Saturday, July 27, 2013

Sermon -- For the Commttal of Ethel Johnston (July 27, 2013)

JOHN 12:23-26
            Jesus said to them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.  Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.  Whoever loves his life will lose it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.  If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also.  If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him.”

In the name + of Jesus.

     We are made most acutely aware of our sinfulness at the time of death.  For, the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23); and, therefore, everyone dies.  But just because everyone dies, that does not make it easy when a loved one dies.  It is not the same as saying, “Everyone has a birthday.”  We rejoice at time when life is given.  But we grieve at the time when death comes.  Life is a gift.  Death is a curse.  This is what all sinners deserve and, therefore, it is what we all receive.
     But the glory of God is that he saves sinners.  Jesus told his disciples that the hour had come for his glory.  He went on to explain, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” (John 12:24)    
     Back in the Garden of Eden, as soon as sin entered the world, God promised that the Seed of the Woman would come and deliver mankind from death.  Jesus is the seed which would die and be planted in the earth.  He was put to death for the sins of the world.  All of the punishment, all of the curse, all of the torments of hell, and all the wrath of God were poured out on Jesus.  He suffered, died, and was buried.  He was buried in a garden, in a borrowed tomb—for, he would not need it for long.
     On the third day, Jesus rose again from the dead.  Sin and death had begun in a garden, and now the resurrection and the life also begin in a garden.  The Seed of the Woman, which had been planted in the tomb, sprung to life.  Jesus is risen.  Sins have been taken away.  Death has been conquered.  The grave is but a temporary need.  Heaven has been opened.
     Now, let us return to Jesus’ words: “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” (John 12:24)  Jesus did not die and rise just for himself.  He does not remain a single Seed.  He died and rose to bear much fruit.  Jesus died and rose for Ethel Johnston.  She is among the many who have been given life through Jesus.  Yes, we commit her body to the ground.  And it may seem that the cemetery remains her new abode.  But she will not need the grave forever.  Like Jesus, she will have life again.  This cemetery is but another garden from which Ethel’s body will spring forth to live again. 
     A long time ago, Ethel Johnston was baptized into the name of Jesus.  On that day, all that Jesus had done for her became hers personally.  On that day, God put to death a sinner and raised her up a saint.  On that day, God marked her as his own for her time here on earth and for eternity.  God’s love is hers, and not even her death can nullify that.  
     But now, even though her soul is in Paradise with her Savior, her body must await the resurrection.  But fear not!  Not even death can nullify God’s promises.  If Ethel Johnston was united to Jesus throughout her life, if Ethel Johnston remained united with Jesus in her death, then Ethel Johnston will be raised up as Jesus was.  That which is planted in the earth will spring to life again. 
     St. Paul speaks of our Christian hope: What you sow does not come to life unless it dies.  And what you sow is not the body that is to be, but a bare kernel….  So it is with the resurrection of the dead.  What is sown is perishable; what is raised is imperishable.  It is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory.  It is sown in weakness; it is raised in power. (1 Corinthians 15:36-37,42-43)  Our Lord Jesus Christ will transform the lowly body of Ethel Johnston to be like his glorious, risen body.  She will be given a body that will never grow weary or sick.  She will have a mind that will never get dull.  She will enjoy a life that will never be bad or sad.  At the Last Day, Jesus Christ, who redeemed Ethel Johnston in time, will raise her up for eternal life.
     The Son of Man has been glorified.  Jesus revealed his glory to Ethel Johnston, and he has been faithful to her.  Therefore, she will follow our Lord—into death and then raised again to eternal life.  This is the honor that the Father has given Ethel—that she is redeemed.  This is God’s glory—that he redeems sinners.  And this is your joy—that God keeps his promises to her and to you.  Not even death can take them away, for Jesus is the one who takes away death.

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

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