Saturday, January 26, 2019

Sermon -- For the Christian Funeral of Peggy Joan Black (January 26, 2019)

For the Christian Funeral of 
+ Peggy Joan Black +
(January 11, 1956 - January 4, 2019)

JOHN 12:20-24


In the name + of Jesus.

     Of all the things I had heard about Peggy, her love for the garden was a common theme.  Peggy enjoyed planting seeds and making things grow.  Our Lord liked gardens, too.  When he created heaven and earth, he planted a garden in Eden.  It was lush, green, and fruitful.  It supplied Adam and Eve with everything they needed to live, both in abundance and in variety.  However, it was also in that garden that everything went wrong.
     God gave Adam and Eve free reign over everything in the garden, but he gave them one commandment.  He told them not to eat from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil in the middle of the garden,  He warned them that if they ate from it, they would surely die.  By obeying this one commandment, Adam and Eve could demonstrate their love and trust in God.  Instead, they did not obey God's command.  By eating from that tree, Adam and Eve brought sin and death into the world.  God's curse fell upon mankind for failing to obey God's commands.  The entire world was corrupted by their sin so that gardens produce thorns and thistles, and so that life is filled with pain and toil and sorrow.  And finally, all things die.
     This is the world we live in today, and it is at times like these—at the death of a loved one—that we feel the effects of sin most painfully.  The affects of sin were seen in Peggy's body in her final year on this earth.  She is not the person she had been, as her abilities, her speech, her mind, and even her personality were taken from her.  Finally, her life slipped away.  The cause?  The doctors can give you medical reasons.  But all people die, and all die for the same reason: We are sinners.  The Bible reminds us: “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)  Where there is no sin, there is no death.  But because of Adam's sin in the Garden of Eden, we are all sinful, and we will all die.  You and I can't fix this, any more than a doctor was able to fix Peggy's ailment, or any more than any one of us could have prevented her death.  Sin brings death.
     In Jesus, however, we shall spring forth in glorious life.  This happens because Jesus takes away sin, and because Jesus overcomes death.  Everything that went wrong in a garden was rectified in a garden.  Jesus explained this when some Greeks had come to see him.  They said, “We wish to see Jesus.” (John 12:21)  In response, Jesus told them just what they should be looking for if they truly want to see him.  He declared: “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.” (John 12:23-24)
     The seed Jesus referred to is his own body.  He had come to take into his body the sins of the world.  If Jesus takes all our sin and guilt from us, then he must suffer the consequences—death.  Jesus has taken into himself every crooked thought, every careless word, and every selfish deed of every one of us.  Now, as friends of Peggy, you don't remember her as a bad person.  You all have fond memories and can tell endearing stories about her.  And that is good.  Those memories are the reason you will miss her.  But no one is saved because you are fond of them, just as no one goes to hell just because you wish they would.  All judgment lies in the hands of Jesus.  But Jesus' glory is seen in this: He has taken away the sins of the world, including Peggy's.  He has suffered the curse of sin and its condemnation in place of her.  Jesus' cursed death was died for her and for you.  Jesus' body, like a seed, was placed in a grave.  It was planted in a garden near the place where his cross was.
     Just as Jesus had declared, so it is.  “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 12:23-24)  Jesus died for sinners, but he also rose again from the dead. Jesus sprang forth to glorious life in Easter in the garden tomb.  Now risen from the grave, Jesus can never die again.  He is Lord of Life and over death.  Since Peggy was baptized into the name of Jesus, she will follow the same path that Jesus has set.  In Jesus, she will spring forth in glorious life.  She is like a seed which will spring up on the Last Day to new life.
     Right now, Peggy's soul has gone to be with Jesus.  She is free from the thorns and thistles of this life.  She no longer suffers the pain and sorrows of this world.  But God does not create us to be mere souls.  Our Lord Jesus came to this earth in a human body in order to redeem us, body and soul, to live forever.  Jesus' body was slain for our sins, but is now risen to show you that the payment for sins is complete and that the grave has been overcome.  Jesus did not rise from the dead as a spirit, but as a body-and-soul man.  That is what we will look forward to as well. 
     St. Paul referred to that, as we heard in our reading from before: So is it 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 15:42-43)  The Lord Jesus, who redeemed Peggy by his sufferings and death, will raise up Peggy on the Last Day.  In Jesus, she will spring forth in glorious life.  And it will be far better than what she had.  She will be raised up with a body that will not be affected by disease, sickness, frailty, or weakness.  She will be freed from sin and its effects forevermore.  For, in God's presence, there is no medication, no hospice care, and no death.  Everything will be flawless, and it will be so forever.
     In Jesus, Peggy will spring forth in glorious life.  Death has not won the victory; Jesus has.  He is the seed which died and has sprung forth in life to produce much fruit.  Peggy is one of the fruits of Jesus' saving work.  The garden on Easter Sunday revealed that the grave has been robbed of its power.  For, where there is no sin, there is no death.  More than that, it shows us that Paradise, the Garden of God, has been opened to receive people who have been redeemed by and baptized into Jesus.  Jesus lives, and so will those who are his.  Peggy is his, for she was baptized into his name.  Good news: Peggy is back in the Garden.  She lives with Jesus now.  And on the Last Day, the grave will give her back.  In Jesus, she will spring forth to glorious life, and will live in glory forever.

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

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