Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church, Creston & Mount Ayr, Iowa;
Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints.” (Psalm 116:15, ESV)
Grace and peace to you from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
There is nothing good about all of this. Death is a great evil. Today it has taken away a faithful wife, mother, grandmother, and a friend. And it has taken her away by surprise. We were not prepared to lose Beverly. You are still in shock. I don’t know how many people stopped by just to say how shocked they were when they heard the news. And when the shock wears off there will still be grief and loss. These last few days have been terrible days. There is not much I can say that is going to stop your tears from flowing. There is nothing wrong with weeping, Jesus himself wept when his friend Lazarus died. God hates death, as we hate it, and even more.
Beverly was very faithful in attendance in worship. She came to hear God’s Word proclaimed and receive God’s gift of forgiveness in the Lord’s Supper. I look forward to seeing her with Jesus when all the differences between people will be forgiven. You see, I’m confident in Bev’s being with Jesus right now. Not because she was such a great person. She was a wonderful person. How many hours did she sit at the hospital volunteering with you Tom? The truth is she was a sinner. You her family and close friends know that even better than I do. Sin leads to death. There is no more sure sign of being a sinner than your own funeral. But none of that really matters today. Today I’m confident in her salvation because of what Jesus has done. Nothing Bev did, as good as it was, measures up to the perfection required by God. Nothing she did, nothing you and I could ever do would be enough to make up for not loving God with our whole heart, soul and mind. But if that’s all that there was, our weeping would be in vain, our mourning would be even more terrible. We are not counting on what Bev did to bring her to live with God forever. We are counting on Jesus. She did.
She wasn’t even two weeks old when God adopted her as his child. Some other fallible pastor poured water over her head and said God’s name and hers. “Beverly Ann Otte, I baptize you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” God gave her faith that began to grow that very day. She confessed it publically at her confirmation after growing in faith through the hearing of God’s Word. And all through her life, her church life was important to her, because of what it means for her right now.
Beverly is with Jesus because he won forgiveness for her sin and victory over death through his cross and resurrection. She trusted in Jesus for that forgiveness. Now she is with him awaiting the resurrection of the body. She knew she didn’t have to do a bunch of good stuff to pass through death to life with Christ. Jesus has done everything necessary. His perfect life is counted as her perfect life. His death on the cross and his resurrection is counted as payment for her death and the eternal punishment for her sin. And so she has passed through death to life with Jesus. Beverly lived in that faith and confidence.
But there is even more. Shortly we will place her body carefully in the ground for safe keeping. Together you and me, Tom and Lisa and Dale and Gabe and Jessica and all of us living in faith just as Beverly, we will wait anxiously for Jesus to return. Because on that day God will call Bev out of the ground, just as he will for all those who have died in the faith. He will raise up this body and your body and mine. And we will live together forever with him. We will live forever with Bev. Her body that failed her will be made perfect. My fallible body and yours will be made perfect, too. It will be a joyous reunion.
That’s why, to God, Bev’s death is precious. Not because he loves death, far from that, he hates it. Her death is precious because she is precious to God. She has claimed precious by holy baptism. It is her connection to the baby born in the manger, who grew up to suffer and die on the cross, and rise again to new life proves that. He came to fix the sin and death problem. And he has. He came to fix this terrible separation and grief that we are feeling. And he has. Though for a while we suffer grief with the help of the Holy Spirit we can bear it. We can bear it because we know that it is short lived. Jesus resurrection promises it is so. Amen.
The peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.