Saturday, January 12, 2008

Sermon: Funeral of Violet F. Graf

12 January 2008 at Salem Lutheran Church, Gretna, LA
Text: John 10:27-29 (Isa 25:6-9, 1 Cor 15:51-57)

In the name of + Jesus. Amen.

The text of our reading of the Holy Gospel is one of the most comforting passages in all of Scripture. I read it to Violet the last time I visited her on this side of the grave. Jesus says:

“My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand.”

Jesus describes His people as His “sheep.” We are His creatures, He cares for us just as any farmer looks after His animals. There is no doubt as to who our Shepherd is. In these three verses, Jesus says “Me” or “My” seven times.

In this passage, Jesus promises eternal life over and against death. And He promises that no-one is capable of snatching us away from our Shepherd’s hand. Even though it seems that death snatches our loved ones from us, notice the promise of our Lord – no-one can snatch any of us, His sheep, from Him.

Violet was, is, and always will be one of our Lord’s sheep. She knows the voice of her Lord. She listened intently to the Word of God. She heard the Lord Jesus place His name upon her way back on December 7, 1919, when that very Word of God was joined to water and poured upon her tiny infant head. Ever since that day, the Lord was Violet’s Shepherd, and she wants for nothing.

For nearly nine decades, this dear sheep heard the voice of her Shepherd. He fed her with the same devotion and affection that she fed her own animals. He defended and cared for her with the same steadfast love with which she lovingly tended her own children and grandchildren, nieces and nephews, and all those who enjoyed her company. Again and again Violet heard the Word of the Gospel, assurance from God Himself that her sins were forgiven, that she is an heir of the Kingdom, that her life is to be eternal and physically united with Him in the same way that Violet and her daughter Violet were always seen together, receiving the body and blood of our Lord side by side, in this very sanctuary.

What comfort to her family who mourns her loss at this time – her biological family as well as her extended church family here at Salem. Though it may look like Violet was snatched away by death, in reality Violet snatched life from the jaws of death by the grace of God her loving Father, by the blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by the power of the Holy Spirit.

For our Lord’s victory over death and the grave is Violet’s victory. The Lord’s resurrection to eternal life is Violet’s resurrection. For the promises of Jesus are Violet’s promises, just as they are the promises made good to all those who believe and are baptized.

Of course we mourn our loss. Death is painful, but its sting is short lived. For we have the promise of God in Scripture from St. Paul: “When this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: ‘Death is swallowed up in victory. O Death, where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory?’”

This is the same promise spoken by the prophet Isaiah: “He will swallow up death forever, and the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces.”

Jesus, by His own death, has destroyed death. By His own resurrection He has shown us the promise of our own resurrection. Our Lord rebuked the devil and conquered the death we deserve due to our sins. He has paid the price of those sins, and crushed the head of the ancient serpent. He has done this so that we might live, so that death, for the Christian, is nothing more than a slumber, a peaceful sleep, in which we wait to reopen our eyes, eyes that will never again know weeping, to see a new heaven and a new earth, creation made anew and made perfect.

And though we don’t like to wait, even this waiting is sanctified. For hear again the prophecy of Isaiah: “Behold, this is our God; we have waited for Him, and He will save us. This is the Lord; we have waited for Him; we will be glad and rejoice in His salvation.”

And so we wait, dear brothers and sisters. We wait in this life, though our dear sister Violet no longer must wait. We wait in this Vale of Tears while Violet will never again weep. We must endure aches, pains, sickness, sadness, and yes, even the mourning of death – while to Violet, death has lost its sting, and the wait is over.

But we do not wait alone. Our Lord remains with us, abides with us, shares Himself with us in His Word and in the Holy Supper. While we wait in this life, waiting for the Lord to return, waiting for creation to be made perfect, waiting for our joyful reunion with Violet and with all the saints, we can wait with joy and gladness, in thankfulness and praise, with assurance that this is not our home, but a greater and more glorious dwelling awaits us, His sheep, once we awake from our slumber.

These promises of God, these victories won by our Lord Jesus Christ, this blessed assurance given us in the Lord’s Supper is why we can pray with the hymnist:

And in its narrow chamber keep
My body safe in peaceful sleep
Until Thy reappearing.
And then from death awaken me,
That these mine eyes with joy may see,
O Son of God, Thy glorious face,
My Savior and my fount of grace,
Lord Jesus Christ, my prayer attend, my prayer attend,
And I will praise Thee without end.


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

No comments: