Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Sermon: Funeral for Shirley Peterson

30 May 2017

Text: John 10:10b-15; 27-30 (Job 19:23-27a, 1 Cor 15:51-57)

In the name of + Jesus.  Amen.

Dear family, friends, brothers and sisters in Christ, and honored guests, peace be with you.

To those of you with military connections, you know just how glorious that word “peace” is.  Peace means being with those whom we love.  It means being freed up from the worry of suddenly being deployed elsewhere.  It means not being in harm’s way.

It is also the first word used by Jesus when He spoke to His disciples after His resurrection.  Ever since that day, Christians have greeted one another with: “Peace be with you.”

For ever since Adam and Eve sinned in the garden, we, humanity, have been at war: with God and with one another.  Is any family not affected by this warfare?  Think about life in this fallen world: violence, disease, broken families, addictions, relationships gone bad, greed, lust, dishonesty – even things beyond our control like hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, and other things that bring us harm.  God did not create a world like this.  It was brought into chaos that first time our ancestors disobeyed God and sought their own way.

And the worst plague of all is death.  None of us are exempt.  It takes everyone, regardless of how good we may seem on the exterior, for we are all sinners, and we are all at war with God – whether openly or secretly.  We all suffer the marks of that first sin, and it has been passed on to us, like a genetic disease.

But the good news is that Jesus came to rescue us.  He broke into our world, behind enemy lines, and He died in our place, paying the price of our sins: yours, mine, and Shirley’s. And in rising from the grave, Jesus set a course for us to rise also.  For death has been defeated, and Jesus bids us to follow Him.  

He commanded His disciples to themselves make disciples: “Baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”  Shirley was placed under Christ’s protection when she was baptized.  For just as Jesus is a fierce warrior against the enemy, He is also a gentle “good shepherd” to those who follow Him.

“My sheep hear My voice,” He says, “and I know them, and they follow Me.  I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will be able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.”  This is what Jesus says today concerning your beloved Shirley.

Jesus knows Shirley, because she was baptized according to His command and promise.  God worked that out as part of His rescue plan.  And though death is still a reality in this fallen world, Shirley, and all who have been baptized, all who confess the name of Jesus, the Good Shepherd, all who die in this reality, being baptized into His death, look forward to a resurrection like His, as scripture teaches us.

And so even in our fallen world of war and disease and crime and broken families, broken relationships, and even the devastating pain of the temporary separation that is death itself, we have peace, the kind of peace that isn’t merely a lack of fighting, but a true peace that passes all understanding, the peace of Christ, the peace of Him who died and rose again, and who promises the very same bodily resurrection that life in a perfect world to be remade without death.

We look forward to the resurrection, when we will again stand in our bodies made new, as Job said, “in my flesh I shall see God.”  In the flesh, dear friends, meaning you will again be reunited with Shirley.  You will hug her and look into her eyes, she will smile at you, and you will have all of eternity to spend together.

This peace of Christ means that the war is ended.  In Christ, we can say with St. Paul: “Death is swallowed up in victory.  O death, where is your victory.  O death, where is your sting?”  Yes, we feel that sting now, but Shirley doesn’t.  And that sting is ultimately temporary, for all who are baptized and believe will likewise rise again to newness of life in the flesh.

So, dear friends, it is fitting that we mourn.  It is natural that we are grieved.  But we grieve in hope.  For Jesus has come to give us this peace: the peace that conquers death itself. 

“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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