Saturday, July 21, 2018

Sermon: Funeral of Jane Sanchez

21 July 2018

Text: Luke 2:25-32 (Job 19:23-27a, Rom 6:3-11)

In the name of + Jesus.  Amen.

Dear Crystal, Violet, Carolyn, dear family, friends, brothers and sisters in Christ, and honored guests: Peace be with you.

We’re never really ready for death – not for our own, and not for the death of our loved ones.  We know that it is coming, but we just don’t expect it when it does.  And why should we?  We were not created to die.  This was not God’s plan for us.  We were created with the intention to live forever.  Contrary to what many well-intentioned people say, death is not normal.  Death is not natural.  In 1 Corinthians 15, St. Paul says that death is an “enemy,” and it is, in fact, the final enemy to be “destroyed.”

None of us were ready for our dear sister in Christ to be called home.  She suffered with declining health.  She was struggling in the hospital.  But it was a shock to me when I heard that she had passed away.  I was not ready for that news.  Like you, I was saddened by it.  Jane was the parishioner that every pastor knows: that parishioner who serves to bless the pastor when he came to see her.  Sometimes I would leave Jane’s room wondering who benefitted more from the visit, who was visiting whom with comfort and blessing: me or her?  And this was true even when she was suffering and uncomfortable.

I know that Jane’s family and friends were not ready for this news.  You may not be ready for this day.  But, dear friends, there is a subtle difference between being “ready” and being “prepared.”  For Jane herself may not have been ready to die, as of course, she submitted to the care of doctors and nurses with the hope and the intention of getting better.  But I can say most certainly that Jane was prepared for death.  She was prepared because Jesus had prepared her.  She was prepared because Jesus says she was.

Jane was prepared!

What I mean is this: God chose to create a unique person who was born on August 25, 1938 and given the name of “Jane.”  That was God’s doing.  The Creator fashioned His universe deliberately, according to a plan that included her existence.  She was to leave an indelible effect upon our world by carrying out the calling that He had for her as a wife, mother, relative, friend, and parishioner.  It was God’s will that Jane should make a difference in His world by touching the lives of all whom she encountered.  Jane’s nearly eight decades on this side of glory was no accident, but rather part of God’s vision for creation.

And seventeen days after being born, it was God’s will that this beloved baby be born again, by water and the Spirit, in Holy Baptism, as my predecessor, Pastor Eugene Schmid, poured water upon her little head three times and pronounced those holy and powerful words, according to the institution of Jesus Himself: “I baptize you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”  This took place in that very baptismal font right there.  That font has stood defiantly against the devil, the world, and our sinful nature for more than a century now.  And it speaks powerfully to us right here and right now by its abiding presence in our midst.

We heard about baptism again a few minutes ago, dear friends, in the words of St. Paul from Romans 6: “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death?  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.”  St. Paul goes on to say that if we died with Christ in baptism, we will rise with Him “in a resurrection like His.”

Jane was prepared!

Jane was prepared for death because God Himself had prepared her.  Jesus died on the cross for her, for her renewal, for the forgiveness of her sins, for her victory over death, for “the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting.”  And this is why we make the sign of the cross when we hear those mighty baptismal words of Jesus: “In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”  

Jane would cross herself whenever I pronounced those very words in the liturgy.  She was not only baptized by Pastor Schmid, but also taught the catechism by him as well.  Jane was confirmed by Pastor Schmid on May 13, 1951 at the age of twelve.  And from that time forth, she knew and publicly confessed that “Baptism is not just plain water, but it is the water included in God’s command and combined with God’s Word” that “it works forgiveness of sins, rescues from death and the devil, and gives eternal salvation to all who believe this.”

Yes, indeed, Jane was prepared!

She knew that Jesus was her Redeemer, and she confessed the words of Job that we have sung so many times in this very sanctuary: “I know that my Redeemer lives.”  We will sing it yet again in a few minutes!  We will sing it until we die, and even then, we will continue to sing of our Redeemer!  Jane sang of the resurrection of our Lord and His victory over death and the grave year in and year out as she celebrated Easter Sunday, decade after decade, right here where we call the resurrection to mind yet again.

Jane was prepared!

Our dear sister in Christ was prepared for death just like Simeon was, in our Gospel reading.  Upon finally experiencing the promised Christ in the flesh, Simeon said, “Lord, now You are letting Your servant depart in peace, according to Your Word, for my eyes have seen Your salvation, that You have prepared in the presence of all peoples.”

“You have prepared,” says Simeon to God.  In Christ, God prepared Simeon for this moment, this encounter with the Christ, and now the aged Simeon was prepared to “depart in peace.”  Simeon was prepared.

Jane sang the words of Simeon week in and week out over the course of her life, right here in this holy house, even as we will sing it again today with her, with the angels, with the saints, and with one another yet again.  For we are prepared!

Pastor Schmid not only baptized and confirmed Jane, but over the course of many years, he placed the body of Christ on her tongue and gave her the cup of the Lord’s blood to drink.  Jane made the sign of the cross and said, “Amen.”  And when Pastor Schmid himself went to be with the Lord, Jane would continue to receive the Holy Sacrament from the eight pastors who succeeded him in this parish, including me.

I had the joy and the honor to share Holy Communion with Jane one final time at the end of her life on this side of glory, and we prayed together those very words of St. Simeon: “Lord, now lettest Thou Thy servant depart in peace.”  Jane made the sign of the cross and said, “Amen.”  The day before she was called home, I read the Word to her, prayed for her, and retraced the sign of the cross upon her forehead as Pastor Schmid had done nearly eighty years ago.

Jane was prepared.

She has departed in peace, in Christ, in baptism, and according to His promise of life everlasting.  And now she waits in glory, waiting to be reunited with all of us, waiting for the resurrection of the flesh, waiting for the new heavens and the new earth.  She waits without pain or suffering, she waits triumphantly, she waits in the presence of Jesus and of all the hosts arrayed in white who rest from their labors, and she will praise Him without end.

Jane is prepared!

While we may not be ready, let us, like Jane, remain prepared in Christ.  Let us be prepared joyfully to see Jane again, prepared for eternal life in Jesus’ name and by His promise!  Amen.

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

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