Saturday, March 21, 2015

Sermon -- Funeral of Catherine Reising (March 21, 2015)

 + Catherine Marie Reising + 
(July 19, 1960 – March 16, 2015)
JOB 19:25-27

In the name + of Jesus.

     It is my understanding that Catherine Reising and Job had a few things in common.  Both had a lot going for them.  Both were very gifted.  Both had many reasons to thank God for their blessings.  But then things changed—without warning and without explanation.  In the case of Job, we have God’s revelation which explains how Satan challenged Job’s faithfulness.  Satan claimed that if God had not pampered and privileged Job, Job would disown God.  So, the Lord sent Satan to afflict Job. Satan took away his possessions, his family, and even his health.  Job was a shadow of his former self, languishing in poverty and anguishing in grief. 
     Despite her promising youth, Catherine ended up suffering from mental health issues and other health issues.  Only with Catherine, God has not given us any divine revelation why he sent these struggles.  We know that this is a sinful world and, as a result, bad things happen in it.  It is hard enough to watch bad things happen to others.  It is particularly difficult to watch bad things happen to loved ones—especially when those bad things come without warning and without explanation.
     The only explanation we have for anything bad that occurs is that we are sinful people living in a sinful world.  It is why computers and cars and planes crash.  It is why homes are destroyed by floods or fire.  It is why possessions are lost or stolen or wear out.  It is why we suffer stress and strife, even in our own families.  It is why bodies get sick or weak or diseased.  It is, finally, why we all die.  The Bible states is bluntly: The wages of sin is death. (Romans 6:23)  No one escapes that, because no one is without sin.  The patriarch Job understood all this—both by faith and by experience.  He confessed, “Man who is born of a woman is few of days and full of trouble.  He comes out like a flower and withers; he flees like a shadow and continues not.” (Job 14:1-2) 
     We confess in church each week that we are by nature sinful, that we have done what is evil and failed to do what is good.  We also confess the consequences of that: I deserve your punishment both now and in eternity.  Sin is not just the reason that things are broken in this world.  It is also the reason that we suffer guilt and grief and shame.  It is also the reason that we have incurred God’s wrath upon ourselves.  God did not create a broken world, nor did God create people who were soiled with sin.  But sin brought this world under God’s curse.  Sin has soiled us, filling us with wicked actions and attitudes.  Therefore, sin brings forth death.  Sin has earned us God’s condemnation.
     Despite all of his sufferings and sorrows, Job still believed that God is good.  God is not the reason we are sinners; we did that.  But God has been merciful to sinners.  God reveals himself to us as a gracious Redeemer.  He sent his only begotten Son, Jesus, to deliver us from our sinful condition, to rescue us from the grave, and to spare us of God’s wrath.  To redeem us from all of this, however, a price had to be paid.  Jesus paid that ransom price for us.  In fact, Jesus Christ is the ransom price for us.
     Jesus Christ, who knew no sin, has made himself sin for us.  Now, if Jesus has borne all our sin, that also means that he has borne all the punishment for sin.  Jesus has borne  the curse that sin brings.  Jesus has endured all of God’s wrath that sin incurs.  Jesus has given himself into death which sin has wrought—the Son of God paying the price for all the children of men.  And if the payment for your sins has been made, then you are delivered from your guilt.  You are pardoned for all your offenses.  You have been redeemed.
     Job knew this and believed it.  So did Catherine.  Some may have wondered if God really loved them based on the hardships they had to endure.  But God’s love is not measured in how we feel or in what we experience.  God does not love people more when they prosper; and God does not love people less when they suffer.  In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world so that we might live through him. (1 John 4:9)  The Redeemer’s ransom stands no matter what.  God’s love remains no matter what hardships you face, even the loss of a loved one.
     The patriarch Job did not merely confess his sin, even more, in the midst of his sin and his sorrows, Job confessed his salvation.  He declared, “I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand upon the earth.  And after my skin has been thus destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God, whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold, and not another.  My heart faints within me!” (Job 19:25-27)  The Redeemer who went into death to deliver us from sin and its curse is the same Redeemer who is risen from death and lives and rules eternally.  I know that my Redeemer lives!  Jesus has conquered death; for he is risen.  Death now must answer to him.
     I know that my Redeemer lives, and I shall see him.  That is the comfort Catherine had throughout her life, and now especially at her death.  Not even death separates her from her Savior and his love.  Jesus is still her Redeemer.  She is still his baptized child.  Jesus has not forgotten that.  Nor is Jesus powerless to do anything about it.  Jesus will raise her from the dead when he comes again at the Last Day.  It will be as Job confessed: “After my skin has been thus destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God, whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold, and not another.” (Job 19:26-27)  Catherine Reising will be raised from her grave with a glorified body that will never be subject to any frailties or faults.  Jesus has redeemed her not for another broken body in a broken world, but he has redeemed her to receive an incorruptible body in a glorious Paradise.
     Whether it was said by Job or by Catherine Reising or anyone else, this is the Christian hope:  I know that my Redeemer lives!  And I shall see him.  I shall see him who became flesh to redeem my flesh.  I shall see him who went into death in order to conquer it.  I shall see him who lives and reigns, and he will bring me to live and reign with him.  I myself will see him in the flesh.  I myself will see him in my own resurrected flesh.  He is in his glory, and me transformed into glory.  I know that my Redeemer lives.  And because he lives, so shall Catherine Reising; and so shall we.

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

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