Saturday, December 22, 2012

Sermon -- Funeral of Lois Rapson (December 22, 2012)

For the funeral of
+ Lois Jane Rapson + 
(November 14, 1929-December 20, 2012)

In the name + of Jesus.

     For better or for worse, you will always associate Christmas time with the death of Lois Rapson.  While most would say that is for the worse, I submit to you that you can think of it for the better.  After all, Christmas is often associated with the giving of gifts.  Now, Americans have a strange idea about gift-giving.  If you were to go through the Christmas season or a birthday and not receive any gifts, you would feel ripped off.  If you feel cheated when you do not receive a gift, can you really call it a gift?  It sounds more like an obligation that was supposed to be met or a pledge that was supposed to be honored.  When someone makes a pledge like that and fails to honor it, then you have the right to feel ripped off.  But not so with a gift.  A gift is given freely by the giver.  It is not deserved.  It is not even asked for.  It comes as a pleasant surprise, and the receiver can only be thankful for what was given.
     So it is Christmas time.  And great gifts have been given to Lois Rapson.  The Lord has given Lois more than she ever could have asked for or imagined.  St. John described the magnitude and magnificence of the Lord’s great gifts.  St. John saw the saints who were gathered around the Lord’s throne in heaven.  They were waving palm branches, which symbolizes victory.  They were dressed in white robes, which symbolizes purity.  They sang songs of joy and praise to the Lord who had given them so many good things.  St. John describes those good things.  He does not necessarily tell you what will be in heaven.  Rather, he tells you what is not in heaven.
     The elder who was escorting John through his vision told him that those whom John saw in heaven are they who have come out of the great tribulation ….  They are before the throne of God and serve him day and night in his temple; and he who sits on the throne will spread his tent over them.  Never again will they hunger; never again will they thirst.  The sun will not beat upon them, nor any scorching heat.  For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd; he will lead them to springs of living water; and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.” (Revelation 7:14-19) 
     Lois knew her share of difficulties.  She had shed her share of tears.  She had bid farewell to many loved ones, most dear to her being her husband Neil.  She longed to be reunited with him.  She longed to have a life without a frail body or severed relationships.  While she was thankful for the blessings the Lord had given her in this life, she was also ready to be done with all of life’s aches and pains.
     Those aches and pains come because the world is a sinful place.  And Lois was a sinner in this sinful place, just like any one of us.  I understand why you would only remember the good things about Lois.  That’s the way it should be.  But like all of us, Lois was not perfect.  She confessed that freely.  She did not want to have to try to convince God that she was good enough to earn a place in heaven.  Sinners don’t deserve heaven.  Sinners don’t deserve mercy; for mercy is never deserved.  And so Lois did not put her faith in her manners or in her sweetness – and I don’t think anyone would deny that she was a very sweet lady.  Lois put her faith in the Lord Jesus Christ who has given great gifts to her.
     At Christmas, we often see gifts wrapped in colorful paper.  The wrapping paper suggests that there are good things in the package.  When our Lord came into this world to save us from our sins, he was wrapped in flesh.  It was not flashy or colorful.  Our Lord came in humility and weakness.  He came subject to the same frustrations and pains that we know.  But he subjected himself to our frailties so that he could deliver us from them.  Jesus has delivered Lois Rapson from sin and every evil.
     The Lord has given great gifts to Lois.  Lois’ place in heaven is a gift—not deserved, but given by a merciful and loving Savior.  Lois did not have the holiness that is needed to set foot in heaven.  No one does.  But the holiness that God demands, Jesus supplied with his own innocent and obedient life.  And regarding the sin that God condemns, Jesus took care of that, too.  Jesus took up Lois’ sin and, through his crucifixion, took all of the punishment and condemnation that sinners deserve.  So, that which we deserved Jesus took for us.  In turn, Jesus gives what we do not deserve.  The Lord has given great gifts to Lois.
     Before Christmas, people often make up a list of items they would like to receive under the tree.  Some of those lists can get long and rather elaborate.  But just saying that you want something does not automatically mean you will get it.  While everyone wants the glories of heaven, just wanting them does not get you inside the gates.  Gifts have to be given.  And the Lord has given great gifts to Lois.
     St. John noted how those gifts were given.  St. John asked about the saints in heaven, and this is what the elder replied: These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.” (Revelation 7:14)  This washing was done in Holy Baptism.  When Lois was baptized into the name of Jesus, she was washed and cleansed in his holy blood.  The blood that atones for sin was poured onto her.  In baptism, Lois was clothed in Christ and, therefore, was deemed holy and blameless.  Therefore, she became an heir of eternal life and a daughter of the resurrection from the dead.  That blood was also poured into her when I came to visit her and give her Holy Communion.  The Lord continued to forgive her sins, to pour out his mercy, and to assure her of her place in his kingdom.
     The Lord has given great gifts to Lois.  Her soul has gone to be with her Savior.  He has graciously delivered her from a world of sin and sadness.  He has gladly welcomed her into the glorious and victorious feast in heaven.  Never again will she know sorrow, pain, grief, frustration, or stress.  The Lord who was born into this world to redeem her has taken her from this world to be with him.  Her Christmas this year will be merrier than any moment she has ever known.  And she will have this joy without interruption and without end.
     While the Lord has given great gifts to Lois, one gift waits to be given—the resurrection from the dead.  Lois’ spirit is with her Lord.  Today we commit her body to the ground.  But fear not.  Even this body awaits a gracious gift.  On the Last Day, the Lord will recall this body from the grave.  And God will grant one more beautiful gift to Lois.  He will give her a body that will enter the gates of heaven.  Her body died because it was corrupted with sin.  That is why it became sick and weak and frail and finally gave out.  But the Lord will raise her up glorious, incorruptible, immortal, and imperishable.  Jesus was born with a body and soul to redeem us who are body and soul.  Jesus died and rose for us, and so all who die in the Lord will also rise to live forever.  Therefore, body and soul, Lois Rapson will live with the Lord forever—forever free from any pain or problems.  She will not even need her Kleneex anymore.
     At Christmas, we recall how the Lord sent his Son into the world so that he could purchase all of these gifts for us.  The cost was his life, but it was a price he gladly paid for you.  His salvation is a gift gladly given to Lois.  The Lord has given great gifts to her. 
     Merry Christmas, Lois.  Enjoy God’s gifts.  They are yours forever.

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

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