[Job 19:23-27 / 1 Corinthians 15:51-57 / John 10:27-30]
Shirley, Dale, Karen and Roger, Jill, family and friends of Doris Lueker, I think it was exactly the week before Doris died that I read some words of Dr. Luther to her. They were based on the epistle we just heard, especially this verse: “For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed.” Luther wrote: “Let each man meditate upon this promise diligently and find in it comfort in all afflictions and especially in the pain of death. From that day, we shall be no more tempted, but shall be delivered from all evil. From that day, there will be no more death. From that day, there will be no more pain. From that day, there will be no more sin dwelling in our flesh, but our flesh will be pure and clean from all that is foul, from all evil desire and lust.” And when I finished reading those words, you remember what Doris did – Dale and Shirley? She said her “amen” in the only way she could. She clapped. And the look on her face was as clear as could be: “Let it come! I’m ready. I long for it.”
Hers was the faith of old Job that we heard in today’s first reading: “I know that my Redeemer lives, and that 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 not another. My heart faints within me!” She knew that she had a Redeemer and that Redeemer lived and because He lived, she would live too. Hers was a simple faith of trusting the words of Jesus.
And thus we lay her to her earthly grave as to a bed, knowing that she was one of the sheep who hear the Shepherd’s voice. I ask you: how often did she miss Church when she was physically able to be here. It was not an option in her life. It was simply the way to live. God had given a commandment, after all, about remembering to keep the Sabbath day holy, and she knew she kept it holy by gathering with other sheep of the Good Shepherd and hearing His words. Countless were the times she came here and confessed herself a sinner deserving both temporal and eternal punishment. Countless were the times she bowed her head and heard from Jesus through the mouth of a long series of pastors the promise that her sins were forgiven. And countless were the times when she came forward and knelt at this altar and had placed into her mouth the undying Body and Blood of the Son of God. Thus He sealed to her His promise that not only were her sins forgiven, but that He had given her eternal life and that she would never perish and that no one, absolutely no one, could ever snatch her from His strong, nail-scarred hand. She belonged to Him.
And I think that’s what fortified her all her days – the hard days of working on the farm, the joyous time when all has been gathered in, the evenings of pinochle and enjoying company with friends, the afternoon pinochle games with the Golden Agers. She was always friendly, invariably had a kind word for folks, and you know how easily she laughed. I don’t think I’d be wrong to say that hers was truly a life of joy – quiet joy in the Lord. It’s what sustained her through your father’s death; what sustained her as this last sickness came on and accelerated these last months.
It just changes how you live your life when you know that you live under the promise of forgiveness and that God has provided you a home that you can never lose. As sad as it is for those who are left here, she knew she was going to join a greater crowd there – the spirits of the just gathered to the throne of the Lamb eagerly awaiting the day when He would return, that trumpet would sound and the dead be raised. So her life was one big: “Thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Enfolded into that Savior’s arms from infancy and growing up attending His Word and sharing His meal, she was ready and more than ready to meet whatever came her way – she knew that somehow He would use it to bring blessing. And He has. He has brought her home. And I’ll be she clapped her hands for joy on Tuesday as her eyes shut to this world, but opened to the rest He has prepared for His people. And for that be all glory, honor, and praise to the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, now and ever and to the ages of ages. Amen!