgiving for what Christ our Lord has given us amen you