Sunday, February 10, 2008

Mark 4:35-41, Funeral Sermon for Delores Callies

On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.” And leaving the crowd, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. And other boats were with him. And a great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling. But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion. And they woke him and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. He said to them, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?” And they were filled with great fear and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even wind and sea obey him?” (Mark 4:35-41, ESV)

Grace and Peace to you from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Well, finally we are here. Delores waited a long time for this day. She spoke about her death the very first time I met her. As I got to know her better I began to understand why. Now there were some folks who believed she was just some kind of hypochondriac, but not me. I’ve seen enough pain to know her pain was real. She didn’t have an easy go of life, and she certainly didn’t have an easy go of death either. There’s something you should know. I’ve not been a pastor all that long, about seven years, but I’ve yet to find anyone as well prepared for death as Delores. This funeral for instance is planned at Delores’s hand. She picked the hymns, the readings, the solo, and even the text for this message. This lady was ready to die, and I’m not saying she was just tired of the pain, I mean she was prepared physically, emotionally, and spiritually. The truth is that even as she was longing to go, she fought this thing to the bitter end. So even though she was ready, even though she prayed for death every hour, she hated it. And so do we. And even though now she is suffering no more pain, the separation of death is still the greatest evil, the real wages of sin. Even though we are relieved we will still weep tears of sorrow. Delores would expect nothing less.

Funerals are stormy events. Our families are torn apart by death, even when it comes and we think we are prepared for it. As the storm passes through we wonder if anything we could have / or should have done differently. I should have been there. I should have called one more time. I wish I’d gotten a chance to say that I loved her, one more time. All these types of questions blow in with the storm of death. And we begin to wonder if we can bear up under the immense pressure of the storm. We feel like a tree blown and bent by the storm, ready to break. And it’s impossible to understand the storm until you have experienced it yourself.

Today we have gathered here, in the midst of the storm, to see what God has to say about the thing that causes the storm. Today we’ve gathered here, in the midst of the storm, to find comfort in one another, and comfort in the Good News about a Savior who has done something about the raging storm.

And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm.

More than anything else that is why we have gathered here today, to hear our Savior say to us “Peace! Be still!” Just as the disciples cried out to him because they were facing death, “Master, don’t you care if we die?” We come to him here today saying, “Jesus, don’t you care that we are facing death?” and Jesus says to us too, “Peace! Be still!” I have calmed the storm of death.

The disciples were often plagued with doubt and weak faith, even though they were there with Jesus, even though they had seen him at work everywhere they went. At the moment when death threatened them, they became afraid. Death brewed up a storm inside them. Yet Jesus was quietly sleeping, calm and patient. When they couldn’t stand when the waves were lashing over the bow, and each had in his own mind the picture of his own death, they woke Jesus. And Jesus calmed the storms, first the storm on the lake, then the storms of the heart. “After all you’ve seen, do you still have trouble believing?”

“Yes Lord, we do!” we say as we look at this casket lying here in the front of the church. “Yes Lord, we do!” as we each try to come to grips with our own mortality. “Yes Lord, we do!” And Jesus calms the storm, “Peace! Be still! I have conquered death. It has no power over you. After all you have seen and heard, when death threatens you remember that I have calmed the storm of death for you.”

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ family members of Delores; Remember now, especially now as we again face death, that Jesus Christ has won the final victory over sin and death. Remember what he did for you and me, and what he did for Delores. Remember why he did it. Death is the result of sin; sin brought into the world by Adam and Eve when they rejected God’s control over their lives; sin that has passed down from generation to generation, leaving the storm of death in its path; sin that will bring death to each of us. But, Jesus Christ has calmed the storm. He bore the awful consequences of sin on himself. He suffered that storm at his own death, not for himself, he suffered there for you and me. He suffered the punishment for the sin of the whole world and bore the storm of that punishment by hanging and dying on a cross. The sky darkened, the storm rolled in as he suffered there for us. But that storm too, He calmed, “Peace! Be still! It is finished!” and when he died, the punishment for all the worlds’ sin died with him and was buried with him in the tomb. And even though death held him in its grasp for three days, its power was already broken. Jesus Christ burst from death, and walked out to life again. The storms of death need not plague human beings ever again, because Jesus Christ has won the victory over them. Whoever believes in him has that life that he won there. Whoever believes in him can be comforted in the knowledge that he has calmed the storm.

Family and friends of Delores: Jesus says to you today, “Peace! Be still! Even though you still struggle with the storms of death, I have won the victory. Turn to me now when the storms of death threaten you.” Jesus calmed the storm when his disciples were afraid of death; Jesus calms our storms when we face death. Turn to him today. Listen to his calming words for you. Let him calm your storm. Amen.

Let us pray;
Gracious Lord Jesus, calm the storms in our hearts today as we grieve the loss of our sister in Christ, Delores. Keep us focused on you and what you have done for us through your life, death and resurrection. Help us to be peaceful and still as you calm the storm. In Jesus Name we pray. Amen.

The peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

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