Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Sermon: Funeral of Lois Coyne

20 July 2010 at Salem Lutheran Church, Gretna, LA

Text: Mark 8:1-9 (Gen 2:7-17, Rom 6:19-23)

In the name of + Jesus. Amen.

Dear Philip, Jody, David, Bonnie, family and friends, brothers and sisters in Christ, peace be with all of you.

We all grieve the loss of such a wonderful mother, grandmother, and friend. It is a truly painful experience to suddenly be separated from someone so beloved, so kind, and so joyful to be around. Obviously, Lois touched so many people during her eighty-four year sojourn with us on this side of the grave. We are indeed a sad people on this day.

And yet, at the same time, there is joy in knowing that Lois doesn’t join us in our mourning and sadness. She has run the race and won the victor’s crown. She has joined her Savior in “the fruit” that “leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life.” She now waits joyfully for us to be reunited with her. And so, even in our sadness, there is joy.

This is how St. Paul can point out to us Christians that even though we mourn, we do not mourn like the unbelievers, like those who have no hope. For we do have hope, dear friends, the Good News of the empty tomb of the Lord Jesus, a victory shared by Lois and by all those who are baptized and believe. For Lois is not just in a better place now, she is in the best place forever. She is not merely beyond pain and suffering, for she enjoys happiness beyond anything we can comprehend.

Indeed, dear brothers and sisters, there is much we don’t comprehend. We don’t understand the Lord’s will. Why didn’t we have the opportunity to be with Lois as she went to be with the Lord? Why did she have to suffer in her later years? There are many “whys” the Lord doesn’t answer. But the question of why we die, and why there are no exceptions, is explained in God’s Word. St. Paul teaches us: “For the wages of sin is death.” Death is the result of the willful rebellion of our ancestors in the Garden of Eden. That beautiful idyllic existence of fruit and gold and onyx and walks with God in the cool of the day was shattered and replaced by work and pain and mortality, as Adam and Eve sought that which was not given them. And the Lord had warned them: “But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” We have all heard the Lord’s warning, and we have all sinned. And we all die.

Lois and all people bear the burden of this consequence. And we deserve it. For even as saintly a person as Lois is not without sin. And, dear brothers and sisters, this is why we mortal sinners come here to this place: to hear God’s Word, to listen to Him call us to repent, to allow His Word to sink into our hearts, and to be blessed by that same Word as it comforts us with the full and free forgiveness of Christ. God’s Word brings life out of death, and wrenches joy out of sadness.

Lois understood this very well. She heard it from infancy from Pastor Schmid, who baptized her, taught her the faith, and confirmed her. She heard it through the many years of pastors who preached to her, absolved her, and gave her the Lord’s Supper. And she heard it again last week as the last of those unworthy servants who ministered to her, in her more than eight decades, gave her the Lord’s Body and Blood one last time.

For Lois knew and confessed this truth: “For the wages of sin is death.” But she also knew and confessed the rest of St. Paul’s inspired proclamation, the Good News: “But the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Life. That is the very opposite of death. Eternal life. Life that never ends. Life in Christ: “The free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

The victory won for Lois and for us by our Savior at the cross has been given to her, and to us, as a free and glorious gift. Lois does not have eternal life because she earned it by attending worship, by her kindness and gentleness, by her tireless devotion as a mother, nor by working for the church. None of that merited anything. Rather Lois enjoys eternal life as a free gift. All of her manifold good works were done out of gratitude for the Lord who saved her from her sins, who redeemed her from death, and who won for her and delivered to her eternal life.

For Lois confessed the one true faith taught by God’s Word. Like the four thousand hungry people who gathered around Jesus and heard His preaching and His Word, so too did Lois join her brothers and sisters in Christ to hear the Good News. She too received the Lord’s compassion. She too took part as the Lord Jesus continues to call His disciples to feed the multitudes with the life-giving bread. And like the four thousand, Lois was “satisfied.” She was satisfied and made whole by this miraculous bread and wine made holy by the Word and command of the Lord Jesus Himself.

Lois was satisfied when water was poured on her in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Lois was satisfied when time and again, she heard the Lord’s words: “I forgive you all your sins….” Lois was satisfied when her hunger and thirst were taken away by eating and drinking the Holy Supper, even as her sins were taken away at the cross, and that forgiveness and life were delivered to her at the rail. For the Lord’s promise is true: “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.”

Lois was satisfied by this Good News of forgiveness and life for 84 years, and she continues to be satisfied eternally, as she gathers around the Banquet Table of which the Lord’s Supper was but an earthly foretaste.

Dear friends, we don’t mourn for Lois. We mourn for ourselves. And we should mourn. For even our Lord wept upon the death of His friend Lazarus. And yet, the Lord demonstrated that even in His own mourning, there was a resurrection to come. For though we are the poorer without Lois in our immediate midst, we have the promise of our Lord: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” The kingdom is ours, and the kingdom is hers.

And let us not forget our Lord’s wonderful promise of comfort: “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.”

We shall be comforted, dear brothers and sisters, dear Philip, Jody, David, and Bonnie, family and friends, brothers and sisters in Christ. We have been blessed by Lois, and what’s more, we have been blessed by our Lord who loves us, sheds His blood for us, gives us His Word, reveals His promises, fills us with hope and joy, and in the fullness of time, brings his promise to fruition in the form of the victory of resurrection and eternal life. That is Lois’s joy and her crown.

Peace be with all of you, now and unto eternity! Amen.

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

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