Thursday, December 28, 2017

Sermon: Funeral of Dorothy Grimes

28 December 2017

Text: John 14:1-6 (Isa 25:6-9, 2 Cor 4:7-18)

In the name of + Jesus.  Amen.

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

This is a time of year when families get together, when old memories are rekindled, when we trade the cares and worries of this world for a few days of cheer – and when we look to a brighter future in the next year.

To lose someone at this time of year is painful.  I speak from experience.  It is made even more of a cross to bear because Miss Dottie’s love and joy and desire to be with her family and friends radiated from her year round.  Christmas will be different from this time forth.  Don’t worry.  It won’t be ruined, but it will be different.  Each passing year of life is different.  There will be bittersweetness in future Christmasses, but there will also be a profound Christian joy in knowing that Dottie’s passing is closely tied to the birth of Jesus.  For Jesus did not remain the baby in the manger.  In time, He bore His own cross and died His own death on His own cross; He died in order to give us His own life as a gift to save us.  He rose from the grave on Easter in order to give us resurrection and eternal life as a gift as well.

We heard His comforting promise in His own words in our Gospel reading: “Let not your hearts be troubled….  I go and prepare a place for you” and “I will come again and will take you to Myself.”  For “in My Father’s house are many rooms.”  Jesus has prepared a place for Dottie and for all who are baptized and believe in Him, who trust in His grace and mercy. 

There is a connection between the life, death, and resurrection of Dorothy Grimes, and the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  And so not only will Christmas bear a sense of separation from her, but Christmas will always remind you that Jesus, whose birth we celebrate, came to conquer death, to take us to Himself, and to promise us a glorious reunion in the flesh with those we love.  Scripture puts this separation into perspective, calling it a “slight momentary affliction.”

This sense of connection is also illustrated by what the church calls Dottie’s “heavenly birthday,” the 23rd of December – which was also the anniversary of her wedding to her beloved George.  Now, they are no longer separated, and no longer suffer the pain of being apart, nor the pain of the mortal body, nor of the pain that is our legacy of sin in this fallen world.  All of that is gone, dear friends!  The grief we experience – which is a natural thing because we are temporarily separated from our loved ones – is not experienced by George and Dorothy in eternity!  Knowing this brings us joy.  And indeed, we await the promised resurrection in Christ, when we will have renewed bodies and a new physical home in a perfectly restored world. That is why Jesus came.  That is the ultimate meaning behind Christmas!

This is not some pie-in-the-sky mythology, dear friends, this is a promise rooted in historical reality.  For just as there is a little village to this very day called Bethlehem, where Jesus was born, there is also a tomb in what is today part of Jerusalem, a tomb unlike any other on the planet: the tomb whose occupant walked out of under His own power.  That tomb where the body of Jesus lay is today a church, and from the pulpit of that glorious empty grave, the same Word of God that we heard today, the same Gospel, the same unchanging historical Good News of Jesus Christ, is proclaimed.

And listen, dear friends, to the Word of God from Isaiah: “The Lord of Hosts will make for all peoples a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wine….  He will swallow up death forever; and the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces… for the Lord has spoken.”

This is God’s promise to you, just as He spoke through St. Paul in our epistle reading to the church in Corinth: “We have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.”  In His infinite wisdom and plan, God created Dottie and breathed life into her seventy five years ago.  He saw to it that she was baptized.  Through her life, many of you came into existence, also according to the Lord’s plan.  He had a reason to create her, and He has a reason and a plan for all of you as well!  And we know that this plan transcends the grave: “knowing that He who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and bring us with you into His presence.”

Although we don’t see this with our eyes, we take the Lord’s promise on faith: “We look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen.  For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.”

Eternal, dear friends.  What comfort there is in that word!  It means life that never ends, a life without pain, sorrow, suffering, separation, mourning, and without death!  God has brought you here on this day to hear these words and these promises of His.  He has brought you here to tell you that He has prepared a place for Dottie, and that He came into our world to free us from sin and death, to being us life and joy – not just a temporary season of joy, but eternal joy in Christ Jesus.

And this is why I greeted you the way Jesus greeted His disciples after His resurrection, the way we Christians have greeted one another for two thousand years – a greeting that is not just a wish, but a promise from the same Jesus who has prepared a place for His servant Dorothy: “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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