Friday, December 07, 2018

Sermon: Funeral of Claire Bealer - 2018

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7 December 2018

Text: Luke 2:25-32 (Isa 43:1-3a, Rom 5:1-5)

In the name of + Jesus.  Amen.

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

It was my honor to give pastoral care to our beloved Claire for thirteen years – bringing her the Word of God: the Good News of Jesus Christ, as well as the body and blood of the Lord – both in the church building, and at her home.  And all pastors know about those certain people that you visit, and when you leave, you wonder who was providing care to whom.  

Visiting Claire was like that.

We know that the Christian life, like old age, is not for sissies.  When Christ calls us to follow Him, He bids us to take up our cross.  That is what it means to follow Jesus: we follow Him to the cross, to the tomb, and to the resurrection.  That is our journey; that is Claire’s journey; that is the journey of our Lord Jesus Christ!

Claire’s life on this side of the grave was marked by bearing many crosses – which she carried by God’s grace.  She suffered many things in her life, but like Jesus, she turned her face resolutely toward Jerusalem.  She lived with purpose and trust in the Lord.  I was always struck by her contentment.  Her faith served as a saintly example to me, as we servants of the Word also bear our share of crosses.  Thanks be to God for Claire’s discipleship of our Lord.

For we are all sinners living in a sinful and broken world.  We all stand in need of a Savior.  And Claire’s greatest strength was that in her weakness, her trust was in the Lord to carry her through.  And He did!

The prophet Isaiah spoke to us anew just now, uttering the promise of God that I often read to Claire: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are Mine.  When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned…. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.”

This promise is for Claire, for me, and for you, dear friends, for all who have been called by name, as Claire was on May 3, 1931.  She was born again of water and the Spirit two weeks into her life on this side of glory.  According to the promise of our Lord Jesus Christ, Claire was baptized in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and that divine name was placed on her, and her name was written in the Book of Life.  As Claire memorized the promise of our Lord Jesus Christ in Mark 16, let us hear it now in this place while she is with Him: “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved.”  

And as St. Paul also spoke to us anew, let us remember: “We were therefore buried 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.  For if we have been united with Him in a death like His, we shall certainly be united with Him in a resurrection like His.”

The Lord said then, and says now, to His servant Claire: “I have called you by name, you are Mine.”

And this explains Claire’s peace in Christ: “Since we have been justified by faith,” says the apostle Paul, “we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”  This is how we Christians can “rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope.”  

Claire’s hope was not merely for her soul to “go to heaven” when she died.  This is not what God promises us.  He promises so much more!  For our hope as Christians is in “the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting” as we confessed in the Creed.  For “just as Christ was raised from the dead, we too might walk in newness of life.… we shall certainly be united with Him in a resurrection like His.”

Jesus walked out of His own tomb in victory, and so will Claire, dear friends!

Unbelievers try to derive comfort from the fading memories of their loved ones, or maybe in some kind imagination of a ghostly, spiritual afterlife.  But we Christians have the ironclad promise of the risen Lord Jesus Christ that we too will walk out of our tombs, and we will live forever in a restored flesh, a glorified body: without sin, without suffering, and without death, just as we were created to be in the Garden of Eden.  This restoration of paradise is why our Lord shed His blood on the cross as a sacrifice for our sins, as the final victory over death, and the ultimate triumph over the devil!  That, dear friends, is the promise given to Claire, the promise that she confessed and clung to, the promise that we will all be reunited in the flesh in glory!

Every time I visited Claire, I brought her the Lord’s body and blood.  And just as we do in church, after receiving Holy Communion, we would speak or sings together Simeon’s Song – even as we will speak it together again in this service.  St. Simeon was elderly.  He was a believer in the promises of the Lord.  He was waiting to encounter “the Lord’s Christ.”  In fact, “it had been revealed to Him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death until” this physical encounter with Jesus.  And when it happened, when Simeon experienced the baby Jesus in His very flesh and blood, he rejoiced, he “blessed God” with these words that were Claire’s words and are our words: “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, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to Your people Israel.”

St. Simeon was prepared, he was ready to “depart in peace” according to the Word of God.  His eyes witnessed salvation.  He experienced the flesh and blood of Jesus in his own body, and now, death was not a defeat, but rather a victory.  For Jesus has come to destroy death, and to turn the grave into a temporary resting place for those who believe and are baptized, to those called by name, to those who place their trust in Jesus and call upon the name of the Lord, to those who eat His body and drink His blood, to those who hear the Good News and take it to heart.

Like the elderly servant of the Lord, St. Simeon, who was prepared to “depart in peace,” so too was Claire.  She was ready and prepared to be called home.  Claire loved her life that the Lord gave her, and she loved being with her family and loved ones, but she said many times that when the Lord was ready for her, she was ready to go.  She knew this because she knew the Scriptures, she knows her Lord Jesus, and she sang with all of us: “Lord, now lettest Thou Thy servant depart in peace.”

She has departed in peace, dear friends.  She has departed to be with the Lord Jesus Christ and to await the resurrection and the new heaven and new earth.  She waits in glory, in peace, in joy.  And we wait, still on this side of the grave, still in this broken world, in sorrow because we miss her, grieving, yet not like the unbelievers, but as a people of hope: hope of the glorious “resurrection of the body and the life everlasting.”  And having experienced our Lord Jesus Christ, being called by name by Him, and in faith in His promises, having met Him in the flesh, we too are bold to pray: “Lord, now lettest Thou Thy servant depart in peace according to Thy Word.”  Amen.

Peace be with you.

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

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