Friday, April 13, 2018

Sermon: Funeral of Jean Richoux

13 April 2018

Text: John 20:1-18 (Isa 49:13-16a, 1 Cor 15:51-57)

In the name of + Jesus.  Amen.

Christ is risen!  He is risen indeed!  Alleluia!

Dear Liz, Jason, Matthew, Mark, family, friends, brothers and sisters in Christ, honored guests: Peace be with you.

It might seem strange to the average person to come to a funeral and to look around and see the church decked out in the happy festive color of white, to be surrounded with gleeful lilies, to hear readings that encourage us to “sing for joy” and proclaim the “victory through our Lord Jesus Christ,” and to sing hymns that, while acknowledging the reality of death in our fallen world, are nevertheless defiantly happy.

But for Christians, this makes perfect sense. 

Indeed, we are sad.  We are grieving.  We are stunned.  We miss our sister, mother, grandmother, friend, and parishioner.  We wanted her to recover, but it was not God’s will.  And this hurts.  And it will continue to hurt.  We Christians grieve, but, dear friends, we do not grieve in the same manner as everyone else.  For we grieve as those who have hope. 

For us Christians, death is a temporary parting.  And we know that our reunion will be joyful and glorious beyond anything our eyes will ever see in this fallen world.  And we know that Jean, a baptized child of God, who confessed Jesus as Lord over the span of her life, she whose sins were forgiven through the blood of the Lamb, she who partook of the body and blood of Christ, she who heard the Word of God and took to heart the Gospel – she has eternal life as a free gift of Jesus Christ.  She has been reunited to her Lord Jesus, to her husband Ronald, and to her loved ones who live eternally in Christ.

And this, dear friends, is why even in our sadness, we have joy.  And like Jean did all her life, and as she now does for eternity, we are bold to “Sing for joy,” even the mountains “break forth… into singing” because “the Lord has comforted His people and will have compassion on His afflicted.”  These are the words of the prophet Isaiah, who spoke the literal words of Christ in a promise made to Jean, to her family, to her friends, to all baptized Christians everywhere, saying: “Behold, I have engraved you on the palms of My hands.”

Dear friends, that is why we sing these beautiful and joyful Easter hymns.  For they are hymns of the resurrection of Jesus, of His victory of life over death.  And that is Jean’s victory over death as well.  And that is something to sing about!  When you come to this sanctuary and you lift up your voice in song, your voice is intermingled with Jean’s voice.  She sings in the presence of Jesus – even as Jean loved to sing on this side of the grave – be it here in our sanctuary, or in a Karaoke bar!  These hymns that we sing on this day, and every other day in the church, are not merely entertainment – they are defiance against Satan, who would try to rob us of our joy.  Our songs defy the grave itself, the same grave that was powerless against our Lord Jesus Christ.  And that is indeed something to sing about.

The Church’s song is Jean’s song.  So sing boldly, dear friends!  For you sing with Jean and with all the saints and angels of every age.

As St. Paul wrote to the Corinthians, “When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written, ‘Death is swallowed up in victory.’  ‘O death, where is your victory?  O death, where is your sting?’  The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.  But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Yes, we still feel the sting of death on this side of the grave, because we miss our loved ones who have departed.  But we also know that Jesus has defeated sin, death, and the devil, and we can mock death and Satan himself –
because of our Lord’s victory.

Even as Jean was bearing her cross in the hospital, she was at that moment confessing the resurrection of Jesus – as the children of our congregation joyfully received the candy that Jean bought them for Easter.  For ultimately, the Christian faith is not about a beautiful church sanctuary and white lilies, but rather these things of beauty are signs and symbols that point to the most beautiful reality of all: that Jesus rose from death, to conquer death, and to give us life.

On that first Easter Sunday, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb.  She was mourning the loss of her Master and Lord.  But she found some unexpected things that day: a tomb that was a place of joy and victory, angels dressed in white, and folded linen on the table where the body of Jesus was supposed to be.  The angels asked her why she was weeping, for this was no longer a place of death, but of life. 

And then the risen Lord Jesus appeared, called her by name, and comforted her. 

And even as the Lord comforts us, He calls Jean by name.  Her mourning is no more!  And we all wait for that great and glorious day when we will see her again in the flesh.

And we can join with Jean and with all the faithful of every time and place, singing:

And then from death awaken me,
That these mine eyes with joy may see,
O Son of God, Thy glorious face,
My Savior and my fount of grace.
Lord Jesus Christ, my prayer attend, my prayer attend,
And I will praise Thee without end.

Christ is risen!  He is risen indeed!  Alleluia!

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

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