Isaiah 25:6-9, John 11:17-44
Dear Connie, Matthew, and Michael, beloved family members, dear brothers in the ministry, saints gathered today, grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
In just two short weeks we will celebrate this day, and yet there will be many more remembered as well. Every funeral is in a way a commemoration and celebration of All Saints Day. A day of memory for those who have died before us. Today, we mourn, we remember, but we look forward to the day we will celebrate.
For you dear family, it may be accounts that recall not only Marion’s life but those whose lives traveled across the Atlantic and are but a mere memory. The memory will continue back on the farm in Iowa, back to Lars and perhaps even to Silas or even back to Lars who traveled across and settled the farm life for this family. Ah yes, all the saints who now rest from their labors, those who have died in Christ are many, from this family, from this congregation, and from the holy ministry.
Today highlights once again how much we know death. We’ve experienced it much. There are many not here to mourn this day, for they too now rest from the labors. Death surrounds us, it makes us uncomfortable. As the 14th century poem often read at committal, a favorite of pastor’s and written in Latin in memorial on the plant given from Pastor Dave Herald and on the back of your bulletin proclaims, in the midst of life we are in death.
We much prefer the life of Easter Sunday and shy away from the death of Good Friday. We all want to go to heaven…but no one wants to die to get there! Yet, it is precisely through death that we have life. It is through death that we are delivered from death. This was true of Marion and is true for you. And it is through death that you are declared a saint.
It’s like when Ole moved and he discovered that he was the only Lutheran in a little town of Catholics. That was okay, but the neighbours had a problem with his barbecuing venison every Friday. Since they were forbidden to eat meat on Fridays, the aroma was so tempting that something had to be done.
Neighbours went over to Ole and managed to convince him to join their church. The big day came and the priest made Ole kneel. He put his hand on Ole’s head and said, “Ole, you were born a Lutheran, you were raised a Lutheran, and now,” he said as he sprinkled some incense over Ole’s head, “now you are a Catholic!”
Ole was happy and the neighbours were happy. But the following Friday evening at suppertime, the aroma of grilled deer steaks was coming from Ole’s yard. The neighbours went to talk to him about it. As they approached the fence, they heard Ole say, “You were born a deer, you were raised a deer, and now,” he said as he sprinkled seasoning salt over the choice tender loin cut, “now you are a fish!”
With the washing of water, buried with Christ and raised with Him in Holy Baptism, Marion and you are declared saint, Christian, child of God. It’s the same song that continues for all the saints. That song goes on…and, as the saying goes, we contribute our verse. But it remains His song we sing, His land we plow, His life we live, His cross we bear—that is, His death and resurrection, His blood, His sweat, His tears, His joy, His life, His glory we preach.
You cannot face death honestly and fully unless you have faced that death on the cross. But we face death knowing that it is swallowed up forever by Jesus on the cross. We can make that confession with Isaiah only because of what Jesus said to Martha in the cemetery at Bethany: “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me though he die, yet shall he live.” We gather here today because we believe Jesus’ words are true for Marion and for all who cling to the Savior in faith.
Jesus does what Ole and so many others cannot do, change reality with a mere word and declaration. But first, he mourned, he wept. He wept for death is why Jesus came. To swallow it up forever. With a word he raised called Lazarus forth from the tomb and brought him to life.
Soon, Jesus would swallow up death in Himself. The next week in Christ’s death we see that victory over death and the grave comes by death and the grave. His death shows us that Paradise, the Resurrection, is there in death. Risen from the dead, ascended into heaven, we await for him to come again in the resurrection to hear “Marion, come out!” Jesus is going to say that again someday– with your name too!
So, as we have memorial of a dear husband, father, brother, pastor, colleague, and friend, let us keep memorial of that which he preached, Christ, and him crucified for you. As you dear saints of St. Peter’s receive from the chalice given at his retirement let us keep in remembrance the preaching and teaching that accompanied that first chalice passed, this cup is the new testament in Christ’s blood, shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.
We now lay Marion’s body, spent from a lifetime of living, into the grave to await the resurrection. So weep, mourn, but in these days listen, but lo, there breaks a yet more glorious day, the saints triumphant rise in bright array, for the King of Glory says to you, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die.”
Alleluia, Christ is risen! He is risen indeed, alleluia!
And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.