"If we have died with him, we will also live with him; if we endure, we will also reign with him; if we deny him, he will deny us; if we are faithless, he remains faithful, for he cannot deny himself." 2 Timothy 2:11-13
Pauline, Jonathan, Jennifer, Jeremy and Jessica, family and friends of Janis Sue - today is such a sad day. True, throughout the Scriptures God tells us that we must be prepared to die any and every day for He’s given absolutely no guarantee about how long anyone’s earthly pilgrimage will last. And yet no parent expects to bury a child, and no child can easily say farewell to the mother through whom God brought him or her into being. And so the pain of today.
But if we loathe and despise death and how it tears apart the lives of those whom God has joined together, there is some comfort today in knowing that God hates it even more than we do. And unlike we who are powerless to do anything about it, but to suffer it; He was powerful to do something about it.
He came into this flesh of ours and He lived the perfect life that none of us has lived - His was a life of total unselfinterested love. His was a life over which death had no just claim. He lived that life fully and when the appointed time came, He gave Himself into death in order to destroy its power forever. After atoning for the sin of the whole world by shedding His blood, He went into death’s stinking gullet for Janis Sue and for you and me and He and He alone of all men, burst forth from it alive again, with a life that no death would ever be able to take away. That’s what we celebrate on Easter.
And it was into His undying life that you and Bob, Pauline, placed your Janis Sue on the day of her baptism. You knew even that day that this day would someday come. A day when Janis Sue’s pilgrimage would be over and she would have to stand before Him who judges the secrets of men’s hearts and before whom no one can stand apart from His forgiving grace. You knew even then that she was born a sinner in need of the mercy and forgiveness of the Son of God. So you gave her into His keeping and He entered into a covenant with her. He promised that He would always be her Brother and His Father her Father and that nothing but nothing would ever change His loving purposes for her.
The gifts of God are always gifts. They are rejectable. God never forces them upon us. But for His part, He stands firmly by His promise of grace and forgiveness. His heart ever yearned for the child He had named His own in the waters. And so does His heart now ever yearn for you too.
How much longer will your pilgrimage last? Or mine? We have no way of knowing. And so the great urgency of giving our ears to His Words, our mouths to receiving the life He would pour down them in His body and blood, and our hearts to holding fast the promises He has made which can see us through the bitter suffering of death and the terror of the day of judgment and bring us to a life with Him that is the destiny and true home of His baptized children.
Janis Sue’s pilgrimage is over. We commend her to the mercy of God. But our pilgrimage still goes forward. How shall we live in the remaining days before we too fall sleep in death? How shall we face our end? We need not ever do it alone. We may do it in the companionship of His Church, as the people of God gather about the Word and the Holy Sacraments and find in their Lord the strength to endure to the end and so be saved. May He grant that to you and to me, poor sinners that we are, by the mighty working of His Spirit, to whom with the Son and the Father be all glory and honor, now and ever and unto the ages of ages. Amen.
Janis Sue Vaughn, aged 48 years, died at Anderson Hospital on 27th of September 2009. She was born to Robert and Pauline Williamson on Dec. 15, 1960. She was raised in E. St. Louis. Moved to Edwardsville and graduated from Edwardsville High School in 1979. A resident of Hamel, she was a certified Nurses Aid.
She was preceded in death by her father. Surviving are her mother, Pauline, a son, Jonathan Ziegler of Hamel; a daughter Jennifer (and husband Frank) Wallace of Livingston; a son Jeremy Ziegler of Worden; and a daughter Jessica Vaughn of Edwardsville. She is also survived by a brother Ronald Williamson (wife Barbara) of Aviston, IL and a sister Joan (and husband Glenn) Hall of Frankfort Kentucky.