+ Sandra Kay Frey +
(September 30, 1958 - August 28, 2017)
1 CORINTHIANS 15:20-26
JESUS DESTROYS DEATH AND RESTORES LIFE.
In the name + of Jesus.
M: Alleluia! Christ is risen!
Cong: He is risen indeed. Alleluia!
Death is the enemy. It does not take prisoners. It kills its victims. And we are all its victims eventually, because we are all sinners.
When Adam brought sin into the world, he brought down guilt upon all mankind. And so, like Adam, we are marked for death. St. Paul wrote that “in connection to Adam, all die.” (1 Corinthians 15:22, my translation) Sandy Frey was connected to Adam in that she was born into this world a sinful human being. Sandy was a very sweet, kind lady. She was very nice, but she was not perfect. And there is the problem. God's command is not, “Be nice. Be kind. Behave.” It is: “You shall be holy, because I the LORD your God am holy.” (Leviticus 19:2) Adam was not holy. Sandy Frey was not holy. You are not either because sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned... (Romans 5:12) Because she was a sinner, death has come to claim Sandy. Death is the enemy, and sin is the weapon by which it inflicts its mortal blow.
This is not how the Lord intended it to be. God created Adam and Eve to be flesh and blood, body and soul people. God saw their creation and behold! it was very good. (Genesis 1:31) Very good means that man's body was not created to know cancer, to become frail, or to undergo chemo treatments which sometimes feel worse than the disease they are supposed to be curing. God did not make our bodies to suffer pain and to die. But when sin came, body and soul were infested and infected with corruption, disease, and decay. And now we are all too familiar with phrases like “terminal” and “inoperable.” Death is the enemy, and sin is the weapon by which it inflicts its mortal blow.
But, as we heard in the lesson earlier, we do not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. (1 Thessalonians 4:13-14) The first Adam brought sin and death into the world, but now the second Adam destroys death and restores life. Adam first ate the fruit which brought death to us all, but now Jesus is the firstfruits from the dead. Jesus destroys death and restores life.
Jesus became our flesh and blood Savior so that he could redeem flesh and blood sinners. Jesus took upon himself the sins of the world. Jesus took into his body the judgment we deserve, and he was struck by the mortal blow on behalf of us all. The flesh and blood Savior died under God's judgment and consumed all of God's wrath. By that death, Jesus put an end to the curse of sin. The punishment and wrath are gone. Having died for us, Jesus was planted in the earth for burial. But on the third day, new life sprung forth from the ground as Jesus rose from the dead. By that resurrection, Jesus put an end to the power of death; for Jesus has conquered it.
Jesus destroys death and restores life. For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. (1 Corinthians 15:21-22) Sandy was connected to Adam by birth, but now she is connected to Jesus Christ by baptism. In baptism, that that is Christ's became hers. Sandy was put to death and God raised her up a new creation. Throughout her life, she was covered in Jesus' righteousness. God's judgment of Sandy was not merely that she was nice. That is our judgment of her. We know that she was a nice lady, a dear wife, a caring daughter, a devoted mother, and a loving grandma. And you aren't wrong. But God's judgment of Sandy is the only one that matters. And in Christ, God has declared her to be holy and blameless. Therefore, Sandy did not need to fear death; for not even death can sever her connection with Christ. As Jesus lives, so does Sandy—dwelling in Jesus' presence, forever connected to him who destroys death and restores life. And in a few moments, we get to feast with Sandy and all the saints triumphant at the heavenly banquet. Our feast lasts but a moment at this altar; Sandy rejoices forever at the wedding feast of the Lamb.
While this is our hope, we are not without grief. For, death is present. To some it may even seem like the enemy has won. Its victim, the body which was afflicted with cancer and pelted with chemo treatments, lies here. Sandy died at age 58. According to standards of life expectancy, that is too young. But Sandy is connected to Christ. He has saved her and keeps her safely in the kingdom of God, and there is no such thing as a life cut short in the kingdom of God. For this is what the Lord says of his redeemed: “I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.” (John 10:28)
Jesus destroys death and restores life. Just as God never intended to have mankind die in his sin, neither did God intend that we be anything different than he created us to be. God created us to be flesh and blood, body and soul people. God does not intend that Sandy Frey stop being Sandy Frey. Jesus did not redeem just our souls. God created us to be body and soul people; therefore, Jesus became a flesh and blood man in order to redeem us completely. Just as Jesus rose from the dead with his body, so he will raise up Sandy to be a body and soul woman forever. And just as Jesus brought healing to many as a glimpse of his redeeming work, so the body that Jesus will raise will be restored to perfection. Sandy will have no need for chemo treatments, hospitals, corrective lenses, or even Kleenex. Her redeemed body will be raised incorruptible and glorious, just as God had always designed it to be.
Jesus destroys death and restores life. In Christ shall all be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death. (1 Corinthians 15:22-26)
Though death is our enemy, death has already lost. Jesus destroyed death by his resurrection. Since Sandy has been united with Jesus in baptism, he will raise her up to live forever with him. Though we will commit her body to the grave today, we know that the grave will have to give her back. New life will spring forth from the ground when Jesus comes on the Last Day. And the Lord who destroys death will also at last restore life to Sandy and behold! it will be very good. For, the resurrected bodies which are connected to Christ will be without sin, without pain, without sickness, without death, and without end.
The enemy is destroyed. Eden is restored. Jesus is the firstfruts from the dead. The rest of the harvest shall come up from the ground on the Last Day. And we, who are connected to Christ, shall live because of him and with him forever.
In the name of the Father and of the Son + and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.