Thursday, May 25, 2017

Sermon -- For the Funeral of Janet Reising (May 25, 2017)

PHILIPPIANS 3:20 – 4:1


In the name + of Jesus.

     Janet Reising was born into this world on January 13, 1938.  She was born again of water and the word shortly thereafter.  Her parents saw to it that she was baptized because they knew that this day was coming.  Just as each of us has a birthday, so also each of us has a day on which our citizenship on earth comes to an end.  And while this is true and it is common, it is certainly not easy—especially for those who grieve the loss of their loved ones.
     It is hard to absorb when your dear wife, dear mother, and dear friend has been reduced to photographs and memories.  No doubt, you will be looking at those photos and reliving the memories over and over again, and you will remember with fondness so many stories about Janet.  That is a blessing—to have memories to cherish because she was so kind and so loving to you throughout all the time God was pleased to grant you with her.
     God granted Janet over 79 years of citizenship on this earth.  And while she got to enjoy many blessings, Janet also knew her share of hardships.  She tended to her ailing and dying father.  She had the pain of burying her daughter, Katherine.  She saw Huntington's Disease and dementia take its toll on her in her later years.  Her heart knew grief.  Her body knew frailty.  But her faith remained strong in the midst of the struggles and stresses of life because God remained faithful to her.
     Janet got to enjoy about eight decades of life on earth.  I suppose we could console ourselves saying, “She lived a good long life.”  Still, you would rather have her here.  Richard, I'm sure that you want another 58 years of marriage with her.  Children and grandchildren, I am sure you would like more Christmases, Easters, birthdays, and so on.  I was hoping to have at least one more visit with her.  She was always so welcoming and so eager to hear God's promises again.  But God, in his wisdom and mercy, decided that Janet's citizenship on earth would come to its end on Saturday, May 20, 2017.
     Nevertheless, it is not right to say that Janet's life is cut short.  Her time on earth has ended, but not her life.  Through Jesus, her life in God's kingdom endures forever.  St. Paul reminds all who believe and are baptized: “Our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.” (Philippians 3:20-21)  Our Savior gives Janet a glorious citizenship.
     Janet had a Savior who left the glories of heaven to come to a difficult and deadly world.  Jesus came to serve people and to cure them of their various diseases.  In one instance, he came upon a man who sat at a pool named Bethesda.  Jesus asked him, “Do you want to be healed?” (John 5:6)  The paralyzed man was hoping that Jesus would help him slide down into the therapeutic waters of the pool.  Jesus had something greater in mind.  Jesus said to him, “Get up, take up your bed, and walk.”  And at once the man was healed, and he took up his bed and walked.” (John 5:8-9)  This is the perfect healing that Jesus brought to lowly, diseased, and disabled bodies.  He came to restore all things.
     Of course, healthy people go to their graves, too.  A cure for Huntington's Disease would not have delivered Janet from death.  Sin marks us all for the grave.  If you want to be free from death, you must be free of sin.  Therefore, the Savior came to remove our sin from us.  Jesus lowered himself not just to take on human flesh, but especially to take into his flesh all of our sin.  He stepped down into the waters of the Jordan to be baptized for sinners, absorbing all our sin into himself.  He carried all our infirmities and diseases, and he bore all of our iniquities and disgrace.  The cross is where Jesus endured what we deserve for our sin.  The cross is where Jesus put an end to God's wrath upon us and the damnation that we deserve.  Jesus was forsaken by his heavenly Father so that we could be brought into his kingdom.  All of Jesus' work was applied to Janet when she was baptized.  Just as at his baptism, Jesus took all of Janet's sin and made it his, so also at her baptism, Jesus took his righteousness and made it hers.  She was cleansed of all sin.  She was adopted into God's family.  She was made an heir of the heavenly kingdom.  She was made a child of the resurrection.  There is nothing that takes that away from her—not Huntington's, not dementia, not even death.
     Our Savior gives Janet a glorious citizenship.  Our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself. (Philippians 3:20-21)  The Savior who went into death for our sins also conquered death to declare us forgiven.  Jesus has overcome death.  His body revived from the grave, never to die again.  Now Jesus reigns gloriously, and death must answer to him.  Jesus' command over death means that he will raise up the dead from their graves.  While Janet's soul already enjoys life with her Savior, her body awaits the resurrection to life everlasting.  On the Last Day, Janet will be raised up from her grave. Jesus will transform her lowly body into a glorious body, just like Jesus' risen body.  Just as Jesus' word gave life back to the limbs of the paralyzed man at Bethesda, so his word will give Janet a body that will never again be effected by death, or Huntington's Disease, or dementia, or allergies, or muscle cramps, or even sniffles.  She will be forever free from sin or any problems that result from sin.  Our Savior gives Janet a glorious citizenship in heaven.
     Therefore, my brothers, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm thus in the Lord, my beloved. (Philippians 4:1)  The confidence that Janet had through faith in God's promises is your comfort today.  And it is your confidence for your own future glory.  Stand firm in the promises God makes to you, because those promises always stand even in the saddest of days.  Death could not overcome Jesus; death cannot overrule Jesus' promises.  Therefore, not even death can separate Janet from his love for her.  On the Last Day, Jesus will come again.  The grave will give Janet back to you.  All who believe and are baptized will live forever with the Lord.  For our citizenship is in heaven.  Our hope is in the Lord.  And our Savior will deliver us to glory everlasting.

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