Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
The burdens and cares of life often seem overwhelming—the project at work or school that’s due tomorrow and you’re still not sure how it should go; the bills that seem to pile up without any relief; the relationship that you’ve somehow damaged and you have no idea what will work to repair it. Or maybe, as it was for Myrna, the burden is an ailment, a disease, one that steals away bits and pieces of your thoughts and memories until it seems as though there’s nothing left. And in our case, the cares of life were made to seem even more overwhelming as we sought to care for the woman we all loved as she fought an overwhelming battle against her own mind and body.
There is another overwhelming enemy that we deal with this day. It is not an external force like ISIS, though such enemies are real. This enemy is even more fearsome, for this is an enemy within. This is no mere illness which could debilitate the body or mind—although we know disease can be fearsome and deadly. This is an enemy which makes slaves of people, many of them never knowing that they’re being attacked. This enemy is sin. Sin captures you. It tempts you to think evil thoughts, to desire evil desires, to perform dark deeds. Sin is the most fearsome enemy of all, for, as the Apostle Paul writes, “The wages of sin is death.” Sin carries death with it like a fisherman carries a pole. Death is what we earn with our disobedience to God and His Word and will. Those wages are evident in the aches and pains we feel. Those wages are evident in our worries and frustrations and grief. And those wages of sin are all too apparent in the body lying in the coffin before us today. Death is sin’s greatest tool, its doomsday device.
The faithful, however, do not need to be afraid of death. Christians don't have to fear whether or not they have done enough to merit salvation. There is no doubt. "The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge." He has won salvation for us. He is our guardian and protector. We have nothing to fear. This is exactly the hope and confidence Psalm 46 gives to us today in our grief. “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear…” When we experience pain or suffering or grief or shame or loss, we still have no cause for fear. God is our refuge and strength. God is our help in trouble. The Lord is a refuge for His Church. He has made His people glad in the rushing waters of Holy Baptism. We are protected. God will help us when morning dawns.
And for Myrna—for all of us—that morning has dawned. It was the morning of the first day of the week. The Son had been crucified. He had died and was buried. Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God, died on Calvary's cross, bearing the sins of the world. He made complete satisfaction for the sins of the world. Very early in the morning on the first day of the week, Jesus Christ rose from the dead. Sin is defeated forever. Death is merely a rest from the cares of this life, a rest as we await our resurrection in bodies that will not become diseased or decay, with hearts that will know no evil desires, with flesh that will perform no evil deeds.
My brothers and sisters in Christ, even as you mourn, you have cause for great joy. Rejoice for Myrna, for our heavenly Father, through the merits and work of His Son, has called her to rest from her labors. And rejoice for yourselves, for the battle against sin, death, and the devil is not your battle to fight. Our Lord Jesus has already defeated them by the power of His blood. Be still, for our Lord Jesus Christ is present with you today. He is your mighty fortress, your refuge and strength, your very present help in trouble. In the name of the Father and of the Son (†) and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
The peace of God which passes all understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus always. Amen.