Friday, December 12, 2008

Funeral of Louise Stauffer; December 11, 2008

[Jesus said:] “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. And you know the way to where I am going.” Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. (John 14:1–6, ESV)

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

First a few words about Louise. I never had the chance to meet her, and, as I told the family, I’m sure it is my loss. They tell me her family was most important to her, that I think you can see by looking at them. These last few years she’s not been herself. Alzheimer’s is a devastating disease. It takes away a person’s connections to their family; it takes away the past and the future too. So in some ways today’s funeral is an end to suffering. Families in this situation sometimes say that they lost their loved one much earlier.

The death of a loved one causes us to ask many questions.

What happens when we die? Is there an afterlife?  Where do I go?  What is the way?

It is as if at a funeral we are standing in a forest at the cross roads of many paths.  There are all sorts of trail markers indicating the path to take to the mountain top.  We ask ourselves, which one is the right path.

In the bible reading I just read, Jesus is speaking to his disciples. They are troubled because Jesus has told them that they will all say they will fail him when he needs them. They will all say don’t even know him.

Aren’t we always troubled when we look to our own actions to find salvation? That’s because we know our own hearts better than anyone. We may look good on the outside but on the inside we know about our selfishness and our pride. We know what sin is because we live with it every day. Sometimes we have to force ourselves to do the thing we know is the right thing to do. The problem is that God doesn’t require our best effort, he requires perfection. He is perfect and holy. He cannot and will not tolerate sin. God knows our hearts and he doesn’t judge us by our appearance. He judges us by our hearts. When we see this about God, we are rightly troubled. Because try as we may, we cannot be perfect. We are all sinners. One day we will face God’s judgment. On thing funerals do is cause us to ask the question, “What if it were me? Am I ready to face God?” It is troubling to know that you are not ready because you can’t get rid of sin.

The bible tells us a lot about who we are and why we are in this troubling situation. God created people perfectly. It wasn’t just perfect bodies. Adam and Eve the first people had perfect relationship with each other. You married folks understand how much different this is than our lives. They never argued. They always had each other’s best interest at heart. They were never self centered or petty. This was all because the also had a perfect relationship with God. They always happily did what God wanted them to do and never did what God forbid. They didn’t have sinful hearts like you and me. But all that changed when they made a decision to go against what God said. Their relationship with God was broken. Their relationship with each other was broken too. Now every person who is born has a problem with God. We are born not having a perfect relationship with him.

We are troubled in life because of this. We know what our lives should be like. We long to have a perfect relationship with God and perfect relationships with each other. But the world doesn’t work that way. Louise struggled with these things just as much as you and I. She suffered from disease and heartache. And today we are here because of death. This is the biggest problem what we have brought on ourselves. Sin ultimately breaks down everything. Sin causes death. As we see death face to face we are troubled because we all know we will die. And yet, Jesus says, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me.”

Jesus says don’t be troubled by your inability to live perfectly. Don’t be troubled about desiese and death. Don’t be troubled by your broken relationships. These are not were salvation is found. Don’t trust in yourself. “Trust in God, trust also in me.”

“In my fathers house there are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you.  I am going there to prepare a place for you.  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.  You know the way to the place where I am going.”

Jesus tells the disciples, Jesus tells us, you know the way.  But Thomas protests, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?”

Days like today make us look for an answer. “What is the way? What way should I go? What path should I follow?” Many people will tell you that there are many paths to God. We want to believe that all the trails lead to him. We want to make our own way. We don’t want to tell anyone that the path they are on is not the right one.

Jesus clears up this confusion. He speaks very clear words that leave no doubt as to the path to God. He says,

“I am the way and the truth and the life.  No one comes to the father except through me.”

Jesus is the only way to God. He mends our relationship to God through his death on the cross. What sin deserves is punishment. What you and I deserve for the trouble in our hearts is punishment from God. But Jesus takes our punishment instead.

It is like this. Imagine you are on a path in the jungle. Suddenly as you cross an open field you are surrounded by natives. They haul you off to their village. The chief says that you have walked on their sacred ground and the penalty is death. The prepare everything for the execution. They are ready to drop you into a huge boiling pot of water. Suddenly a young man whispers in the chief’s ear. He turns pale and orders your release. The young man is bound and thrown into the pot instead of you. You are released and sent on your way. When you ask what happened you find out that the young man was the chief’s son. He offered his death in place of yours. The chief has accepted his sacrifice for you.

This is what Jesus has done for you. He died on the cruel cross in your place. He sacrificed himself so that your sin could be forgiven. With your punishment gone, your relationship with God is restored. This is a reality for all who believe that what Jesus did is for them. This is what it means to have faith in Jesus… to say, what Jesus did he did for me.

When we face death, we are trouble when we try to look at ourselves for answers. Jesus tells us not to be troubled because he has made a solution the problem. He is our savior from sin. He has made our time of judgment before God have a different outcome. When we believe Jesus’ death paid the penalty for our sin, God says that we are not guilty anymore.

Do not let your hearts be troubled.  Trust in God.  Trust also in Jesus. Amen.

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

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