Saturday, January 22, 2011

Sermon: Funeral of Hilda Jung

22 January 2011 at Salem Lutheran Church, Gretna, LA

Text: Rom 8:28-39

In the name of + Jesus. Amen.

Dear Robert, Ruth, and Myra; James and Ronald; nieces, nephews, grandchildren, family, friends, brothers and sisters in Christ, and honored guests: the peace of the Good Shepherd Jesus Christ be with you all.

What a sense of loss we have on this sad day, the hollow emptiness that comes from having to say goodbye to someone who has been among us for the better part of a century. Right up until her last moments on this side of the veil that separates the living from the dead, Hilda’s ever-present sisters watched over her with loving and tireless devotion, and Hilda constantly expressed her gratitude and her love back to them in return. It was a rare thing indeed to see them apart from one another.

It has been my honor to give pastoral service to Hilda at the stage in her life when age and infirmity make spiritual care perhaps more common and more intense than for younger folks. And, dear family members and friends, I want you to know what a privilege it has been for me to bring God’s Word and Sacrament to Hilda. Not only was she always appreciative and grateful, but profoundly inspiring to me as her pastor. Hilda was always an example of faith to me.

For Hilda Jung truly hungered and thirsted for righteousness, and according to the promise of the Lord, she has now been satisfied!

According to our reason and senses, Hilda hungered and thirsted because of the frailties of her body. To the world, Hilda was fragile and sick – especially in her later days. To the senses, Hilda was weak and not of much consequence in a world that worships money and position and power, a culture that admires swagger and bluster. Indeed, we live in a society that doesn’t understand the treasures waiting to be discovered among those who have accumulated a long lifespan of experience, nor their love and their prayers that the world deems foolish.

But, dear friends, the Lord’s kingdom laughs at such self-important blather. For according to God’s Word, it is when we are weak that we are strong. When we let go of self-reliance and instead depend on the Lord’s providential grace, it is then, brothers and sisters in Christ, when we are at our strongest.

In the kingdom of God, Hilda Jung was, is, and ever more shall be, a woman of might, a warrior, one who is “more than a conqueror” because she held fast to the promise that “for those who love God all things work together for good,” and that indeed, this is most certainly true for those who “are called according to His purpose.”

And this is where Hilda drew deeply from the well of divine strength. It is from the Word and promise of her Creator and Redeemer and Sanctifier, the holy name into which she was baptized – the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – which endowed dear Hilda with courage and strength and a spirit of calm in the face of her increasing struggles of health.

Hilda’s faith was not merely an inspiration to us, but also for her, a passport to eternal communion with God and everlasting life. The veil that separates sinful man and righteous God was shredded when our Lord Himself died on the cross, in His own suffering and bodily weakness. For listen again, dear friends, listen and hear the mighty words of St. Paul: “If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son but gave Him up for us all, how will He not also with Him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect?”

Who indeed, brothers and sisters? Hilda has no accuser, for she has been judged righteous by God through the cross and according to the blood of Christ. For just as Hilda understood that her strength did not lie in her physical power, she also confessed in word and deed that her righteousness does not lie in herself, but rather in her blessed Savior. For as the apostle continues, “It is God who justifies.”

Hilda understood, and now understands for all eternity, that she stands in the presence of God just as she is, “without one plea” – except the only plea that counts: the blood of Christ shed on the cross as a pure sacrifice and all availing atonement.

And she also understood, as perhaps only those who have suffered physical distresses truly can, that our strength lies not in ourselves. For Hilda often prayed and confessed these very words of St. Paul and of Holy Scripture, the rhetorical question that is actually a statement of victory: “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?”

Hilda’s tribulation and distress included physical ailments and frustrations over an aging body that would not respond to her wishes.

But Hilda, along with St. Paul actually answers the rhetorical question with a firm “No!” And that “No!” is Hilda’s confession. It is the “No!” of the whole Christian Church on earth. It is the “No!” of every soul who has suffered for the sake of Jesus, of every person who has come to faith in Christ, of every man, woman, and child washed by baptism and set apart for eternal life. For it is the “No!” of this response:

“No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.” Though the world saw a frail woman and now sees a body stilled by death, we cling to the Lord’s promise and the Lord’s resurrection, and we see the Lord’s dear child who is now with Him and awaiting the “resurrection of the body and the life everlasting.”

“For I am sure,” says St. Paul, says the Scripture, says the Church, and says Hilda Jung for all eternity, “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.”

Hilda has won the victory because Jesus has won the victory. And just as God was hidden on the cross and revealed in the empty tomb, Hilda confesses with us and with the Church: “I know that My Redeemer lives!” Hilda knew that “God so loved the world...” Hilda held fast to the comfort that “The Lord is [her Shepherd] – and now she has no want. Hilda suffers and struggles no more, dear friends. And though we feel the grief, she feels the joy; though we struggle with the feeling that something is missing, she rejoices in the very real fullness of God’s glory.

“Oh what [her] joy and [her] glory must be,
Those endless Sabbaths the blessed ones see!
Crowns for the valiant, to weary ones rest;
God shall be all, and in all ever blest.”


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

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