Thursday, December 27, 2007

Sermon: Funeral of Thelma Ruth Baudean

27 December 2007 at Westside/Leitz-Eagan Funeral Home, Marrero, LA
Text: Mark 5:21-24, 35-43 (Isa 46:3-4, 2 Cor 4:7-18)

In the name of + Jesus. Amen.

Today’s Gospel reading is not only comforting, but it also demonstrates why Jesus came into the world, and why we are here today. As Christians, we aren’t here merely to mourn, but to celebrate the victory Jesus won for Ruth and wins for all those who are baptized and believe in Him.

In our reading, a heartbroken man named Jairus implores Jesus to come and heal his sick daughter. While on the way, Jairus receives the worst news any family member could receive – she has died. All hope seems lost. And yet Jesus does not turn away. In fact, He says to Jairus: “Do not be afraid; only believe.”

Our Lord Jesus continues to the house. When he tells the mourners that the little girl is merely asleep, they laugh at Him. Undeterred, Jesus puts everyone outside, tenderly takes the girl’s hand, and speaks two beautiful Aramaic words to her lifeless body: “Talitha cumi.” He tells her to wake up. And she does. Jesus’s concern for the girl’s wellbeing is even shown after He has restored her life by His suggestion that she be given food.

This powerful miracle shows us Jesus at His mightiest, and yet also at His tenderest. He loves the little girl. He uses His power to raise her from the dead. St. Mark recorded this miracle to show us what our Lord will do for us. And especially on this day as this Gospel is proclaimed anew, He wants you to know that this will happen also to our beloved sister Ruth.

Although the girl was only twelve, and Ruth was ninety, let us not fall for the false belief that Ruth’s death is normal, or somehow more acceptable to our Lord and God. Yes, Ruth led a full life by human standards, but death is anything but normal – whether for twelve-year-old daughters or ninety-year-old grandmothers. We feel profound loss when anyone is taken from us. We mourn for old and young alike. For it is not God’s will for any of us to die. He created us to be eternal.

But we, in our stubborn rebellion, in our sinfulness, have chosen death over life. We have done so since the fall in Eden. No-one is without sin, nor without the wages of sin – which is death. For “all have sinned and come short of the glory of God” as the apostle Paul testifies. And yet, Jesus is there to die for us, to pay the price for our sins, to baptize us, to take our hands, and say “child, arise.” This promise of eternal life is for all believers, old and young. For Isaiah has proclaimed to us anew today: “Even to your old age, I am He, and even to gray hairs I will carry you! I have made, and I will bear; even I will carry, and will deliver you.” This is a promise of God given to you, me, Ruth, and all of His dear children, we who are baptized and believe in Him for our salvation and life.

And as St. Paul proclaims: “We have this treasure in earthen vessels” – which are our mortal bodies that will return to clay. “We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair… always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh.”

In other words, dear friends, even in our dying bodies, our Lord is working in us – just as he worked in Jairus’s daughter and restored her life. Just as He worked through Ruth in the many ways she touched your lives in motherly and grandmotherly love. And though to our eyes, her life has ended, let us not trust our eyes (the way those who made fun of Jesus did) – rather let us trust the promise of our Lord Jesus Christ, God in the flesh, the one with the power to raise the dead.

Heed the comforting words of St. Paul: “Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day… we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.”

Ruth is part of that divine plan of reconstruction. She has been called and set apart, made holy through baptism. And she was called to a life of faith – a faith validated by the Lord Jesus Himself – the One who rose from the dead, and who promises to raise all of us.

Dear friends, our mourning and sorrow are very real, but they are also temporary. Let us look forward to that day when we will be reunited. Let us follow in Ruth’s saintly example as the Lord’s baptized and redeemed. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, the one who takes Ruth by the hands and treats her as His dear child, saying: “Talitha cumi – My little one, I say to you, arise!” Amen.

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

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