Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church, Creston, Iowa;
Then one of the elders addressed me, saying, “Who are these, clothed in white robes, and from where have they come?” I said to him, “Sir, you know.” And he said to me, “These are the ones coming out of the great tribulation. They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Therefore, they are before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple; and he who sits on the throne will shelter them with his presence. The shall hunger no more, neither shall they thirst anymore; the sun shall not strike them, nor any scorching heat. For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of living water, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes. Revelation 7:13-17 (ESV)
Grace and peace to you from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ;
It is true that life can be very difficult. And some people are called upon to bear more of a burden than others. It seems to me that Pauline was one of those people. I don’t think that life was ever easy for her. Some of the burdens that she had to bear were beyond what many people would consider fair. That's why I decided to preach on this text. It says, “These are the ones coming out of the great tribulation.” And although the text may be talking about a time in the future when Satan will be unleashed, it clearly talks also about the tribulation that each and every Christian suffers. “These are the ones coming out,” the text says, it’s an ongoing thing, as if that tribulation is currently happening. And so it is, for us, just as it was for Pauline. Human suffering is a part of life. It was certainly part of Pauline’s life. From the very first time I met her it was obvious that she had suffered many things in her life, not to mention many years in the nursing home. She was quiet as I asked her questions about her family, her life, and even her faith. She told me a great many things some of which were true and some were not. This was a part of her suffering. I’m sure the years she spent in the nursing home were difficult for her and they may have even been a great trial for her faith. On the other hand, I was always very encouraged when ever I met with her. And even if I didn't know whether what she was telling me was true, whenever I asked if she wanted to take communion, the answer was always a very clear “Yes!” You see, even in her darkest moments her faith clung to the promises of God. “I will never leave you or forsake you.” God told the Israelites in the desert, and he never left them, and he never left Pauline. “I am with you to the very end of the age.” Says Jesus. Pauline looked for Jesus where He could be found, and drew strength from Him.
Things may have been difficult for her, but her life was full of good times too. She loved to read, especially Louis L'Amour novels. I didn't know about that or we could have had something else to talk about. And lots of people knew Pauline. As her son told me if you were in the hospital she probably cleaned your room. All in all her faith was a shared it with me as I visited with her and took her the Lord's Supper. One of her favorite bible passages was the Psalm 23. The Lord is My Shepherd. The shepherd never left her all the time she spent apart from those she loved. This is another expression of her faith. Of course Pauline’s life was difficult, but God blessed her with many wonderful times as well.
Today we are thankful that Pauline’s “great tribulation” is over. Never again will she have to suffer pain. Never again will she have to suffer painful separation from her family, like when her husband died. “[She] shall hunger no more, neither thirst anymore.” You see she is among “those who have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.” Pauline Young baptized and confirmed June 12, 1966 here at Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church, Creston, Iowa. Washed clean and made a child of God. And right now she stands before the throne of God worshiping Jesus Christ for the salvation that He has brought to her.
That’s our comfort today. And it isn’t only comfort for Pauline, it is comfort for us, too. It is comfort for us because we all have our own tribulations. Sin causes us pain and suffering. Our relationships aren’t what they should be. We hurt each other, often. Even in our own families. And I’m sure there are regrets today about things we should have said or done for Pauline. When we look at our own clothing it is very often hard to see them as anything but clean and white. They are stained and dirty from the sin that we live with every day. And that’s where Jesus Christ comes in again for us. You see, when we have faith in the promises of God, the promises made to us through Jesus, the robes we wear, are just like the one that Pauline is wearing. They are indeed white if they are washed in the blood of Jesus. The sin that is ours, the sin that clings to us and makes our garments dirty, was taken by Jesus Christ to the cross. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.” (Isaiah 1:18, NIV) Jesus Christ bore the stain of our sin to the cross, even though he was perfect. He bled and died, suffering the greatest tribulation of all, for us. His perfect blood washes us clean. His perfect suffering and death, his holy precious blood makes our clothing pure white. And we will soon stand before the throne of God praising him, just as Pauline is doing right now.
Ah, but life still has troubles for us, and tribulations. We’ll miss Pauline, her smile, her laugh and her voice. We cry tears today because we are separated from one that we love. But we also know that for Pauline, the tears are over, “And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.” (7:17) Amen.
The peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.