Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Sermon: Funeral of Elizabeth C. Bealer

13 November 2007 at Mothe Funeral Home, Harvey, LA Text: John 12:23-26 (Job 19:23-27, Rom 6:3-9)

In the name of + Jesus. Amen.

Dear family and friends. There are many things we don’t understand. So much of our existence is a mystery. The hardest questions are those that begin with “why?”

As Christians, we accept that God, the Author and Creator of all life, has a plan. We know that from our perspective, it doesn’t always make sense, but we also know that He is a loving and merciful God, and that we are His beloved children who have nothing to fear.

And yet, it is still painful and heart-rending to have to endure even this temporary separation from those we love.

Bob, your loss is the hardest. God is asking more of you than anyone this morning. For Beth has been your dear bride for nearly three decades. You may be tempted to feel that God is punishing you, or that this is your fault. It most certainly is not. Our Old Testament lesson is taken from the book of Job. Job lost everything – all his children, his servants, his wealth, and even his own health. His friends abandoned him. He cried out to God and for a long time got no answer. In the end, Job was rewarded richly for everything he lost. He was promised a resurrection and a glorious reunion with those from whom he was separated. And as far as why this happened to him, God only says: “My ways are not your ways.” As God’s children, we must accept His will – even if we cannot understand it at this time.

Your dear wife Beth gave her life in service to you. When you were in need, she was there for you. She lost her life serving you.

And that is the best way for any of us to live and die. For our service to others is a demonstration of our love for them. And when we lose our lives serving others, we are called heroes and heroines. Beth was given a calling, a vocation, as a daughter, wife, and mother – and that calling of love and service is what she was doing right until she was called to her heavenly home. What a blessing to have such an example of love in our lives!

As a baptized Christian, Beth is a reflection of our Lord Jesus Christ. For He too gave His life for His beloved spouse, the Church. Christ’s calling and vocation was to serve us with His very life – and to give us that never-ending life through Holy Baptism.

As St. Paul speaks to us anew today: “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.”

When Beth was baptized, she became a partaker of the death and resurrection of Jesus. She was called by name, in His Triune name, by water and the Spirit, into everlasting life.

Like all Christian saints, Beth is a mirror of our Lord Jesus Christ. But also like all Christian saints, Beth was a forgiven sinner. For our Lord did not come to call the righteous, but all of us poor, miserable sinners, to take our place in the Kingdom of God. Through this gift of faith, we ordinary people become extraordinary. We imperfect people are conformed into His perfect image. And though we all must die, our deaths are not final – no more than our Lord’s death was final. On the great and glorious day of the resurrection, Beth’s tomb will be as empty as Jesus’s tomb, and like Job in our Old Testament lesson, Beth will proclaim: “I know that my Redeemer lives” and “in my flesh I shall see God.”

What a magnificent reunion we have to look forward to!

For listen to the Word of God from our Gospel reading according to St. John: “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.” Jesus speaks of His impending death as “the hour” – even our Lord Jesus had an appointed time to die. And He speaks of that death as a glorification. For in dying, Jesus conquers death. And St. Paul tells us we who partake in our Lord’s death become even more than conquerors. Our blessed Lord says: “Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.”

Beth did not love her life more than she loved, and continues to love, her family. Love requires us to die in order to live eternally. This is the great mystery of life on this side of the grave. For death is our punishment for sin, and yet, through death, our Lord Jesus Christ conquers death, so that we too win the victory over sin, death, and the devil.

The Christian life is a life of service. The Lord serves us in dying for us, in saving us by his free grace and mercy, in rising for us, and in giving us eternal life in Holy Baptism and in faith. And we too serve Him by serving those He places in our lives. Beth served her husband and her children. And notice what our Lord says: “If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him.”

Where Jesus is, there Beth is.

One of the most comforting things about the Christian life – even in the midst of death, amid all of the questions we have, and even through the pain we bear – is the fact that when we gather around the altar to celebrate the mystery of the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper, we acknowledge that we are not alone. Rather, we are in the midst of “angels, archangels, and all the company of heaven.” That means when we are united to Jesus through His Holy Supper, Beth is there with us. For you heard the promise of Jesus: “where I am, there will my servant be also.”

We don’t have all the answers. The answer to the question “why?” eludes us. But there are things we do know, testified by the very Word of God. Elizabeth Colvin Bealer is a baptized child of God, given the gift of everlasting life. She continues to pray for her beloved family. She sings the praises of the Lamb of God day and night. Her body will be resurrected, and she will be reunited with those whom she loved and served in this life whom Christ also redeems by His own death and resurrection. And furthermore, in eternity, we baptized and believing children of our heavenly Father will never again know pain, grief, separation, or death.

“I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last hour he will stand upon the earth… in my flesh I shall see God.” Amen.

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

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