Saturday, July 07, 2018

Sermon: Funeral of Betty Childress

7 July 2018

Text: John 11:20-27 (Isa 25:6-9, Rom 6:3-11)

In the name of + Jesus.  Amen.

Dear Robert, Rhonda, Robert Jr., family, friends, brothers and sisters in Christ, and honored guests: “Peace be with you.”

These were the first words that Jesus spoke to His disciples after He rose from the dead.  The reason that Easter is so important to us Christians is because of times like these: the loss of a wife, a mother, a grandmother, a mentor, a co-worker, a friend.  Although death comes to all of us, we try not to think about it.  But sometimes we simply cannot avoid its sting.

We mourn our loved ones.  And we should!  We love them.  We miss them.  This is very hard.  There are no words of my own that I can offer that will bring you comfort, but God has words of comfort for you, dear friends.  I am merely the spokesman, the bearer of good news.  The Good Shepherd Psalm of David, Psalm 23, includes the words “Thy rod and Thy staff, they comfort me.”  That comfort comes from our Good Shepherd, Jesus, the one who defeated death, who rose from the dead, and who promises to raise His followers from the dead, just as He did His friend Lazarus, the brother of Mary and Martha from our Gospel reading.

The prophet Isaiah speaks comfort to us, promising us a new earth, one freed from suffering and death, a world of “rich food, a feast of well-aged wine, of rich food full of marrow, of aged wine well-refined….  He will swallow up death forever; and the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces…. Let us be glad and rejoice in His salvation.”

Our Lord Jesus swallowed up death by His own death on the cross: forgiving our sins – including Betty’s sins, my sins, your sins, and even paying the price of the sins of the whole broken, fallen world by His sacrifice.  Jesus also promises to wipe every tear from our eyes, as He is the one whom Isaiah speaks of doing that very thing.  For He will do for His friend Betty just what He did for His friend Lazarus.  Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life.  Whoever believes in Me, though he die, yet shall he live.”  What came next was Jesus visiting the grave of the brother of Mary and Martha, and Jesus called the name of His friend Lazarus, who then rose from death upon Jesus’s command, walking out of his own tomb, and embracing his sisters and his friends. 

In Christ, death doesn’t get the last word! 

St. Paul spoke to us anew today in the Scriptures, reminding us that “all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death” and “we were buried therefore with Him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.”

By God’s design and will, Betty Hartmann Childress was born into this world in the year of our Lord 1939. She was baptized into Christ Jesus and lived a life of 78 years by God’s grace.  She was called home just over two weeks ago, and now waits for her loved ones to join her.  And she also waits for Jesus to call her body forth from her own tomb: a new body, one without age and disease, one incapable of death, one in which she will enjoy that “feast of rich food… of well-aged wine.”  Her tears and ours will be wiped away forever.  Whether we feel worthy or not, we are baptized into Christ – who lived and died and rose again, who raised Lazarus, and who promises to raise Betty and all of us who believe and are baptized, all of us who confess Him as our Lord and our God, our Savior and our Master, as the one who died to defeat death.

And all of this, dear friends, is packed into that little phrase that Jesus said when He greeted His disciples after His own death and funeral, after He walked and talked again (even as will Betty), saying, “Peace be with you!”

For that is the peace of God that passes all understanding, the peace that brings us comfort even in sorrow, the peace that reminds us that death doesn’t get the last word.

Peace be with you, dear friends.  Peace be with you!


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

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