Saturday, March 30, 2013

Sermon: Funeral of Robert Bealer

30 March 2013 at Salem Lutheran Church, Gretna, LA

Text: John 10:14-15, 27-30 (Rev 7:9-17, Rom 8:28-39)

In the name of + Jesus.  Amen.

Dear Claire, Amie, Jennifer, Robert, Charles, Christa, Michael, family, friends, brothers and sisters in Christ, and honored guests, peace be with you!

Today is Holy Saturday, a day of “now” but “not yet.”  For on this day, Christians around the world are caught in the middle of two extremes of sadness and joy.  We have commemorated the Lord’s crucifixion on Good Friday, in which our blessed Lord declared victory over death and the grave by crying out: “It is finished!” – and yet, on the day after Good Friday, He lies in a tomb awaiting His resurrection.  The Creator who created the world in six days takes His Sabbath rest in the tomb, and on the eighth day, the first week of the new creation, will rise again in glory to claim His victory to the world.

This “now” but “not yet” is where Robert is right now.  For Robert has borne his own share of crosses, of sorrows, of suffering in this fallen world.  And indeed, “now” he rests in peace, taking His place as a baptized child of God called to his heavenly home, but “not yet” being raised bodily from the dead.

Dear friends, we find ourselves in this same Holy Saturday no-man’s land, caught between the “now” of the cross, of our baptism, and of the promises of God in Christ, and the “not yet” of our own “resurrection of the body and the life everlasting.”  We also seem to be stuck between the “now” of life in this fallen world – a vale of tears, a world of mourning and loss, of pain, suffering, struggle, and yes, our own deaths – between this “now” and the “not yet” of the promised world to come, in which we will surround the throne of the Lamb rejoicing and “crying out with a loud voice, ‘Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!”  Our dear brother Robert has preceded us to this heavenly banquet where, “They shall hunger no more, neither thirst anymore….  For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their Shepherd, and He will guide them to springs of living water, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”  For Robert, this is an eternal “now,” even though for us, it is a promised “not yet.”

Robert has this existence in eternity not owing to his own goodness.  For nobody is perfect.  We are all poor, miserable sinners, none righteous, no not one.  We are all sheep that have gone astray, all of us are condemned to death by virtue of our own iniquities.  For the wages of sin is death.  It was because of our iniquities that our Lord was crucified and suffered death for us.  And when, in His death, He was pierced for our transgressions on Good Friday, water and blood flowed from the side of His sacrificial body.  Dear friends, Robert was washed in that baptismal water, and partook of that saving blood, and lives forever in the promise of one who has eaten the saving body of Christ, taking part in that cosmic sacrifice of the Lamb who bears the guilt of our sins unto forgiveness and eternal life.

And starting tonight, Christians around the world will joyfully proclaim the resurrection of our Lord.  And because He lives, Robert lives!  For just as I read to Robert only hours before he left this side of the grave, it was our once-dead and now risen Lord Himself who promised: “I am the Good Shepherd.  I know My own and My own know Me, just as the Father knows Me and I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep.  My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me.  I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will 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 the Father’s hand.  I and the Father are one.”

Dear brothers and sisters, no one is able to snatch the Lord’s redeemed out of His nail-scarred hands that have rescued us, that embrace us, and that protect us from the assaults of the devil, the fallen world, and even our own flesh.  Robert is one of the Lord’s sheep, marked with the sign of the cross and forgiven of all his sins, all by the work of our Lord on the cross, and given to him as a free gift through the Lord’s ministry of Word and sacrament.

It was my great privilege to give Robert this good news of Jesus Christ and to share with him the body and blood of the Lord over the course of many years.

And this is how even in the face of death, even in our sadness and mourning, even in our own mortality, we can proclaim with St. Paul: “We know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose.”

And we are comforted by the words of the holy apostle: “What then shall we say to these things?  If God is for us, who can be against?.... Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?  Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?”

Paul answers his own question: “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.  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.”

This promise is for Robert, dear friends, and it is for all of us who likewise confess the faith once delivered to the saints.  For us, Holy Saturday bridges the gap between Good Friday and the Easter that is sure to follow.  For in Christ, life is wrenched from death, and death itself is swallowed up in victory: Christ’s victory, Robert’s victory, and our victory!

We are indeed in that Holy Saturday gap between the “now” and the “not yet.”  But we have the promises of the Risen Christ, dear friends, and we have the testimony of His empty tomb.  

Tomorrow, we will rejoice in the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, Robert’s Good Shepherd who promises eternal life to Robert and all who believe.  And let us join Robert and all the saints gathered around the throne of the Lamb to sing their unending hymn: “Amen!  Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever!  Amen.

The peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all, now and forever.  Amen. 

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