Saturday, February 10, 2007

Sermon: Funeral for Ursula Crawford

10 February 2007 (Saturday of Septuagesima)
at Clark-DuCote Funeral Home, Belle Chasse, LA
Text: John 6:37-40

In the name of + Jesus. Amen.

Dear friends, I want you to know how sorry I am for your loss, for your grief and your sorrow. How I wish I could have met you all in happier times. But such things are not for us to decide. The Lord has placed me here today to speak His word to you. The Lord has placed you here today to hear his Word.

Saying good-bye to a loved one in this way is the hardest thing we ever have to face. We all know death is coming, and yet it is never any comfort knowing that it is inevitable. Contrary to well-intentioned people who tell us such things, death is not natural, it is not simply a part of life. It is not a blessing. Death is brutally hard. It separates us from those whom we love. It causes us to mourn. It may make us angry. It may drive us to despair. It may cause members of our family to turn on one another.

Death is the devil’s best friend.

But I’m here to tell you that just like the devil, death has been defeated. I have good news for you, dear Christians, for Ursula has defeated death and the grave. She stands victorious today with our Lord Jesus Christ, whose resurrection gives us the promise of our own resurrection. She is not merely “in a better place,” she is in the best place, freed from all suffering, all sorrow, all pain, and all mourning – standing in the very presence of the living God - even though we linger behind and continue to deal with these things. All of these things: pain, sorrow, and even death itself belong to all of us poor miserable sinners because of our rebellion against God. Each one of us has offended God and continues to do so right up until this moment. And Scripture is clear that the wages of this sin is death.

And though Christians are certainly sinners and though they certainly die, they yet live. Because Christians are baptized into Christ, who also died and yet also lives – Christians need not fear death. They can look death in the face and laugh in triumph – just as Ursula does now in eternity. For listen to our risen Lord’s words from our Gospel reading once more: “Whoever comes to me I will never drive away.”

Decades ago, in Berlin, a girl named Ursula was brought to a baptismal font. She was carried to the same Jesus who said: “Let the little children come to me.” On that day, Ursula was born once more, born again spiritually, in the words of our Lord, by “water and the Spirit.” And as He promises: “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved.” And listen to our Lord’s words again: “I shall lose none of all that he has given me, but raise them up at the last day. For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in Him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.”

These are promises, dear people, promises from the only Man in history to walk out of his own tomb by his own power. This Man is also God, and He is speaking to you today even as Ursula sings His praises today in eternal glory.

It is not God’s will that anyone should perish. Jesus offers eternal life to everyone – though people are certainly free to refuse it. The offer was sealed on Ursula’s head, dripping with water, so many years ago in a German church. The offer was validated every time Ursula received absolution from her pastor, every time she took the Lord’s Supper for the forgiveness of sins and the strengthening of her faith.

The gifts the Lord gives His people every Sunday are precisely for times like this. For just as we mourn today, others will mourn over us in the future. What Ursula experienced, we will all experience. But we are not defeated, dear brothers and sisters. Even though our senses tell us otherwise, even though Satan beats us down by tempting us to doubt, even though the cares of this world crush upon us. We, like Ursula, have our baptisms to cling to. We know that when water was poured upon us, and the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit was placed on us according to the promise of God, we were born anew as his children. And just as Jesus, the only-begotten Son of the Father, was raised, so will we.

There is nothing about which I am more certain in this life. Ursula lives forever. On the last day, even her body will be raised. We will all be reunited, and live a glorious new existence so wondrous and perfect that we can’t even imagine it at this point in our lives.

If you take nothing else from this service, dear people, remember this: Jesus died for the sins of the whole world, and by being baptized into His name, by taking Holy Communion, by confessing your sins and having your pastor pronounce forgiveness, by hearing the Word of God, you are made ready for anything. No enemy can harm you – not sin, not the devil, and certainly not death.

I’m here to give you the same gift of eternal life won for you by our Lord Jesus, the same eternal life our dear sister in Christ Ursula enjoys right now. “Whoever comes to me,” says our Lord, “I will never drive away.”

To those of you who come to Him today, whose hearts are burdened by sin, who seek reconciliation with God, who want to enjoy the same eternal life that Ursula has received – then listen closely to these powerful words that conquer even death itself:

I forgive you all your sins…

In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.


Peter said...


Past Elder said...

Yes it is beautiful. Different exact words but the same message a faithful Lutheran pastor gave at my wife's funeral.

After blogging away about funerals and whether there is or should be a Lutheran church on some other blogs, how nice to come here and see in action rather than arguments (in the classic sense) why I am Lutheran.

Father Hollywood said...

Dear Gents:

Thank you for your way-too kind words of encouragement.

I just got back from the service, and I'm going to write a blog entry about it. I was kind-of tricked (though I don't think intentionally) into a syncretistic service. Had I known the plan, I would have declined. However, I was stuck, and was stunned at the providence of the Holy Spirit considering some of the lines in my previously-written sermon - how they specifically addressed some of the "new age" claims about death that were presented by the "emcee."

The battle between our Lord and Satan rages - even in small skirmishes and campaigns like a funeral for an 80-year old lady, a lapsed but baptized Lutheran, in Belle Chasse, Louisiana.

Jonathon said...

Seriously, very faithfully and boldly written. I'm half glad it took place in such a shameful context, for such darkness reveals the Light all the more (not that I'm defending syncretism, mind you). I'm sure we'll all face similar things more and more as the world carries us on toward our end.
Peace be with you,