Friday, June 12, 2015

Sermon: Funeral of Bonnie Schexnayder

12 June 2015

Text: John 10:10b-15, 27-30 (Job 19:23-27a, Rom 8:28-39)

In the name of + Jesus.  Amen.

Dear Merlin, (Carol), Kelli, Kris, Rachel, grandchildren, family, friends, brothers and sisters in Christ, and honored guests, “Peace be with you!”

That greeting, “Peace be with you,” is not just a pious expression.  It is a powerful reminder of why we are here.  We mourn Bonnie’s passing, dear friends.  How can we not?  But that is not why we are here.  Neither are we here to celebrate Bonnie’s life.  Indeed, we do remember her with joy, as we should.  But again, dear brothers and sisters, that is not why we are here in this place at this time.

We are here, gathered as the Body of Christ, hearing His Word, because when Jesus died on Good Friday, his disciples were crushed.  But on Easter Sunday, they were filled with joy to hear of His rising again.  And the following Sunday, they saw the Lord appear physically in His resurrected body, and the first thing He said to them was, “Peace be with you!” 

Our Lord Jesus means something by this greeting.  It’s important.  It’s profound.  It’s comforting.  He means that by His peace, the warfare is over.  He means that the struggle against sin, death, and the devil are all ended.  He means that sickness and sorrow and doubt and fear and worry and pain and suffering are all finished and done away with.  

“Peace be with you!”

That peace that passes all understanding is why we are here, dear friends, here with Bonnie’s body that was baptized, that was fed with Holy Communion, that was forgiven, and that has the promise of rising again, just as our Lord Jesus Christ did!  For Jesus came to us where we are: in the flesh, in a body that feels pain, living in a world of sin, surrounded by brokenness, subject to suffering.  This is the price of our sins: Bonnie’s, yours, mine, and that of every person ever born in this world except for our Lord Himself.

For He came to save us from our sins. He died for us, so that we might live, dear friends.  He paid for all of our sins at the cross so that we might be forgiven.  He died so that death might be destroyed.  And He has given this new life to Bonnie and to all who believe and are baptized.  Bonnie lived in this truth, taught in this truth, died in this truth, and will rise again in this truth.  That is what the Lord means by: “Peace be with you!”

That is why we are here, dear friends.  We are here to declare victory over death.  For we have received His peace, even as He says to us anew: “Peace be with you!”

To the unbelieving world, death always wins.  It claims everyone.  Money and power and fame cannot abolish it.  To unbelievers, death is horrifying.  But, dear friends, there is One who has abolished it: our Lord Jesus Christ.  That is the promise He made to Bonnie; that is the blessing He gave to the disciples when He appeared to them.  And He extends the offer of that peace to every person ever born.  That is what we believe, what we confess, and what we teach, dear friends.

In her 23 years of teaching children – not only teaching them their letters and numbers and colors and how to treat one another – but also teaching children about Jesus and His cross and His empty tomb – Bonnie brought the peace of Christ, the risen, living, victorious Christ, to countless children – children who grew up and in many cases now have children of their own.  Bonnie touched the lives of people too many to be numbered, young and old – most of all, her beloved husband of 53 years.  For the peace of Jesus is also the love of Jesus.  That love is demonstrated in her ongoing love for Merlin, his ongoing love for her, and the ongoing love between Bonnie and her daughters and their families.  Love never ends.

This love, dear friends, this life of devotion, is rooted in Christ, in His gospel, in what St. Paul teaches us about His love: “If God is for us, who can be against us?”  For, “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.”

Nothing, dear friends, nothing, can separate us from God’s love in Christ.  Bonnie’s death does not separate her from Christ, nor us from Christ.  And in Christ, and in His love, we are eternally connected to Bonnie and all the saints.  Nothing can separate us!  This is what He means by, “Peace be with you!”

And what’s more, even though we have our memories of Bonnie, and in a sense she lives on through those memories and through her children and grandchildren, nevertheless, we have something even greater: we have the promise of God in His Word, “inscribed in a book” as if written with “an iron pen and lead… engraved in the Rock forever”  that we will rise in our flesh, that our bodies will be made anew: perfect, without aches and pains, without diseases and infirmities, without the effects of age, and without all of those things that we consider “normal” – including death itself – all of which come from sin.  

For as Job said in his suffering, “I know that my Redeemer lives!” and “after my skin has been thus destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God.”  We Christians confess “the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting.”  Think of what this means, dear brothers and sisters in Christ.  It means that we will hold Bonnie’s hand again, we will hear her speak, we will see her smile, we will share hugs and laughter and joy.  That is what the physical, risen Jesus means when He says: “Peace be with you.”

For Jesus is indeed the Good Shepherd.  He knows His sheep, even as His sheep know His voice, the Word of Jesus, who comes to us in His Holy Word, and who calls us when it is time for Him to take us to eternity.  And listen to what He says about His beloved sheep: “My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Fathers hand.”

This good news, dear friends, this blessed assurance, this care of the Good Shepherd for His sheep, including Bonnie, is what our Lord means when He says: “Peace be with you!”

He is our Shepherd, and we shall want for nothing.  He makes us to lie peacefully in green pastures, beside the peaceful still waters.  He restores our souls.  He leads Bonnie, and He leads all of us who hear His Word, who receive His love as a free gift, and who believe His promises.  This is truly what our Good Shepherd means when He says: “Peace be with you!”

Peace be with you, dear friends.  Indeed, peace be with you!  Amen.

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

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