03 April 2013

Funeral Homily for Joanne Broadhurst DeVries

Saint Paul Lutheran Church
Easter Tuesday – April 2, 2013
Funeral Sermon for Joanne Mae DeVries
Job 19:20-27
The Rev. BT Ball

In Nomine Patris et Filii et Spiritus Sancti.  Amen.

My bones stick to my skin and to my flesh, and I have escaped by the skin of my teeth.  Have mercy on me, have mercy on me, O you my friends, for the hand of God has touched me!  Why do you, like God, pursue me? Why are you not satisfied with my flesh? “Oh that my words were written!   Oh that they were inscribed in a book!  Oh that with an iron pen and lead they were engraved in the rock forever! For I know that my Redeemer lives, and 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 my eyes shall behold, and not another. My heart faints within me!

Alleluia.  Christ is risen.

Dear David, Cindi, Debbie and Dee, beloved grandchildren and sons-in-law, my brother, Christian family and friends.  Jo was a Christian.  So she knew the familiar words of Job, we sang them here just this past Sunday - I know that my Redeemer lives.  To say, I know that my Redeemer lives, is to make a Spirit given, confident confession of faith; particularly it is the confession of a suffering believer.  It is a Christian confession; borne of the reality of the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.  Christians believe that their Redeemer lives.  Christians believe that Jesus, their Redeemer, died for them and rose from the grave for them three days later. And Jo was a Christian.   So she knew her Redeemer, and she did know that to be redeemed a price was to be paid.  The death of the Son of God is the redemption price.  The price of purchase from sin, death and the power of the devil himself is the Holy death of Jesus; Jesus who is life itself.  And He gave it; life into death to pay the price of Jo’s salvation.  He redeemed her, and he redeemed you too, and it is in this promise that Job and Jo could also believe with boldness that after death they would see with eyes wide open and alive again, this same Jesus, their Lord and their God.  And this is the Christian hope, not heaven alone, but real,tangible, resurrected life with eyes open, bright and clear to see the one who was pierced and crushed death’s power.  The Redeemer is the very one who carried the sin of the whole world, and who was cut down by His Father’s hand. And that is the part that hurts Christians the most, it certainly seemed that way for Jo.

Job confessed in the midst of his pain and suffering what was most certain; the life of hisGod and Redeemer, but he also confessed that it was the same God and Redeemer who had struck him with such pain and suffering.   He cries out to his friends, “Have mercy on me, have mercy on me, O you my friends, for the hand of God has touched me!”  Job was in pain of body and soul, and there was no one else to lay that on but God himself.  It was God’s hand that caused sores, and pain, loss and great sorrow.  It is God’s hand that causes kidney disease, cancer and debilitating back problems. Our Father in heaven seeks to do his work of drawing His children to himself by causing them to lose what he has given, to give up what he has given, life itself, so that he might give life all the more through faith alone.  And this is hard to take and hard to bear.  Our Lord Jesus Christ was not lying when he said, “if anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me” (St. Luke 9:23). And we know that Jo was familiar with this way of God, David you know most of all.  You saw.  

We all know her thoughts because she wrote them down.  Jo left her journals to Bill and Cindi and she wrote, “Why is it hard to believe what is written in God's word? I want to believe. I want to understand. He's my healer, but yet I'm not healed. I'm not angry anymore, I just want God to help me understand. How long must I suffer? How long before You deliver me from the fowler's snare?”  To ask such questions in faith is not sinful, because answers and understanding are sought from the Word of the gracious God who has done his chief work in suffering, the cross.  

True faith is borne of baptism into the living hope of Christ. In baptism we are crucified with Christ, we are baptized into his sufferings, we are given the redemption he earned and paid for.  The sufferings of a Christian are not redemptive, they are for refining.  Jo confessed her weakness and her inability to believe.  Why is it so hard to believe? Because of the Old Adam, our flesh.  The hand of God strikes so that we might despair of ourselves, turn away from our own reason or strength to the cross of Christ and the life He alone gives.   So what God does is get at our flesh; He refines his children, in fire and pain.  St. Peter wrote, According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God's power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ (1 Peter 1:3-7).

God tempts no one, but he does discipline us as a loving Father and he does refine his children and for a little while, puts us to grief by various trials, so that we may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.  The revelation of Jesus Christ is the day when he will stand at last on the earth, the redeemer who lives.  The praise, glory and honor will be given by us to Christ for his redemption and praise that he has granted us to share in his sufferings, St. Paul wrote, “For as we share abundantly in Christ's sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too”  (2 Corinthians 1:5).  Comfort in suffering comes through the certainty of the forgiveness of sins through the redemption given by the shed blood of Jesus.  Comfort in suffering comes in the certainty that Jesus Christ is raised from the dead, he lives and he will stand at the last day.  Real comfort comes when Christians, and Jo was a Christian, receive the sacred body and blood of Jesus Christ.  Again from her journal, "I really hate it when I miss church and communion. I feel like something is amiss. My healing comes at the communion feast. There is something very personal and uplifting when I take of God's body and blood.”  

So here you had a woman who was asking for healing, and wondering when it was going to come and at the very same time confessing that her healing came from the communion feast, when she would take of her God’s body and blood.  What a redeemer who creates such faith!  When hearts are fainting and failing, when suffering is great, where are you to go?  Jo knew.  She looked to were the promises and healing were promised; the Word, the sacred body and blood of Jesus Christ.  Because you see, Jo was a Christian.  And it is Christians who hold to the promise of Jesus he who believes and is baptized shall be saved, he who does not believe will be condemned (Mark 16:16). It is Christians, the sheep of Christ’s fold, baptized into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit who will live a resurrected eternal life.  It is Christians who have hope in the face of death.  It is Christians who know that their redeemer lives and that he will stand at the last on the earth.  It is Christians who know and confess by the gift of the Spirit, after my skin has been thus destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God, whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold, and not another. And Jo was a Christian.  Even now as her body sleeps and will be put in the rest of the grave, she sees God, for the true God is not a God of the dead but of the living.  She is alive even now, but there is waiting for her the resurrection.  Even as Christ is risen and lives, so Jo at the last day, when the trumpet shouts she will be raised imperishable.   Christ will draw all who believe and are baptized to life, eternal life.  Jo is one of that number, for Jo is a Christian.

Alleluia.  Christ is risen.

In Nomine Patris et Filii et Spiritus Sancti.  Amen.

1 comment:

Chris said...

Memory eternal.--Chris

Kudos on the use of Latin for the invocation.