Friday, April 11, 2008

Sermon: Funeral of Sue Fair

11 April 2008 at Mothe Funeral Home, Harvey, LA
Text: Luke 2:25-32 (Isa 49:13-16a, Rom 8:28-39)

In the name of + Jesus. Amen.

Dear family and friends. God is asking something very difficult of you today, something that none of us ever wants to do. He is asking you to say goodbye to Sue Fair, a beloved wife, mother, sister, daughter, grandmother, and friend.

God has given her to you as a gift, and now, according to His will, He has taken her back to Himself.

And that is the real comfort we Christians find in death. Sue is a Christian. She is a baptized child of God. Irrevocable promises have been made to her.

We live in a life that Scripture calls a “vale of tears.” We are surrounded by sin, sickness, pain, and death. We live with situations we cannot control or understand. And yet, God has given us hope. In fact, He has given us even more. He has given us His Son, who died for us, for the forgiveness of all our sins, to conquer death and the devil on our behalf. He rose from the dead. And He has given us His promise that we too shall rise from the dead. He has baptized Sue with water and the word. She has been marked for resurrection, and we Christians know we will see her again when we too will have been raised from the dead.

In our fallen world, we all suffer crosses. Sue’s cross was an illness that robbed her of her memory, that distressed her family and friends. But this separation between mind and body, this separation between friends and family, and even this separation of Sue’s body from her spirit and her separation from all of you is only temporary. For consider St. Paul’s words in our epistle reading: “For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

The separation due to sin and death has been conquered by our Lord Jesus Christ, and that is how Paul can say: “We are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.”

And though memories may fade, though illness and age sometimes rob us temporarily of our remembrance, our Lord, our merciful Lord, our loving Lord, never forgets us. As the prophet Isaiah spoke anew to us: “Can a woman forget her nursing child, that she should have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you. Behold, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands.”

Our Lord remembers Sue, as she was baptized into His cross and resurrection, into the nail prints of His hands, into the sign of the cross traced on her at her Holy Baptism. This is how it is that we can pray, even at times like these, with Isaiah: “Sing for joy, O heavens, and exult, O earth; break forth, O mountains, into singing.”

For it is our merciful Lord who sets the times and places of all things. His will is a mystery to us, but He is merciful and powerful. He takes care of His beloved ones.

Year after year, Sue sang the words of St. Simeon from our Gospel reading in the Church’s liturgy. Simeon was an old man who had a promise made to him. He was to live to see the Christ, to hold Him in his arms, and that he would sing the praise of the God of Israel having been prepared for death. God kept His promise to St. Simeon, even as He has kept His promise to St. Sue. Having run the course of her life, having completed the tasks assigned to her in the kingdom of God, she now takes her Sabbath rest with Simeon, singing with him, with us, and with all the Church in every time and place: “Lord, now You are letting Your servant depart in peace, according to Your Word; for my eyes have seen your salvation that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples.”

The Lord asks the very hardest thing of all of us: to say goodbye, to trust Him, to know that He keeps His promises, that Sue is safe in the arms of the Lord into whose name she was baptized. And we confess our faith that she will rise again, and we will again see, hear, touch, and love our dear sister in Christ, with perfect mind and body, in perfect love and joy, for all eternity. Amen.

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

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